| This page presents a first selection from a small collection of views of Japan, circa 1905-1920. Most of the pictures are taken from postcards, but one is a Christmas greeting card. It probably was made with a photo pulled from a kameraya shop's stock of negatives used for postcards. In size, format, and paper stock, it does not meet postcard criteria. |
This page displays various cards that fall within the period 1905--1933. All are reproductions of photographs (not of paintings or drawings) and are horizontal in format. As time as server space allow, the arrangement can become more formal, with organization by theme--for example, bijinga ("pictures of ladies") and temples or shrines.
The picture is the main thing, but some context seems desirable as an aid to dating the card. So a description of the address side of the postcards (technically the obverse side) is included. For an explanation of the terms used in the card description, select the button on the left.
I am especially grateful to the websites given below (See: References) for the valuable chronological details.
SOME POSTCARD HISTORYBy the turn of the 20th century, the pastime and business of photography was as well established in Japan as in the West. If anything was different in Japan, it was the orientation toward export and marketing of photos to visiting foreigners. Hence the "Japanese vision of photography" (of which Clark Worswick writes) could be shaped both by an appreciation of traditional aesthetics, as seen, e.g., in ukiyo-e prints and kabuki theater, and by a practical awareness of European tastes and expectations.
During the 1890s the business of photography found a promising new outlet. Great Britain (in 1894) and then the United States (in 1898) fell into line with the continent and responded to the growing enthusiasm for picture postcards. They authorized private firms to print cards which would qualify for the same postcard rate and regulations as cards printed by the postal service. In 1900 Japan joined the consensus of the member-nations of the Universal Postal Union. (It would be quicker than the United States to take the next step, to allow a message on the address side of the card.) Japan now was ready to participate in the "golden age" of postcard production of use that faded with the coming of World War I.
For this period of late Meiji and early Taisho, the printing of the address side of picture cards of Japan shows much consistency, in spite of stylistic differences. Most cards probably were "Made in Japan": Some are so marked explictly; others include a publisher's name (for example, cards printed by or for the Kyoto retail store Asahidou ( ) and a "Kawase Book Store" in Kobe). But, since postcards had become a collectible worldwide, series of Japan scenes also were printed abroad. Since these cards lack the term hakaki, they must have been intended for collecting and use outside Japan. I have one from Hong Kong and some issued by the major American publisher and marketer of series, The Rotograph Company. (Rotograph like many other U.S. companies, used printing firms in Germany.) The government of Japan itself encouraged collecting, since it marketed some series of its own (see Naomy Suzuki's site).
POSTAL CHRONOLOGYThe following key dates in the history of Japanese postcards are presented in the pages of Philbert Ono (PhotoGuide Japan) and of Naomy Suzuki.
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