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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1890s • Young Family

Young Family "on the Road"

This charming studio shot of a young family “on the road” shows a father and mother with their three children. The mother is carrying a baby on her back, while the father has one in the basket. There are quite a few photos of people carrying young children in baskets like this, a remarkable number shot outside, so this must have been a common method to carry around young kids.

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1890s • Basket and Broom Peddler

Basket and Broom Peddler

This vendor doesn’t only sell baskets and brooms (箒), but also brushes, sieves (笊), ladles (杓) and more, all piled up high on his cart, called a daihachiguruma (大八車). To protect himself from the elements, he is wearing a broad bamboo hat, known as a bachoukasa (バッチョウ笠). Vendors like him used special calls to make potential customers aware of their arrival.

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Kobe 1930 • The Bund

The Bund in Kobe, Japan (1930).

The Kobe Bund in 1930 (Showa 5) lined with the offices of steamship companies and trading houses. The tall building in the back with the rounded ornament on the corner is the office of Osaka Shosen Kaisha, a major Osaka-based steamship line. It is one of the only buildings on this photo that still stands today. The original seawall has been replaced by a train-track, warehouses and a quay, greatly extending the port into the harbor. Where the warehouses and the quay end, at the top-right, the old American Hatoba starts. It was through this pier that once all visitors entered Kobe. That location is now the entrance to Meriken Park.

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Osaka 1870s-1880s • View from Enokojima

Enokojima and Osaka City View

A beautiful and extremely rare—I haven’t seen this photo anywhere else yet—panoramic view of Osaka from the Osaka Prefectural Office, looking towards the North East. During the Meiji (1868-1912) and Taisho (1912-1926) periods, Osaka’s Prefectural Office was located on the small island of Enokojima, between the Kizugawa River and the Hyakkenbori Canal. Completed in July 1874 (Meiji 7), the gorgeous Neo-Renaissance style building featured a dome on top. Next to the building stood a tall tower. The photographer somehow managed to lug his heavy and cumbersome equipment to the top level to preserve this incredible view of Edo-style Osaka for future generations.

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