Japanese Tourist Photography


This primary source packet contains Japanese tourist photography from the late 19th and early 20th century. Materials can support classes and research interested in Japanese culture, the development of photography, Japanese interactions with Western countries, and Japanese art. Pedagogical goals from using these materials might include analysis of visual materials, examining issues of “modernization” in Meiji Japan, and exploring the ways in which photographs attempt to shape the thoughts and opinions of their viewers. 

Packet contents: 

  • List of primary sources
  • Guiding questions for engaging with the primary sources
  • Articles which provide background on this topic
    • Hockley, Allen. “”Expectation and Authenticity in Meiji Tourist Photography.” In Challenging Past and Present: The Metamorphosis of Nineteenth-Century Japanese Art, ed. Ellen P. Conant. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2006. 114-32. (https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctvvmzdn.11 )
    • Wakita, Mio. “Between Commercialism and Ideology.” In Staging desires : Japanese femininity in Kusakabe Kimbei’s nineteenth-century souvenir photography. Berlin: Reimer, 2013. 93-131. 
    • Fraser, Karen M. “Introduction.” In Photography and Japan. London: Reaktion Books, 2011.

Primary Sources

All the photographs listed here are albumen prints; color was applied by hand. The photographs are not attributed to any of the photographers or photography studios operating at the time. 

Wysteria Vine, HC2019-0047 

Untitled (Japanese Shade Painters), HC08-0033 

Huge Fish Pennants, HC12-5520

Maiko, Gion Street, Kyoto, HC12-5534

Temple of Yokohama, HC12-5540 

Daibutsu at Kamakura, HC12-5564 

Club Hotel, Yokohama, HC12-5565 

Planting Ricefield, HC12-5580 

Fuji from Otometoge, HC12-5595 

Grinding Unhulled Rice, HC12-5619 

Girls Looking at Flowers, HC12-5541

Man Pulling Cart, HC12-5548 

Fujiyama from Hakone, HC12-5602 

Quaker & Special Collections holds over 100 examples of Japanese tourist photography. Digitized versions of all these materials can be found via triarte.brynmawr.edu. 

Guiding Questions

Some helpful questions for discussion when viewing each item in this packet include:

  • Who is the intended audience for this image? How does that influence your reading?
  • How would you describe the subject of this image? What parts of the image are emphasized?
  • How does the use of color influence your reading of the photograph? Why might some parts of the photograph be colored? Why do you think the photographer made these choices?
  • How does this image explore or show the tensions between an idealized view of Japan and a portrayal of Japan as a “modern” nation? 
  • What do you find particularly interesting or surprising about these photographs?