In the 1850s Japan permitted Western barbarians to trade in its ports for the first time in an age. The weird foreigners were corralled in zones of tolerance, unable to roam freely and kept apart from the Japanese. Over the next decades, Westerners would gain more access, exporting images of the warriors, traders, famers and geishas to an intrigued audience back home. Before the 19th Century was out, the feudal period in Japan ended with the Meiji Restoration. After eight centuries of military leadership, the sumurai class was officially abolished. Japan lowered its fans and revealed a country rich and life and culture.
We don’t know who took these superb hand-colored albumen prints of Japan in the 1890s. But thanks to the New York Public Library, we can see them today.