Stunning Old Photos of Japan

In 1854, Japan opened its doors to the outside for the first time in over 200 years. Tamamura Kozaburo, a photographer from that period called the Meiji era (明治時代 Meiji-jidai, 1868-1912) was commissioned by an American publisher to take photos for a book.

Some of the photos were retouched and sold at a British auction. Those photos are now making their rounds on the Japanese Internet.

Here are a few I found:





Hakone, Japan


Family eating osechi, our traditional New Year’s feast.



Kobe, Japan 1906


Dohtonburi, Osaka Japan




Yomeiri (嫁入り)A bride arriving to her new home.





The multi-volume book, “Japan: Described and Illustrated by the Japanese”  published between 1897-1898 was written by Japanese scholars and edited by Captain Francis Brinkley, an Irish newspaper owner, editor and scholar. From his Wikipedia page:

In 1866, on his way to Hong Kong, Brinkley visited Nagasaki and witnessed a duel between two samurai warriors. Once the victor had slain his opponent he immediately covered him in his haori, and “knelt down with hands clasped in prayer”. It is said that Brinkley was so impressed by the conduct of the Japanese warrior that this enticed him to live in Japan permanently.

Haori, by the way, is a formal jacket that covers the samurai armor. Cpt. F. Brinkley lived in Japan for over 40 years and even married a Japanese woman when international marriages were frowned upon everywhere. What a story.

The book is out of copyright. You can read it online or download the ePub, Kindle, or PDF here. I recommend reading it online. Both the Kindle and ePub versions have terrible quality and no photos.

Photos via here, here and here
Added: These two sites are easier to use and have a lot of photos if you’re interested in seeing more: here and here.


8 thoughts on “Stunning Old Photos of Japan

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