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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Felice Beato: A Photographer on the Eastern Road • Anne Lacoste, Fred Ritchin

Felice Beato (1832–1909) lived and worked in Japan from 1863 through 1884, just as the country opened its doors to the world. He was extremely active in Japan, and portrayed the Japanese with dignity and as equals of Westerners. He was the first photographer in Japan to sell albums of his works. Most likely, it was Beato that introduced the later so diligently followed concept of “views” and “types” to photography of Japan.


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Tokyo 1934 • Streetcar Passengers

Men and Women Getting on Street Car in Tokyo, Japan (May 1934).

Passengers are getting off a streetcar in Tokyo in May 1934, while others are waiting. At the time that this photograph was taken, Tokyo’s streetcar system was immense and extremely popular, as can be seen from the number of people riding the streetcar on this image.

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Tokyo 1934 • Sidewalk Restaurants

Japan. Tokyo. Sidewalk Restaurants. (May 1934)

Employees pose in front of Tokyo sidewalk restaurants on a sunny day in May, 1934. The delivery bicycle belongs to Yanase Sushi (the shop with the white sign with red kanji).

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1910s • Woman Combing Hair

Japanese Woman in Kimono Combing Hair

A young Japanese woman in kimono is combing her hair while looking at a small hand mirror. This postcard was published sometime between 1907 and 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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Kobe 1910s • Motomachi Itchome

Motomachi Itchome, Kobe

Shops and rickshaws at Motomachi itchome in Kobe, Hyogo Prefecture Japan. The shop with the elephant is Zouki. It was established in 1875 (Meiji 8) by Kihei Sodeoka. Sodeoka was a ronin, a former samurai, from Satsuma.

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