Visual Journeys

Untitled, Raimund von Stillfried, c. 1870s. This beautifully hand-colored, half-length portrait of a man in armor reflects a Western fascination with Japan’s martial heritage. PM 2003.1.2223.396
285, Anonymous, c. 1880s-1890s. Photographs of this period often featured models who portrayed a variety of roles and appeared in numerous images. This photograph and the next feature the same man. PM 2003.1.2223.25
286, Anonymous, c. 1880s-1890s. Photographs of this period often featured models who portrayed a variety of roles and appeared in numerous images. This photograph and the previous feature the same man. PM 2003.1.2223.26
1574, Yomeimon, Great Gate Nikko, Kusakabe Kimbei, c. 1880s-1890s. The shrine and temple complex at Nikko, north of Tokyo, houses the mausoleums of several shoguns of the Tokugawa military dynasty that ruled over Japan for 250 years. PM 2003.1.2223.280
641, Wisteria at Kameido, Tokyo. Kusakabe Kimbei, c. 1880s-1890s. This image of wisteria in full bloom at a Tokyo shrine follows a well-known 1856 print by Hiroshige, a dominant figure in 19th-century woodblock printmaking. PM 2003.1.2223.270
Untitled, Uchida Kuichi; Stillfried & Andersen Studio Imprint, 1873. Photographs of Emperor Meiji in Western military dress (1873) and Empress Haruko (next image) were frequently included in souvenir albums. PM 2003.1.2223.347
Untitled, Uchida Kuichi; Stillfried & Andersen Studio Imprint, 1872. Photographs of Emperor Meiji (previous image) and Empress Haruko in ancient court costume (1872) were frequently included in souvenir albums. PM 2003.1.2223.348
Untitled, Raimund von Stillfried, c. 1870s. Cabinet prints, usually albumen prints mounted on card stock, measuring about 4 x 5 inches, such as this one, were a popular format for collecting images of people. PM 2003.1.2223.85
Untitled, Raimund von Stillfreid, c. 1870s. This portrait is of an oiran, or high-class courtesan, and her kamuro (young female attendant). The oiran wears a characteristic costume, intricate hairstyle, and high wooden clogs. PM 2003.1.2223.320
Untitled, Raimund von Stillfried, c. 1870s. Two sumo wrestlers and a referee. PM 2003.1.2223.354
Untitled, Raimund von Stillfried, c. 1875. Two men dressed as samurai in full armor. PM 2003.1.2223.364
Untitled, Raimund von Stillfried, c. 1870s. The Japanese government outlawed tattooing in 1872 for Japanese citizens. It is possible but unlikely that the subject of this image was genuine. PM 2003.1.2223.52
Untitled, Raimund von Stillfried, c.1870s. On close examination, the distinct contrast between the color selection and design of the two images makes it probable that these “tattoos” were painted by an artist on the photographic print. PM 2003.1.2223.53
Girl Combing, Anon., c. 1880s-1890s. This eroticized image of a young girl at her toilette is part of a collection donated by William Aloysious Dunn, Harvard Medical School class of 1875. PM 2003.1.2223.19
Scenes in Japan, Anon. c. 1880s-1890s. Images of people looking at albums of photographs are often found in 19th-century Japanese tourist albums. Such images were perhaps both a social comment and a clever marketing practice. PM 36-26-60/15986.102
371, Anon., c. 1870s-1880s. An artisan coloring a photograph. Colored, or tinted, photographs, were especially popular souvenirs among 19th-century tourists to Japan. PM 2003.1.2223.390
Untitled, Attributed to Raimund von Stillfried, c. 1870. This portrait of a woman sitting at a brazier with a pipe is probably an early image by Raimund von Stillfried. PM 2003.1.2223.308

Souvenir photographs were a must-have memento for 19th-century visitors to Japan. Tourism to Japan flourished with the start of regular steamship service between San Francisco and Yokohama (1867), the opening of the Suez Canal and the completion of transcontinental rail service in America (1869), and the liberalization of the Japanese government’s travel rules (1880).

“Globe-trotters,” a derisive term coined by the expatriate community to describe 19th-century tourists visiting Japan, were captivated by the beautifully hand-colored photographs of geisha, samurai, cherry blossoms, temples, and other subjects that came to represent the essence of Japan and Japanese culture for many Westerners. The rapid industrialization of the country was not normally shown in these photographs; instead, they depicted idealized, stereotyped views of traditional Japanese culture.

Tourists typically purchased loose prints or entire albums of photographs, which were bound with lacquer, silk, or linen covers. Preassembled albums, available with 25, 50, or 100 photographs, normally featured colored and untinted images, and served as a kind of visual journey through Japan.