February 17, 2013: Connections

February 17, 2013
Photo by Enami; Courtesy by Rob Oechsle

Women pick tea leaves. Circa: 1905-20. Photo by Enami; Courtesy: Rob Oechsle.

Photo by Enami; Courtesy by Rob Oechsle

Photo by Enami; Courtesy: Rob Oechsle

The wealth of information available to every person connected through the internet daily strikes me as a modern marvel. With a little time and patience, I can read, see, and hear information from histories and cultures worldwide, all from the comfort of my little kitchen table.

Photo by Enami; Courtesy by Rob Oechsle

Photo by Enami; Courtesy: Rob Oechsle

I got hooked onto these early-20thC. hand-colored photographs by Nobunkuni Enami, when I saw one on Facebook via my friend Miguel who teaches English in Tokyo. It took me a little bit of time to track them down to their sources, so let me credit each of them as it led to the ultimate source. First, thank you Miguel, for throwing the first image out there. I enjoy each and every one of your posts, but this one was just perfect! From Miguel, I was linked to “Deep Kyoto” Facebook page. Deep Kyoto seems to be run by a native-Englander who has since transplanted to Kyoto, Japan. This site is a wonderful collection of information and events going on and about  Kyoto. From Deep Kyoto, the connections led to the short article by Rebecca Baird-Remba at the Business Insider site about these spectacular photos by Nobunkuni Enami, who opened his photography studio in Yokohama in 1892. The images here and at the Business Insider are courtesy of Japanese photographic expert Rob Oechsle. There is a link at the Business Insider site to Oeschsle’s Flickr page to see more of Enami’s images.

Photo by Enami; Courtesy by Rob Oechsle

Two people visit a family rural tomb. Photo by Enami; Courtesy: Rob Oechsle.

Photo by Enami; Courtesy by Rob Oechsle

An umbrella maker paints one of his pieces. Photo by Enami; Courtesy: Rob Oechsle



  1. Aren’t they fantastic? Even though they are from before I was born, a lot of the activities, landscapes, and even clothes were still around when I was a boy growing up in Japan. Sadly almost all of it is gone these days. There is something about the people from before the 70’s, when everything drastically changed, that I prefer, a kind of innocence (though there were terrible things about them, too, as a non-Japanese growing up here experienced all too often. One image, of the monkey trainer, shows a part of the Japanese that was cruel and indifferent, too) and a kind of all-pervading enthusiasm about living and vitality that just don’t exist in the same way anymore. I’m especially glad you like them, Steve. I think you sense the richness behind each image as more than just something pretty, right?

    • Miguel- Thanks again for leading me to these photos. I do love old photos in general, but these particularly register a special time and place. It’s not exactly clear if Enami himself hand-colored these, or they were done later, but I also the love hand-coloring process.

      At RIT, photo majors were required to take retouching their first year. Most photogs hated that class with a passion, but I loved it (as close to drawing as I will ever get, not having your drawing skill.) It was taught by an elderly woman who happened to be a dwarf. I remember her being extremely tolerant of the student’s hatred of her class, and she always struck me as being was one of true “old-masters” that I’ve had the privilege to meet, and it was the one of the rare times in my life to experience the master-novice teaching of a craft, that has now sadly died off. This was all before Photoshop, and the things she could do with pencils and brushes were simply magical. I’ve used the hand-coloring technique she taught me on many a print. Sad to think there won’t be any more *true* hand-colored prints like these from now on.

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