Turn-of-the-century Paris gets the lion’s share of our admiration and nostalgia, but what about Japan?
For hundreds of years, the island country kept itself secluded from the outside world. In 1868, that changed. With the overthrow of a feudal order, Japan jumped into a period of intense modernization and Westernization. By 1900, everything was different. Japan 1900, an extra-extra-large-format coffee-table book publishing from Taschen with a first printing of 5,000 numbered copies, documents this radical transition in 700 colorized images.
There are sections on silk, tea, Buddhism; itineraries across Beppu’s hot springs, a bustling Osaka, the historic Kyoto and Nara; and chapters on the timeless (Mount Fuji) and the transformed (Tokyo, once Edo, now the ultra-modern, Technicolor city of Lost in Translation).
The idyllic images of Japan as a traditional, pre-industrial society bear little resemblance to the country today. The Buddhist temples have been replaced by skyscrapers, the geishas’ intricate dress by Western design. Just about the only thing that hasn’t seemed to change is its loveliest signature: the cherry blossoms. —Julia Vitale