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 1890s • Streetcar in Ueno

Ueno Park Hill, Tokyo

This photograph displays Tokyo’s most popular transportation modes during the Meiji Period (1868-1912), horse drawn streetcars and jinrikisha (rickshaws). A small family is stepping out of the streetcar, most probably on their way to visit the new Ueno Park, a favorite attraction during this period.

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Tokyo 1890s • Geisha Houses, Shinbashi

Shinbashi Geisha Houses, Tokyo

In the late Edo period (1603-1868), Yanagibashi, nearby the Ryogoku bridge, was Tokyo’s main geisha district. The advent of the Meiji era (1868-1912), however, brought a new elite, more focused on money and power, who showed little interest in the traditional values of Yanagibashi. They favored the geisha quarter of Shinbashi (also Shimbashi). It was situated close to the new government and office buildings that were springing up like mushrooms, neighboring the rebuilt and thriving Ginza, and lay right on the doorstep of Tokyo’s main train station, Shinbashi station, opened in October of 1872 (Meiji 5).

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Kyoto 1934 • Furniture Store

Furniture Store in Kyoto, Japan (May 1934).

A furniture store in Kyoto in May 1934. Notice the tricycles and prams. Both are articles that you would not expect at a furniture store. The classical street lamp is a wonderful work of art. Another interesting aspect are the many chairs on display. Western influences have clearly already deeply penetrated the Japanese lifestyle in the early 1930s, only some 80 years after Commodore Perry forced Japan to open up to the world in July, 1853.

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Tokyo, 1880s • Ginza and Kyobashi

Ginza and Kyobashi by Nobukuni Enami

Another view from Ginza 4-chome looking towards Kyobashi. The high elevation affords a clear view over Tokyo. Ginza’s celebrated willow trees are still very small on this image, but there are already horse-drawn streetcars. These started operations on June 25, 1882 (Meiji 15) and ran through 1904 (Meiji 37). That suggests that this photo was taken during the 1880s, or perhaps the 1890s.

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