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 • Ainu Playing the Mukkuri

Ainu Woman

An Ainu woman playing the Mukkuri (a Jew’s harp). The Mukkuri is a traditional Ainu musical instrument played by women. It is made of carefully cut bamboo with two strings, and measures about 10 by 1.5 cm (3.9 by 0.6 inches). The player vibrates the tongue cut out of the bamboo by pulling one of the strings, while holding the instrument in front of the mouth. Volume and tone colors are changed by changing the shape of the mouth. Although a simple instrument, and similar to mouth harps found all over the world, accomplished players can create truly amazing music with the Mukkuri.

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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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