Life in Japan – Herbert Geddes

Once again I’d like to take you on a trip back into the past. This time we’re going to Japan around 1910. Herbert Geddes was the manager of a Canadian import-export company and between 1908 and 1918 he was in Yokohama on a business trip to Japan. On photographic glass slides he captured the impressions of his journeys.

We don’t know a lot about Geddes himself, his Japan pictures, however, keep fascinating people all around the world today. His photographs give us an insight into traditional Japan in the Meiji era. Nowadays, Japan counts among the most advanced and technologically most innovative countries in the world. At the time when Geddes went to Japan, however, it was far from being all that. On the contrary, Japan in those days was an isolated feudal state. The evolution to a modern imperial superpower began in the Meiji era – and this is what makes Herbert Geddes’s pictures even more precious. The Japan photographed by the Canadian businessman on his trips didn’t exist much longer after his visit. Among other things, his photos show everyday scenes, people at work and traditional handicraft. The pictures colored by hand are like in a fairytale and vibrant, showing Geishas in their colorful robes, Japan’s wonderful scenery, men and women at work and children at play. A truly and incredibly valuable remnant of a fading era.


Have you ever been to Japan? Do you think that today you can still find comparable scenes over there? My trip to Japan is still to come, but the island state has come closer to the top of my travel wish list thanks to these photos.


Herbert Geddes | Life in Japan, c. 1910 from zeitpunkte on Vimeo.


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