Monday, August 8, 2011

Pre-war photos

I didn't set out to collect old Japanese photos but we seem to have accumulated quite alot. Some are snapshots still in their old albums,  some like those shown here are professionally taken. These ones are all pre-war and some possibly taken before the turn of the century. There is a certain poignancy to these old pictures and they somehow remind us that history isn't just about dates and events but about real people and the lives they led. You can click on any of the photos to enlarge them.

This first photo was taken in Kochi on the south of Shikoku. It's essentially a portrait of her hair and her beautiful yuzen-dyed furisode (long-sleeved) kimono....

I think this next one is probably students and their teacher. I wonder if it might have been a sewing class ( as in my last post). I have quite a few old photos where the women have pulled their hands up inside their kimono sleeves like this. I'm not sure why they did this because its not the case in all photos. Maybe the girl sitting on the left didn't understand either...  This photo is a good example of how popular stripes and geometric patterns were even with young women, and even for more formal situations such as this. The stereotypical image we have of  elaborate floral kimono  (as in the first photo) isn't what women wore every day. I have photos of my mother-in-law as a young woman before the war (but later than this photo) wearing wonderfully bold stripes.

I'm guessing the hairstyles date this photo to the 1920's or early 30's, though I have seen some fairly radical bobs in earlier photos of children. I'm not sure if this was taken at New Year  or perhaps for another local festival. It's a studio portrait even though it's meant  to appear to be outdoors...the lack of shoes is one give away. In all the photos here except the last one everyone is only wearing tabi (the equivalent of socks), they would have left their other footwear at the entrance when they came into the studio)

The baby in this family portrait is very young so it may have been taken to celebrate his omiyamairi which is the baby's first shrine visit and the equivalent of a christening. The little boy on the right is wearing a military style uniform  which wasn't unusual for formal and ceremonial occasions right through the early 20th century.  My favourite thing in this photo is the man's hat! From the introduction of western clothing in the late 19th century various hybrid western/Japanese fashions appeared. The simple addition of the hat here shows a certain sense of style. I like the little girl's beanie-style hat as well and I'm curious as to what it was made of.

I only just noticed that the little boy in the next photo looks like he's wearing the same beanie! Now I'm wondering if he's the same little boy as in the last photo... (We may have got these photos at the same time - I can't remember).  Children in old Japanese photos often look very bulky like the little boy on the right. This was partly the layers they were wearing but also because they often wore quite large kimonos that had been tacked in at the shoulders and waist to fit. As the child grew the tacking could be undone and the kimono let out. I've had padded winter children's kimono in my collection that have been taken in like this and they are so bulky you wonder how the child could move at all.

And finally another little boy wearing a similar apron to the one in the previous photo. The shop is called 'Kodomoya' or 'Children's Shop'  and appears to sell clothing as well as toys.

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