OLD PHOTOS of JAPAN, a photo blog of Japan in the Meiji, Taisho and Showa periods

Old Photos of Japan
shows photos of Japan between the 1860s and 1930s. In 1854, Japan opened its doors to the outside world for the first time in more than 200 years. It set in motion a truly astounding transformation. As fate would have it, photography had just been invented. As the old country vanished and a new one was born, daring photographers took photos. Discover what life was like with their rare and precious photographs of old Japan.

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1920s • Fire Drill

Fire Fighting Drill

A rare view of firemen drilling with mechanized pumps at what appears to be a factory.

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1900s • Ainu Chief

Ainu

An Ainu chief in traditional clothing. For more information about Ainu, click on Ainu under Themes.

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1880s • Ainu Man

Ainu

A beautiful hand-tinted portrait dating back to the late 19th century of an Ainu man in traditional clothing. He is wearing a sword in a shoulder belt and a ceremonial crown (サパウンペ, Sapaunpe) used during the iomante ritual and other religious rituals.

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1920s • Ainu Women Using Mortar

Ainu

Two Ainu women using a traditional Ainu mortar (nisu), made from a hollowed-out sugi (cryptomeria) log. It was used for threshing millet (later replaced by rice), wheat, and roots, as well as for beating grains into flour and paste. The two-ended pestle (iyutani) was held in the middle, which was slightly thinner. Although photographs usually show the women holding the pestle with a single hand, English painter, explorer, writer and anthropologist Arnold Henry Savage Landor (1865–1924), who visited the Ainu during an exploration in the late 19th century, describes both hands being used:

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