Photographs of Prewar Osaka’s ‘Golden Era’ Uncovered Online

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Osaka has a rich history as the commercial centre of Japan, growing into an important trading port and bustling city by the 17th century. The city retained its role as the economic hub of Japan as the nation moved towards modernity, and Osaka’s rapid industrialisation brought considerable wealth.

Such was Osaka’s growth during this time, that the years of late Taisho period to the early Showa period were known as ‘Osaka’s golden era’ [oo-oosaka jidai], a period in which the population of Osaka outnumbered that of Tokyo.

These photographs of Osaka’s golden era show sophisticated European-style buildings, depicting a city that is almost unrecognisable as the Osaka of today.The photographs were originally posted on 2ch.net forums, and have quickly spread around the internet, being retweeted and reposted all over Japan, with many netizens taken aback at the city’s beautiful, yet forgotten past.

Here, the first set of photographs are posted, but for more historical views of Osaka, Kobe, Kyoto, and Tokyo, you can click on the original thread link.

From 2ch.net:

[Pictures] The Streets of Prewar Osaka — So Funny

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以下、名無しにかわりましてVIPがお送りします:[original poster]

It was just so classy..hilarious ww

以下、名無しにかわりましてVIPがお送りします:

So cool.

以下、名無しにかわりましてVIPがお送りします:

They’re really vivid.

以下、名無しにかわりましてVIPがお送りします:

It looks like those Western-style buildings just fell from the sky with a thud! Looks sooo weird.

以下、名無しにかわりましてVIPがお送りします:

It’s had more class then than it does now…great pictures.

以下、名無しにかわりましてVIPがお送りします:

They’re amazing pictures, [the city is] so simple and unadorned. They really should get rid of the pachinko parlours and those sordid streets, and make it beautiful again.

Comments from Himasoku.com:

以下、VIPにかわりまして暇人がお送りします:

I guess that this kind of modernism and the people who designed it are recognised as part of Japan’s dark past, though.

以下、VIPにかわりまして暇人がお送りします:

There were virtually no cars back then. And thanks to that it’s amazingly beautiful.

以下、VIPにかわりまして暇人がお送りします:

Osaka’s ‘Shinsekai’ [New World], really was like the new world — amazing — but it seems like they ran out of iron during the war and all of it was disassembled.

以下、VIPにかわりまして暇人がお送りします:

Osaka has improved in terms of fire resistance and resistance to earthquakes, but in terms of design there’s been a total deterioration. Particularly the design of the city as a whole.

以下、VIPにかわりまして暇人がお送りします:

Europe still has the look of this period. Seems like wooden buildings weren’t such a good idea, then…

以下、VIPにかわりまして暇人がお送りします:

I mean, it’s not just Osaka, is it. Before the war, there were Meiji and Taisho period buildings all over the country. There’d even be more of the original main keeps of castles remaining if it hadn’t been for the air raids. For better or for worse, the Asia-Pacific War reset everything.

以下、VIPにかわりまして暇人がお送りします:

How did Osaka get like it is now when it was such a pretty town back then?

以下、VIPにかわりまして暇人がお送りします:

Beautiful. Simply magnificent.

以下、VIPにかわりまして暇人がお送りします:

Well, Osaka was like this because it’s a port. I guess that Western culture took root pretty early on. Even now, a good number of the buildings from back then are being restored and having their interiors refurbished. Not in the vicinity of Dotonbori and Shinsekai of course, but between Yodoyabashi and Namba there are streets like this.

以下、VIPにかわりまして暇人がお送りします:

Osaka in the old days was really something. To think that there were such modern buildings and classy streets…Plus in the so-called golden days of Osaka, the population was higher than that of Tokyo. There’s no trace of that now, though. Only good for comedians and lowlifes now.

以下、VIPにかわりまして暇人がお送りします:

It was such a beautiful town. I really admire Edo architecture.

以下、VIPにかわりまして暇人がお送りします:

Nothing as vulgar as it is now.

ななし:

We should go back to those beautiful and Japanese cityscapes. We pay our taxes. Now is the time for Japan to go forward again.

以下、VIPにかわりまして暇人がお送りします:

It was better in the pre-war period, the architecture seemed more uniform w. Nowadays be it Kyoto or Osaka, they’re just too all over the place.

以下、VIPにかわりまして暇人がお送りします:

When I see this kind of thread, the nostalgics will always, without a doubt, start denying the modern day and saying Japan was better back then, and it pisses me off. In the end, they start talking about culture (笑), and saying whatever they want in ignorance of the people who live there now. Did the people who lived there years ago ever think ‘Oh, the cityscape we’ve got now is splendid, we should definitely keep it this way’? w I mean, you all can say whatever you want because it was a time that you know nothing about, and have never lived through.

Comments from Twitter (1):
つつじ:

@mina005 Seems to be Osaka before the war. If you compare it with how Osaka is now, then how beautiful it was back then! But there are those who destroyed this harmony. Those pachinko parlours in front of the station in almost every town, they’re a cancer. That land was unlawfully occupied in the confusion of the postwar period, and robbed from the Japanese people. [This is probably a reference to many pachinko parlours being run by families of North Korean descent].

せぼんぬ@ぼっち:

These are really amazing!

kazuhiro arai:

So classy. The streets of prewar Osaka.

平野美紀 Miki Hirano:

Amazing! Doesn’t even look like Japan!!

エロカッパ@大阪府解体推進者:

On the contrary,more people would gather there if they made the streets as they were in prewar Osaka.

ユウヤ:

WTF! This is Osaka?…How cool…

たかちゃん:

Much better than it is now.

ラオ:

I much prefer the way the city was laid out in this period. Osaka.

Comments from Twitter (2):

honeniq:

I was so surprised at how clearly you could see that the photograph of Ebisubashi really looks like Ebisubashi. The bridge and the buildings are completely different, but the silhouette is exactly the same.

tkd_shogo oƃoɥs ɐpɐʞɐʇ:

Where in Europe is this?(。-∀-)💦

06661金尾 秀和bot:

Makes you realise how important the scenery in urban areas is.

yaonyaosuke2:

The golden days of Osaka. These pictures are amazing.

mnhtfk中東:

It’s much more fun discovering great buildings in Kansai.

jam7710ラインバック☆:

So classy~ (*´∇`*)It was all wrecked during the air raids, though.

nozomi_dreaming:

Prewar Osaka, they called it the golden days of Osaka.

haigha33:

I was blown away by the classiness.

ph_nglui:

[ #|ω・)……]It’s preserved really well in the pictures.

hid_mur:

The centre of prewar Osaka is beautiful.

ymishma:

The beautiful streets of Osaka before the war. In the post war period, it was plundered by Koreans, and now it’s flooded with pachinko parlours, but let’s take it back to how it was in the old days.

tommytonque:

Looks like a completely different town…

satho_tonga:

If you look at photographs from around the Meiji period then you can really see why they called it the ‘city of water’.

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  • monmon

    Wow, Osaka of today is such a boring grey looking place compared to this.

    They still have the best food, though. ^^

    • Cynic

      That’s because it was plundered by Koreans.

      • harvz

        Remind me what Asian countries Japan didn’t plunder.

        • YourSupremeCommander

          Bangladash, India, Turkey, Afganistan, Pakistan, Mogolia, Iran, Iraq, Thailand….

          • ChuckRamone

            that’s the problem with the term Asian. it covers way too much ground.

          • BigCAD

            Still spreading your ignorance f@$ktard?

            The Japanese plundered Thailand, made an attempt on Mongolia and penetrated India. I learnt this all from a history book I had balanced on your mother’s back as I too penetrated her.

          • EightNineBall

            Can’t even construe a proper argument without name calling, can you? And what’s up with your over antagonizing of the ‘past’ Japanese Empire?

            From the constant butthurt and great emphasis on Japan’s atrocities, it appears you seem to hate Japan’s guts.

          • BigCAD

            So you dispute that Japan assaulted Mongolia and India and inflicted great damage on Thailand?

            The only issue I have about the long defunct Japanese Empire is they didn’t lay waste to more of China.

          • EightNineBall

            There’s little to dispute when it is much more true that Thailand and India did at some point collaborate and ally with the Japanese to “free Asia from colonization”. The assault on Mongolia saw minimal MPA involvement and it was effectively the Soviet Union against the Empire of Japan.

            Now the whole point of unnecessarily and intentionally bringing up the age old China vs Japan feud is one thing. But antagonizing and bringing up the “great damage” Japan did to nations that even allied with Japan is another. It actually reveals your obvious insecurity and dare I say envy that Japan actually has allies that don’t belong to your ethnicity (which you are obviously too ashamed to reveal). And that their nation has made much progress and a good world standing without you.

            And I thought it was just the Chinese you had issues with. People can see through you, you know. But then again, some people just like living in the past.

            Most of South and Southeast Asia have a highly favorable view of Japan. Ask yourself why that is. It’s 2013, not the 1940s.

          • Hongwu Emperor

            So your basic construct for argument is swearing?? oooo, seems like people go THAT low. ;D

      • ChuckRamone

        Uh, what? Most of Japan is boring and gray, architecturally speaking. Did Koreans plunder all of Japan? Talk about historical revisionism.

        • http://www.youtube.com/user/VictimOfBoredom Matt

          I think your sarcasm meter is low on batteries…

          • ChuckRamone

            Maybe you’re right. I thought Cynic was making a reference to Kansai having a lot of ethnic Korean inhabitants.

          • http://www.youtube.com/user/VictimOfBoredom Matt

            I’m pretty sure he was mocking ymishma’s comment from the article:

            “The beautiful streets of Osaka before the war. In the post war
            period, it was plundered by Koreans, and now it’s flooded with pachinko
            parlours, but let’s take it back to how it was in the old days.”

          • ChuckRamone

            Holy crap, Yukio Mishima rose from the grave to talk smack about pachinko parlors.

            Anyway, you’re right. I should’ve paid more attention to the article.

          • Hongwu Emperor

            I dont recall anything involving Korean people. I recall stuff about massive bombardments, destruction, ravaging and firebombing by American forces, not Korean civilians…

    • https://www.facebook.com/dinie.akhemu Gerhana

      the castle looks beautiful during all season. What about the suburb area?

  • YourSupremeCommander

    Nice! The top b/w pixs look like they could be from NY.

  • Dan

    Great find, Beth! It’s bizarre looking at these, most notably the municipal building and City Hall. They haven’t changed much at all. If these images are actually typical of Osaka life back then, I’d say pre-war Osakans were more active, outdoors types then their present day counterparts.

    • besudesu

      Thanks Dan! I really loved the photographs when I saw them on Himasoku. Still, I was surprised to find that HEP Five wasn’t in there somewhere w.

  • PixelPulse

    It looks like someone just dropped a European city in Japan.

    • Hongwu Emperor

      Also thought that. see why I almost every day pound over westernization on CS also? loss of cultural identity and honor is quite sad really.

  • http://twitter.com/Caaaal Callum

    I wish these buildings still existed… simply beautiful

    • Zappa Frank

      still exist in europe considering that basically were just copies

      • http://twitter.com/Caaaal Callum

        Yeah i know. Its just it’d be cool if so much more of this was persevered in the East.

  • vanyuelding

    looks like paris for me

  • dim mak

    Looks kinda like Shanghai back in the days

    Regardless, Asians should build in our own architectural styles

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