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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Tokyo 1920s • Hanayashiki, Asakusa Park

Hanayashiki at Asakusa Park, Tokyo

Asakusa Park was to Meiji Tokyo what Shibuya is today, a place for the middle and lower class masses to go and amuse themselves at low cost. Hanayashiki was the top crowd puller here. Opened as a flower park in 1853 by a gardener named Rokusaburo Morita, it soon began its amazing transformation into an amusement center with tea shops, entertainment and animal exhibits.

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Osaka 1890s • Dotonbori Theater Street

Dotonbori Theater Street, Osaka

Dotonbori (also: Dotombori) seen towards the east. The crowded and lively street was filled with teahouses (shibai-jaya), restaurants and theaters. During the Meiji Period, the five main theaters were called the Dotonbori Goza. One of them was Asahiza, the building in the background with the yagura wooden stage. This photo is thought to have been taken shortly after Asahiza was renovated in 1890.

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1890s • Shamisen Craftsman

Shamisen maker

A craftsman, wearing a traditional chonmage hairstyle, is working on a Shamisen, a three-stringed musical instrument played with a Bachi (plectrum), while being assisted by a woman in kimono. In the back five shamisen rest against the wall.

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1920s • Woman Writing Letter

Woman in Kimono Writing

A young Japanese woman in kimono and traditional hairstyle is writing a letter or poem. This postcard was published sometime after 1918. During the early 20th century, picture postcards of bijin (beautiful women) were extremely popular in Japan (see Woman with Rose).

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