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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Unbeaten Tracks in Japan • Isabella L. Bird
Unbeaten Tracks in Japan

In 1878, just 19 years after Japan opened it first ports to the world, and a mere ten years after the fall of the Tokugawa Shogunate, an adventurous 47-year old woman from the UK set out to explore the interior of Japan. The country was virtually unknown to Westerners, and a woman traveling only with a guide seemed outrageous. Everybody advised her not to, but she went anyway and wrote this unique and vivid journal of what she saw and experienced.

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Tokyo 1920s • Saving Battleship Mikasa

I love it when I discover the story behind a photo. Especially when that story is as amazing as this one.

I purchased this photo in March 2016. It doesn’t seem to be anything special or important. A Japanese man wearing glasses posing next to a photo of a ship. But when I dug a little deeper, I discovered an amazing story of an extraordinary man.

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Tokyo 1870s • Windmill at Ueno-Hirokoji

160307-0027 - Windmill at Ueno-Hirokoji, Tokyo

When I purchased this albumen print in June 2016, I only knew that this was somewhere in Tokyo. Although I guessed it might be Ueno-Hirokoji, I wasn’t sure. I also didn’t know if the photo was significant. It took some research, but I was eventually able to confirm without any doubt that this was indeed Ueno-Hirokoji, and the photo turned out to be extremely significant.

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1890s • The Fine Art of the Japanese Bow

Two Japanese Women Greeting

This dramatized studio photograph shows two Japanese women greeting each other while seated on zabuton (座布団) cushions. They perform a senrei (浅礼) bow by placing their hands on the floor in front of them. This bow usually involves a 30° bow. Usually, the gaze is directed at the floor, but the photographer may have wanted to show the models’ faces. Can you take a bow the Japanese way? Read on to learn how!

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Tokyo 1880s • Shinagawa Station

160301-0026 Shinagawa Station Tokyo 1880s

This is one of those photos that makes you look at the title in utter disbelief. But Shinagawa Station in the late nineteenth century did actually look this rural, with the waves of Tokyo Bay reaching to the very edge of the station. In those days, certainly nobody foresaw that the tiny country station would grow into today’s massive complex. It now services over three quarters of a million passengers daily, making it one of the busiest stations in Japan.

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