Japanese Photography and the Mirage of Time: Meiji to Modern Tokyo Ladies

Japanese Photography and the Mirage of Time: Meiji to Modern Tokyo Ladies

Tomoko Hara and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The Meiji Revolution of 1868 altered the internal and external dynamics of Japan and even today the convulsions of this period can be felt. Of course, all societies that alter drastically face mass upheavals, elements of continuity, revolutionary change and changing power structures. Outcomes vary but for the land of the rising sun, the year 1868 ushered in a complex challenge based on adapting to modernity, while focusing on social cohesion, implementing new historical mirages that were taken for truth – and finding a place internationally.


Images in this article focus on the natural beauty of Japanese ladies and erasing all notions of revolutionary fervor. Old photos by the Japanese photographer Kusakabe Kimbei (1841-1934) are mixed with personal images created by Lee Jay Walker at Modern Tokyo Times. However, the purpose is solely based on the mirage of time.

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During the Edo Period, certain faiths and philosophies shaped Japan based on the continuity of time. Therefore, the high culture of the Nara Period fused itself naturally within the world of Buddhism, Confucianism, and Shintoism.


However, the Meiji Era, while utilizing the best of traditional high culture, faiths, and philosophies, now altered the internal and external dynamics of society. For example, while stratification is sometimes oversimplified, the fact remains that the new Japan opened itself up to more opportunities for many. Yet, just like all true revolutions, you also had losers. Similarly, new technology led to the destruction of many old ways based on rich artistic skills and aspects of industrialization were clearly negative for the lifestyle of many.


Despite all the convulsions Japan did reinvent itself even if based on the fear of the encroachment of Western colonialism. Sadly, Japan also understood that the new world that was opening itself up was also based on conquest, fear, superiority, and subjugation. Therefore, like a true mirage, it wasn’t surprising that Japan would succumb to the imperialist nature of Britain, France, Turkey (Ottoman Empire) and others while fully understanding America and its gunboat diplomacy.


However, in the photos of Kusakabe Kimbei and Lee Jay Walker, all aspects of revolutionary change are negated based on the natural beauty of Japanese ladies. In other words, the mirage of time is being fused in order to distort reality. This is based on a simple notion that many seek because of the continuing negative convulsions that blight the modern world.

Lee Jay Walker photo images 1, 3, 4 and 6

Kusakabe Kimbei photo images 2, 5 and 7


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