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In 1853, the rulers of Japan ended the country’s more than two centuries of isolation from the rest of the world. But while foreigners could now get into Japan for trade and commerce, it would take more than 10 years until Japanese citizens could leave the country, meaning that outside cultural influences were still slow to find their way into the half-opened nation.

As such, there’s a brief, time capsule-like period in which Japan’s culture was still almost entirely of indigenous origins, but foreign visitors had the technology to visually document it, as shown in these beautiful photographs of 19th century Japan.

One of these visitors was Italian-British photographer Felice Beato, whose work we’ve looked at before. After moving to Yokohama in the early 1860s, Beato was in a position to travel the country and capture images of it during the final days of the shogunate, which was about to be overthrown in the Boshin War and Meiji Restoration by progressive samurai, such as the members of this group from Satsuma (present-day Kagoshima Prefecture) whom he photographed during the conflict.

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Beato didn’t just turn his lens to such violent and tumultuous subject matter, though. Although many traditions of the geisha have been preserved to this day, there was no way to know how long the disciplines of their trade would last in 1865, when the photographer had one of Japan’s classical entertainers pose for the camera.

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Taken from much farther back, but no less compelling, is this panorama photo taken in either 1865 or 1866.

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You might not recognize it without the help of such world-famous landmarks as the Skytree, Metropolitan Government Building, or RocketNews24 Main Office, but that’s Tokyo.

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Well, technically, on the day of the shoot it was still called Edo, in addition to being low-lying enough that Beato’s position atop the modest 25.7-meter (84.3-foot)-high hill called Atagoyama, situated in what’s now Tokyo’s Minato Ward, gave him a vantage point with a view over the entire city.

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But while it can’t match the present-day skyline in terms of skyscrapers or blazing neon, you can still get a feeling of Edo’s enormous size, particularly for the era in which the picture was taken. With traditional row houses stretching to the horizon, it’s not too hard to see how it grew into the city with an infinite supply of things to discover that it is today.

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And now we find ourselves overcome with the desire to run up to the roof and take a snapshot before it all changes again.

Source, images: Japaaan