A Rare Look at Japan: Hand-Colored Images from the 1920s
What Geisha parlors have to do with arranged marriages, Buddhist priests and earthquake recovery.
By Maria Popova
It’s been an incredibly trying year for Japan. Tragedy has brought a proud nation to its knees, making it difficult — yet all the more essential — to remember this ancient culture’s history of beauty and dignity. These remarkable hand-colored images from the early 20th century, unearthed from Oregon State University’s public domain archive, offer a rare look at Japan’s rich cultural legacy. From Tokyo city life to countryside landscapes to worship to play, the images — with descriptions from the verbosely titled 1923 educational book Japan at First Hand, Her Islands, Their People, the Picturesque, the Real, with Latest Facts and Figures on their War-Time Trade Expansion and Commercial Outreach, in which they originally appeared — emante Japan’s timeless pride and breathtaking beauty sleeping beneath the rubble of the recent devastation, awaiting awakening.
Complement with the wonderful 2:46: Aftershocks “quakebook” project — a Twitter-sourced anthology of art and essays by and for Japan, benefiting earthquake and tsunami relief.
Published May 17, 2011