Postcards and commemorative photos at modern souvenir shops in Japan usually feature full-color high-res images of Tokyo Tower or Mount Fuji framed by cherry blossoms. At around 50 yen (US$0.50) a piece, they’re an inexpensive way to show off your recent trip or give someone a gift. Flashback nearly 150 years and those same souvenir photos start to look a little different. Let’s take a look at 23 hand-colored albumen silver prints of Meiji Era Japan that were sold abroad and to foreigners visiting Japan.
Italian photographer, Adolfo Farsari, arrived in Japan in 1873, five years after the start of the rapid social and economic change of the Meiji Era. He made his living composing and taking photos to be sold abroad in British and American territories and to foreigners visiting Japan. Because of his niche clientele, Farsari mainly focused on photographing iconic scenes of Japan and the “manners and customs” of its inhabitants. The photos were hand-colored and widely distributed, giving many people outside of Japan their first glimpse of the island nation. Let’s take a closer look at Adolfo Farsari’s work!
A festival procession
In front of a folding screen
Two women riding in a palanquin
Mount Fuji seen from Tago inlet
Groom wearing a hakama and bride wearing a white kimono
Woman smoking tobacco
Woman lying down
Two women sleeping side-by-side
A dry riverbed
Souvenir photos sure have changed over the years!