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Tuesday, April 7, 2015

100 Year Old Tourist Images Of Japan

Here's a book of images created in Japan around the end of 1905, that I believe was done solely for the tourist market.

Featuring a thick wooden set of covers, hand-painted and with three-dimensional inserts placed atop a few parts—the human faces—the book appears to contain 50 black-and-white photographs that in my opinion were originally created for postcards, but the manufacturer has had hand-tinted in water colors, and then in a few spots on a few photographs, added a thick oil paint to further emphasize certain aspects of the images.

To my 2015 eye, it often seems comical, but perhaps in 1905 or so, this was considered more high-level... with that personal touch added to make the book of souvenir images of tourist and non-tourist areas of Japan really pop... though admittedly the application of red seems haphazard to the point of being unprofessional... as though the painting was a family business, and the red application was left the 'special' child. You can judge for yourself.

The book was lent to me by my friend Barb, and I must admit that it was a tad complicated to scan the images, as the paper boards the images are glued to have warped a little.

There is no spine on this book, rather it is a typical older Asian style book, where the pages are pulled out like an accordion (yeah, I played one) where you can show 25 images, flip it all over and see the other 25 images.
  • Orihon (折本), or "folding books"
    Orihon are similar to kansubon in that they consist of individual sheets of paper arranged horizontally and glued together, but instead of being rolled for storage, these books are creased at regular intervals and folded accordion-style. Folding books were most commonly used for hand-copied manuscripts, but a certain amount of modern, printed books continue to be published in orihon style. This concertina-style binding was more portable than the scroll, and is thought to have been inspired by palm-leaf books which were carried along Indian and Chinese trade routes. Traditionally, the Japanese orihon featured Buddhist scriptures with images and text on only one side. However, some orihon, typically those featuring calligraphy and paintings, were pasted together so that both sides could be utilized.
    Orihon consist of a long strip of paper that is written on one side and then compacted by folding in zig-zag fashion. The orihon format is considered a step between a scroll and a codex.
    The style of folding is similar to that of the air bellow of a concertina or accordion, such that every written page faces another written page when the book is closed. It may therefore be opened to any page. It may have a cover attached to the front and back end sections of the book. 
Each of the images has a thin sheet of rice paper placed over it, providing a level of protection.

Barb says that the book was kept outside in a barn for a number of years before she acquired it, so there is a touch of water damage, not to mention a fair bit of foxing on the white border images of the pages.

To present the images in the best light possible, I have to admit I went all Ted Turner on it, using a photo enhancement program to crop the photos, and to bring out the colors, which, in my eye were faded.

I could be wrong, however... the images might not have faded at all, and what I did was a blasphemy, changing the colors to what I perceive to be an ideal quality.

Directly below is an untouched image. Again, you can judge for yourself, and let me know if I did the right thing.

Each image is 5-7/8 inches (13.5 cm) wide x by 3-1/2 inches (8-7/8cm) tall... Not all images have descriptions ON them, but many do - in English, which was why I firmly believe the collection was for the tourist market.

Proof that the images may have been procured from multiple sources for this collection, is the fact that there are differing spellings for cities, specifically Tokio and Tokyo, and Kiyoto and Kyoto. Toe-Kyo and Kyo-To - two syllables each, are the accepted pronunciations of Tokyo and Kyoto, respectively.

There's even photographic duplication. 

Something else to look for... the same Japanese models.. and in some cases, the EXACT same image of the Japanese models appears to be superimposed on the photographic images... making it seem... hokey?

At around the turn of the century, the art of photographic manipulation - superimposing one image atop another was something trendy, so placing the models again and again on the images is just a bit of then-modern technology.

When possible, I have ADDED other images for reference immediately after the hand-tinted image contained in the book... pithy comments where necessary.

It's a curious curio to be sure. As usual, please click on the image to enlarge them on your screen.

Here we go - Page 1

Nakajima-gawa, Nagasaki. One of two views in this collection. The gawa (river) looks like a puddle nowadays... you'll see it later on.
The Garden of Sweat Flag in Horikiri at Tokyo. I don't know what they were trying to write here, but this IS the Horikiri Shobuen  - the Sweet Flag Iris Garden in Tokyo, northeast of the Imperial Palace in what was then the village of Horikiri. For more information on WHY this Iris garden was important, check out the blog I did a few days ago:

No idea... no description. But one does get a great idea of Japanese architecture - and a cool buggy on the left.
Ashinoyu, Hakone. Just a landscape shot. Nothing spectacular or overly curious. Still... check out the same image below from I guess it IS spectacular.

Although lacking a description, I know this is the Shinkyo Bridge (神橋, sacred bridge) standing at the entrance to Nikko's shrines and temples, but belonging to Futarasan Shrine in Tochigi-ken.
Here's a more modern photo of Shinkyo Bridge. The sloping hill background is my clue... plus the bridge support is identical, even if the water has altered the rocky surface over the past 100 years.
 Image taken from:
Korakuen Garden of Okayama. Built in 1700 by Ikeda Tsunamasa, lord of Okayama, it is one of the Three Great Gardens of Japan.
Kinkakuju Garden, Kyoto. It certainly doesn't look as 'golden' as it does nowadays. The 'Kin' part of the name means 'gold' This is the Golden Pavilion Temple.
My photo below.
My photo Kinkau-ji. For free use as long as you mention either 'photographed by Andrew Joseph' or state that it was found on the blog 'Japan-It's A wonderful Rife' - circa 1992. After burning down (arson) in 1950 and rebuilt in 1955, a subsequent addition of thicker gold leaf and gilding was added in 1984 to make it seem even more golden to the viewer. This was, by the way, the ONLY sunny day in three years of my traveling in Japan. The reflection makes the photo, in my opinion. Shooting vertically was the only way NOT to have a gaggle of Japanese tourists in the image.
Fushimi-Inari, Kyoto. Fushimi Inari Shrine (伏見稲荷大社)  - a Shinto shrine. Inari is considered to be a patron of the businessman and merchant. The foxes (kitsune), represented by the statues on the side of the main torii (gate) entrance, are thought to be the spiritual messengers of the gods. The Inari temple actually has dozens and dozens of torii because they were donated by local businessmen.
It says this is Bund, Yokohama...  The word "bund" means an embankment or an embanked quay - basically a levee. It is a term used in Japan.
A Japanese junk... a junk is a Chinese-designed sailing ship used in the past throughout Asia and India. 
Yokohama view. The torii (red/vermillion lacquered gate) is supposed to mark the separation between the sacred and the profane.. the sacred being a shinto shrine, the profane being the outside world you and I live in.
No idea... maybe that's Mt. Fuji in the background.
Kyoto  - I couldn't determine which Buddha this is... but the fold of the Buddha's robe is key to figuring this out. Anyone know?
Waterfull, Hakone. You'll notice the spelling of the word 'waterfall'. This is actually the Chisuji waterfalls. The female models are once again superimposed on the photo...
The front of Yomeimon, Nikko - first time THIS image appears in the book.
No caption - and I have no idea where this photo was taken.
A man in a small tenement, to be sure, but there was no caption - and I have no idea where this photo was taken. All I know is that it's NOT an Ainu (indigenous people of Japan) hut.
No caption - and I have no idea where this photo was taken. I assume that that is Mt. Fuji in the background.
Wisteria at Kameido, Tokyo. You can see a modern image of it below, taken from  It beats me why in the old image they didn't try and hand-tint the bridge a nice red.
Entrance to Kasuga Temple at Nara. Wild deer are all over this place.
A pair of more modern dears at the Entrance to Kasuga Temple at Nara. The juxtaposition of new classic and new (slutty) dress is nice.
A country Bridge, Fujikawa. An alternate hand-tinted image of the same scene is below, taken from
Is it just me, but does it seem as though the images in this book are not as sharp as other, older images from the 1890s?

Fuji From Fujiwawa.
No caption - and I have no idea where this photo was taken. I'd guess... Kyoto?
Two bits of information here: Commemoration Photgraph (spelling) When Japan Attached (spelling) Liaoyang on Sept 5, 1905. Bentendori I Chome, Yokohama. The date listed on here is the ONLY thing I have to give me a date on the publication date of this book... so sometime after September 5, 1905.
The Battle of Liaoyang (遼陽会戦 Ryōyō-kaisen, August 25 - September 3, 1904) was the first major land battle of the Russo-Japanese War, on the outskirts of the city of Liaoyang in present-day Liaoning Province, China. 
Matsushima Inland Sea. Same image below from
This is purported to be an 1890s photo... notice the boats in the foreground - obliterated by the heavy handed artists who evidently spilled some red paint on the image they were hand-tinting...
No caption -but it is obviously Himeji-jo castle in Hyōgo Prefecture. I visited it with my bud, Matthew, who has a better memory than myself when it comes to dating and dates.
Kyoto - sure... but where?
Intrance (spelling) of Asakusa Park Tokio. I never cared for this spelling variation of Tokyo or of the word 'entrance'. I love the 5-story pagoda in the background.
Nijo Castle at Kyoto... I didn't find it all that interesting... probably because it was raining heavily when I was there with Ashley... plus it's not as ornate as other Japanese castles, what with its low height.
Oji, Tokio (maple). I've not seen maple trees look that red before...
Palace Garden, Tokio
No caption - and I have no idea where this photo was taken. But it looks familiar...
Spectacle (Bridne) - I have no idea what that means - at Otani, Kioto (old alternate spelling of Kyoto).
Here someone did a painting of the exact same photographic print above. From - English modern day artist Dennis Melling.

Wisteria Brossoms at Nakasendo near Tokyo. Gotta love those sweet-smelling brossoms.
Suwayam (----) I can't read it.But... I think it is Suwayama Temple in Kobe.
Mukojima, Tokio. Mukojima is a district of Tokyo that has training schools, restaurants and homes for geisha.

A View Of Plank Road... okay... I looked this one up, and could find NO mention of it anywhere? No idea where in Japan this was! Does anyone know?
No caption - and I have no idea where this photo was taken. Again.. Mt. Fuji?
Kamakura, Kanegawa-ken. No idea where this bridge is...
The Garden of Sweat Flag in Horikin at Tokyo. The English makes no sense to me... sweat flag? Anyhow... this is a duplicate image of the second photo posted in the book. Lovely iris flowers in the garden.
Nakajima-Gawa, Nagasaki. I would imagine this scene was destroyed in WWII. Anyhow, this is a second view (different) of one presented earlier.

Here's a more modern photo of the Nakajima-Gawa...  found HERE: - obviously, the bridge survived, but the beauty and the river didn't.
100 Steps, Yokohama. They are there leading up to the building atop the escarpment.

This black and white image was found on E-Bay... and at first glance appears to be an EXACT copy - untouched - of the ABOVE image. But it's NOT! It's bloody close... but THIS image is older - perhaps 1890s... notice there is no telephone lines... the windows and shutters are different - same with the lattice work. BUT... the writing in the corners - although differently placed, are of the same style! 
The front of Yomeimon, Nikko - the second time THIS image appears. It's not that great a photo nor is it that important a photo subject. Is that a body blurred on the right hand corner of the image? You will find the Three Wise Monkeys carving here (Hear No Evil - See No Evil - Speak No Evil).
Wisteria Blossom in Park of Hikone - this time brossoms are spelled incorrectly... but it's still a duplicate image. Ladies... ladies...
These guys ( claim they own the copyright to the image - taken in 2008. Perhaps they hand-tinted it then, but they don't own the rights to the image. You can see how the girls in the middle (superimposed above) are not in this image. I also assume this one has been tinted via a computer program.

Shell picking Honmoku, Yokohama. This is near Juniten Shrine. There are those superimposed geisha models again! Below is a hand-tinted image... but as you can see, it is being used as a post card!

No caption - and I have no idea where this photo was taken. Are those telephone wires??? That's how I know this is circa 1905 and later!
Yumoto, Hakone
No caption - and I have no idea where this photo was taken. It's a beautiful scene re: nature, but what the heck is going on?
No caption - but these are waterfalls. Could it be... Fukuroda Falls (袋田の滝, Fukuroda-no-taki) in Ibaraki Prefecture in the town of Daigo? Maybe?OR, and I'm leaning this way, it is Yu-daki Falls( 湯滝) at Yumoto in Nikko... considering the photographer was already in the Nikko area per other photographic images.
Oryiboo (?) Grove at Gojozaka, Kyoto. Man, those women get around. By rickshaw, I assume. Anyhow, this is a Bamboo Grove (Gojo-zaka).

Rear cover.

This circa 1905 wood-covered accordion tourist book has many interesting images in it... many of which have apparently been in play since the 1890s, as I have found the same images taken from tourist books of that era.

The thing is... those older images are crisper than the ones in this book, implying that they copies of copies... and then hand-tinted by someone oft-times not as proficient as the people who did the older pictures.  

I would guess that a photographer has sold his images (and negatives) when they were taken in the 1890s, and they were constantly being recycled for the souvenir book and post card industries for tourists visiting Japan.

I would also guess that the very same photographer went back to some of those very same places he took the photos in the 1890s and reproduced nearly  - NEARLY - exactly in the 1905s or so... the odd telephone pole, and different window shutters being a key clue in that exercise.

That's my guess... unless someone else has proof of what this book is and why they images are all over the place in quality and use?

Andrew Joseph

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