In 1858 Japan opened up his doors to the Western world, allowing the Western barbarians to access its harbours after centuries of total bans. The opening to foreign trade was a consequence of the renewal of the Meiji period, which marked the end of the Japanese traditional isolation, the Sakoku, and opened up its doors to the outer world.

The decision of opening themselves up had a severe influence on people, who gave life to the artistic movement known as Japanism. The movement had mainly expansion in the French painting area, but generally all men of Art and culture in Europe were struck by the many informations about that so far away population, so curious, so different from them.

The Japanese culture arrived in Europe thanks to traditional prints and photography, which in those years would move its first steps. In such a context it is impossible to not remember the Italian Felice Beato, perhaps the main photographer active in Japan between 1860 and 1870. Beato was used to realising his pictures through the Albumen Print technique. The procedure remained popular amongst the people there even after his departure.

The pictures of this gallery belong to one or more unknown photographers, and date back to 1890 circa, last breath of the 19th century. The representation of the series shows a traditional Japan, still entirely non-contaminated by the influence of Western society which instead typified the country in the following decades. Thanks to the collection of the New York Public Library, which digitalised the photos, it is possible to observe people, landscapes and architectures as they used to be before the contemporary Japanese era.

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Matteo Rubboli

I am a publisher specialised in the digital distribution of culture and founder of the portal Vanilla Magazine. I don't wear a tie or branded clothes, I keep my hair short so I don't have to comb it. That's not my fault but just the way I've been drawn as...

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