Thanks to archival footage from the EYE Filmmuseum, we’re able to get a glimpse of life in early 20th century Tokyo. Filmed in 1913 and 1915, the clip is an incredible look at Japan in flux, emerging from the Meiji period of modernization and moving toward the height of industrialism.
Over the course of 4 minutes, we’re transported back to historic Tokyo, the streets filled with life. Whether enjoying Ueno Park (which was created just 40 years earlier) or peddling wares on the unpaved streets, it’s incredible to see how old and new were merging in Japanese culture. Kimonos and traditional costume dominate the dress, but Western costumes become increasingly prevalent—particularly military dress. This should come as no surprise, as in 1914 Japan entered into World War I.
With the urban landscape of Tokyo changing dramatically, both due to fire bombings during World War II and natural disasters like the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, the footage is a precious gift. The Tokyo of today, with its neon signs and contemporary architecture is a distant cry from the capital in the early 20th century. With just a fraction of the population it now has, Tokyo was still finding its footing in the first years of the Taishō democracy.
Learn more about Japan’s transition into modernity in The Making of Modern Japan.
This rare archival film footage shows life in early 20th century Tokyo.
h/t: [Open Culture]