For years it had remained shut off from the rest of world and shrouded in mystery.
But this unique collection of images taken 100 years ago are some of the first ever insights in to rural Japan before it was opened up to the rest of the globe.
The collection of pictures – the first ever used to promote tourism in the country – show geishas relaxing in pleasure gardens while workers pick tea leaves from the fields.
Geishas enjoy a summer’s day in a landscaped garden in this 100-year-old photo by Tamamura Kozaburo
The rare collection of images show Japan before its industrial revolution
The collection of 100-year-old photos were taken to try to attract tourists to the country at the beginning of the 20th century after the lifting of the bamboo curtain
Japan remained cut off from much of the world until the Convention of Kanagawa in 1854
Iconic landmarks such as the Kintai-kyo bridge, built in 1673, and the Great Buddha of Kamakura, first constructed in 1252, appear much the same at the beginning of the 20th Century as they do today.
But while the monuments themselves may look unchanged, the surroundings are now packed with tourists and often surrounded by skyscrapers to house the ever-growing population which has more than doubled from 49,852,000 in 1910 to 128,056,026 in 2010.
The photos were taken by Tamamura Kozaburo to try to attract tourists to Japan after the country opened up to the rest of the world following the Convention of Kanagawa in 1854.
The convention opened the Japanese ports of Shimoda and Hakodate to U.S. trade for the first time in 200 years and ensured the safety of shipwrecked American sailors.
But before the convention, Japan had cut itself off from the rest of the world for more than two centuries and was lagging behind in new technologies.
The Imperial Palace, the main residence of the Emperor of Japan, was completely isolated 100 years ago
The Imperial Palace is now surrounded by modern skyscrapers in Tokyo
A lone fisherman is captured coming in to shore
The Kintai-kyo bridge, built in 1673, still stands today
Spot the difference: Today the Kintai-kyo bridge is lit up at night and is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Japan
It was only when Commodore Matthew Perry of the United States Navy steamed into the bay in Yokohama with four warships – the Mississippi, Plymouth, Saratoga, and Susquehanna – in 1853 that the channels of communication were forced open. This eventually lead to the Convention agreement the following year.
Japan soon undertook drastic political, economic, and cultural transformations to emerge as a unified and centralized state to try to put itself on an even keel with the West.
It’s industrial revolution began around 1870 as national leaders hoped to catch up with the West by building railway lines, better roads, and invested heavily in modern industry such as textiles, including cotton and silk.
By 1910, Japan had come out triumphant in a war with Russia and become the first Eastern modern imperial power. It was around this time that this collection of photos were taken to show off Japan to the outside world, which had previously been rigidly introverted and anti any foreign or outside influence.
Photographer Kozaburo was the first to produce tourist shots for Japan with an album of 51 collotype black and white photographic prints, which were painstakingly inked in by a team of 100 colorists, and gave Europe one of its first glimpses of life inside the previously secretive state.
A few fishing smacks are seen off the Japanese coast which later became an international port
The black and white images taken by Kozaburo were painstakingly inked in by a team of 100 colorists
The Japanese are still renowned for their beautiful gardens
These photos show Japan at a prosperous time, when it was starting to build itself into a dominating world power during a period of rapid economic growth and on the cusp of significant technological advancement.
But as Japan began to catch up with the rest of the world powers, it began to exert its brutal power by declaring war on surrounding countries such as China.
This provoked condemnation from the West and tensions with America began to further escalate over its control of Japan’s oil resources, eventually leading to Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor and entry in to World War II.
But these hand-colored prints show untouched Japan before its disastrous losses in World War II forced the country to surrender. They are mounted in an oblong folio within its original box and are expected to fetch £800 ($1300) at auction through Woolley and Wallis auctioneers of Salisbury, Wiltshire, England.
Clare Durham, Asian art expert at Woolley and Wallis, said: ‘Japan had been closed off until the 1860s so it was still relatively new to Europeans.
‘The photos were taken at a time when everything Japanese was of great interest to people in Europe and at a time when photography was in its infancy.
‘They offer a fascinating look at the geisha culture at this time. It is a really interesting historical snapshot of Japan and its cities 100 years ago.’
‘It has come to us from a person in the south west who has had the album for a while now.’
A Buddhist shrine set alone in the mountains
Mount Fuji looks much the same 100 years ago as it does today
Ladies travelling along a dangerous mountain river in a wooden boat
Locals appear to be climbing over the Great Buddha of Kamakura, first built in 1252
Great Buddha Kamakura is approximately 13.35 meters tall, weighs 93 tons, and is today one of the most visited landmarks in Japan
‘This would appeal to anybody who has an interest in Japanese culture but it is also a really nice album to dip in and out of for anybody interested in photography or art.’
‘The geisha is emblematic of what Japanese culture was at that time and the photographer was a specialist at capturing it.
‘Japan had been closed off and there was a huge interest in the country at that time and it was almost like the country was being discovered all over again.’
The photo album went to auction at Salisbury on November 15.
Japanese theatre was promoted to try to attract tourists
A rural village street is completely untouched by machinery
A peasant woman entertains a child with a handmade toy, above, and Geishas look at their reflections in a landscaped garden pond, below
Women picking tea leaves in long dresses with garments protecting their faces from the sun
Japanese woman wear traditional outfits – similar to those worn 100 years ago – to pick tea leaves today
Attribution: Mail Online