Unique Insight of Japan

For years it had remained shut off from the rest of world and shrouded in mystery.

But this unique collection of images taken 100 years ago are some of the first ever insights in to rural Japan before it was opened up to the rest of the globe.

The collection of pictures – the first ever used to promote tourism in the country – show geishas relaxing in pleasure gardens while workers pick tea leaves from the fields.

Memoirs of a Geisha: Geishas enjoy a summer's day in a landscaped garden in this 100-year-old photo by Tamamura Kozaburo  Geishas enjoy a summer’s day in a  landscaped garden in this 100-year-old photo by Tamamura Kozaburo
Unique insight: The rare collection of images show Japan just before its industrial revolution The rare collection of images show Japan before its industrial revolution
The collection of 100-year-old photos were taken to try and attract tourists to the country after the lifting of the bamboo curtain at the beginning of the 20th century
The collection of 100-year-old photos were taken to try and attract tourists to the country after the lifting of the bamboo curtain at the beginning of the 20th century
 The collection of 100-year-old photos were taken to try to attract tourists to the country at the  beginning of the 20th century after the lifting of the bamboo curtain
Mysterious: Japan remained cut off from much of the world until the Convention of Kanagawa in 1854 Japan remained cut off from much of the  world until the Convention of Kanagawa in 1854

Iconic landmarks such as the Kintai-kyo bridge, built in 1673, and the Great Buddha of Kamakura, first constructed in 1252, appear much the same at the beginning of the 20th Century as they do today.

But while the monuments themselves may look unchanged, the surroundings are now packed with tourists and often surrounded by skyscrapers to house the ever-growing population which has more than doubled  from 49,852,000 in 1910 to 128,056,026 in 2010.

The photos were taken by Tamamura Kozaburo to try to attract tourists to Japan after the country opened up to the rest of the world following the Convention of Kanagawa in 1854.

The convention opened the Japanese ports of Shimoda and Hakodate to U.S. trade for the first time in 200 years and ensured the safety of shipwrecked American sailors.

But before the convention, Japan had cut itself off from the rest of the world for more than two centuries and was lagging behind in new technologies.

Landmarks: The Imperial Palace Osaka was completely isolated 100 years ago  The Imperial Palace, the main residence of  the Emperor of Japan, was completely isolated 100 years ago
The past and the present: The Imperial Palace is now surrounded by modern skyscrapers in Tokyo The Imperial Palace is now surrounded by modern skyscrapers in Tokyo
A bygone era: A lone fisherman is captured coming in to shore  A lone fisherman is captured coming in to shore
Water under the bridge: The Kintai-kyo bridge still stands today The Kintai-kyo bridge, built in  1673, still stands today
Spot the difference: Today the Kintai-kyo bridge is lit up at night and is one of the most popular tourist destinations in JapanSpot the difference: Today the Kintai-kyo bridge is lit  up at night and is one of the most popular tourist destinations in  Japan

It was only when Commodore Matthew Perry of the United States Navy steamed into the bay in Yokohama with four warships – the Mississippi, Plymouth, Saratoga, and Susquehanna – in 1853  that the channels of communication were forced open. This eventually lead to the Convention agreement the following year.

Japan soon undertook drastic political,  economic, and cultural transformations to emerge as a unified and centralized state to try to put itself on an even keel with the West.

It’s industrial revolution began around 1870 as national leaders hoped to catch up with the West by building railway lines,  better roads, and invested heavily in modern industry such as textiles,  including cotton and silk.

By 1910, Japan had come out triumphant in a war with Russia and become the first Eastern modern imperial power. It was around this time that this collection of photos were taken to show off Japan to the outside world, which had previously been rigidly introverted and anti any foreign or outside influence.

Photographer Kozaburo  was the first to produce tourist shots for Japan with an album of 51 collotype black and white photographic prints, which were painstakingly inked in by a team of 100 colorists, and gave Europe one of its first glimpses of life inside the previously secretive state.

Out at sea: A few fishing smacks are seen off the Japanese coast which would later become an international port  A few fishing smacks are seen off the Japanese coast which later became an international port
Rural village: The black and white images taken by Kozaburo were painstakingly inked in by a team of 100 colourists The black and white images taken by  Kozaburo were painstakingly inked in by a team of 100 colorists
Country retreat: The Japanese would eventually become renowned for their beautiful gardens The Japanese are still renowned for their beautiful gardens

These photos show Japan at a prosperous time,  when it was starting to build itself into a dominating world power during a period of rapid economic growth and on the cusp of significant technological advancement.

But as Japan began to catch up with the rest of the world powers, it began to exert its brutal power by declaring war on surrounding countries such as China.

This provoked condemnation from the West and tensions with America began to further escalate over its control of Japan’s oil resources, eventually leading to Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor and entry in to World War II.

But these hand-colored prints show untouched Japan before its disastrous losses in World War II forced the country to surrender. They are mounted in an oblong folio within its original box  and are expected to fetch £800 ($1300) at auction through Woolley and Wallis auctioneers of Salisbury, Wiltshire, England.

Clare Durham, Asian art expert at Woolley and  Wallis, said: ‘Japan had been closed off until the 1860s so it was still relatively new to Europeans.

‘The photos were taken at a time when everything Japanese was of great interest to people in Europe and at a time when photography was in its infancy.

‘They offer a fascinating look at the geisha culture at this time. It is a really interesting historical snapshot of Japan and its cities 100 years ago.’

‘It has come to us from a person in the south west who has had the album for a while now.’

Classic temple: A Buddhist shrine set alone in the mountains  A Buddhist shrine set alone in the mountains
Unspoilt: Mount Fuji dominated the skyline of the rural countryside  Mount Fuji looks much the same 100 years ago as it does today
Braving the rapids: Ladies travelling along a dangerous mountain river in a wooden boat Ladies travelling along a dangerous mountain river in a wooden boat
Idol: Locals appear to be climbing over the Great Buddha of KamakuraLocals appear to be climbing over the Great Buddha of Kamakura, first built in 1252
Iconic: Great Buddha Kamakura is approximately 13.35 metres tall and weighs 93 tonnesGreat Buddha Kamakura is approximately 13.35  meters tall, weighs 93 tons, and is today one of the most visited landmarks in  Japan

‘This would appeal to anybody who has an interest in Japanese culture but it is also a really nice album to dip in and out of for anybody interested in photography or art.’

‘The geisha is emblematic of what Japanese culture was at that time and the photographer was a specialist at capturing it.

‘Japan had been closed off and there was a huge interest in the country at that time and it was almost like the country was being discovered all over again.’

The photo album went to auction at Salisbury on November 15.

Authentic: Japanese theatre was promoted to try and attract tourists Japanese theatre was promoted to try to attract tourists
Back in time: A rural village street is completely untouched by machinery A rural village street is completely untouched by machinery
Division of the classes: A peasant woman entertains a child with a handmade toy
Geisha's look at their reflections in a landscaped garden pond
A peasant woman entertains a  child with a  handmade toy, above, and Geishas look at their reflections in a  landscaped garden pond, below
Working hard: Women picking tea leaves  Women picking tea leaves in long dresses with garments protecting their faces from the sun
Lasting tradition: Japanese woman wear traditional outfits - similar to those worn 100 years ago - to pick tea leaves today Japanese woman wear traditional  outfits – similar to those worn 100 years ago – to pick tea leaves today

Attribution: Mail Online

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About thecommonconstitutionalist

Brent is not a scholar. He’s not an author or speaker (yet). He hasn’t published a book nor does he write articles for magazines (yet). He has no advanced literary degree or pedigree (never will). He is just an American who writes and shares what interests him. He cares about the salvation of this country and a return to its Constitutional roots. He believes in God, country and family.
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