Resource: Metadatabase of Japanese Old Photographs in Bakumatsu-Meiji Period

Nagasaki University Library maintains a collection of Japanese photographs from the Bakumatsu (1853 and 1867) and Meiji (1868-1912) periods that represent some of the earliest photographs of Japan as it transitioned from the Tokugawa shogunate to the Meiji state.

Holding approximately 7,000 photographs from all over Japan, these photographs were taken not only by a handful of foreign visitors to Japan (from England, the US, Austria, and the Netherlands), but also by many Japanese photographers as well, some of whom maintained their own photo studios.

The collection can be searched a number of ways, including individual photographer, category or keyword, or location. More technical searches (like by ID, cabinet, or album number) are also available. In addition to basic metadata for each photograph, some have captions with a little bit of explanation in English (as seen to the right).

What’s lovely about having some of these options is that the groupings can allow you to peak into a particular location’s visuals over time or hone in on the style and interests of a single photographer’s work. How did native Japanese with the skills to capture their environment see it differently from travelers? How did subject matter differ by geographic area? Spend some time looking through the collection and get a peek into this early period of modern Japanese history!

About Paula

Paula lives in the vortex of academic life. She studies medieval Japanese history.
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