Incredible Archival Footage Gives Rare Glimpse of Early 20th Century Tokyo

Film Footage of Early 20th-Century Tokyo

Photo: YouTube
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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]

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Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Staff Editor and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. Since 2020, she is also one of the co-hosts of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.
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