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These aren’t illustrations or romanticized stories – just normal Japanese people as they lived over a century ago.

It’s always fascinating to see photographs of people from over a century ago. Much more so than drawings or paintings, photographs capture all of those nitty-gritty little human details that make their subjects so much more real.

Photographs help us to understand that as much as we’ve changed over one hundred years, we’ve also stayed the same in many more ways.

And now, thanks to the works of famous photographer Arnold Genthe being published online for free, we can see that the same holds true for photos of old Japan. Genthe visited Japan in 1908, toward the end of the Meiji Period, when Japan was still recovering from centuries of self-imposed international isolation.

Genthe was well-known for his photos of San Francisco’s Chinatown and the aftermath of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, so he didn’t come to Japan to photograph the pretty flowers or fancy castles – he came to photograph the normal, everyday people.

Take a look at some of his work here:

▼ A group of children (and grandma chaperone?)
hanging out underneath some very nice pictures.

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▼ Kids moving around and getting the picture
all blurry is apparently a timeless tradition.

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▼ The girl on the right is totally cool with the weirdo pointing
a flashing box at everyone – little dude on the left though, not so much.

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▼ This feels like it’s right out of a period movie.

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▼ I want to know this lady’s story – why is she so disinterested?
Is she just there to hold the umbrella?

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▼ A council meeting? A ceremony? A drinking party?
…maybe all three at once?

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▼ Some divers getting ready to hunt for oysters, octopus,
and whatever else they can find.

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▼ Some things never change, and babies crying is one of them.

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▼ Also: babies needing to be carried around everywhere.

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▼ But they grow up so fast….

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▼ She’s either really short, or those posts are really tall.

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▼ Apparently creepy statues have always been a thing in Japan….

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▼ A nice, quiet street. Can you smell the miso and rice cooking?

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▼ Is this an old photo of the Itsukushima Shrine?
It looks pretty similar.

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We’ve only touched the tip of the iceberg here, so check out the rest of the Genthe Collection at the Library of Congress’s website.

And if you want more photos of old Japan, don’t worry, we’ve got plenty to scratch that historical itch.

Source: Library of Congress via Japaaan Magazine
Featured/top image: Library of Congress (Edited by RocketNews24)

Insert images: Library of Congress