Gaze at Hand-Colored Photos of 19th Century Japan


Photography was introduced into Japan a few decades after its invention in Europe, and within a few years of the country’s re-opening to the West following Commodore Matthew Perry's arrival in Tokyo Bay in 1853. Recently, the New York Public Library digitized an album of photographs showing Japanese scenes just a few decades after Perry’s efforts.

The black-and-white images, many of them hand-colored, depict temples, houses, people, waterfalls, forests, and mountains, as well as transportation, agriculture, and entertainments such as sumo wrestling. Though the album’s provenance isn’t entirely clear, it’s part of a host of 19th century Japanese photographs the library currently cares for, many of which have also been hand-decorated with color.

According to the NYPL, some of the images in the album may have been created by the early Japanese photographer Kusakabe Kimbei, who ran a photo studio in Yokohama starting in 1881. Kimbei was a pupil of the noted early photographer of Asia Felice Beato, who set up a photo studio in Yokohama in 1863. (You can browse a wonderful interactive album of photos Beato took in Japan in the 1860s on the Getty Museum’s website.) 

And if you’re hungry for more recently digitized Japanese content from the NYPL, check out the beautiful woodcut-illustrated 1920s books of Japanese fairytales collected by the writer and translator Lafcadio Hearn. Born just a few years before Perry sailed into Tokyo Bay, Hearn was one of the first to bring Japanese culture and writings to the West. 


"Japanese Women: Cooking, Accomplishments (Music and Dance), Riding Rickshaw, Nursing, and Washing." (Click to enlarge.)

"Sumo Wrestler."  (Click to enlarge.)

"Massage, Peddlars, and a Store." (Click to enlarge.)

"Views - A Row of Houses, an Island, Harbor and Mt. Fuji."  (Click to enlarge.)

"Rickshaws and Palanquins." (Click to enlarge.)

All photos courtesy the New York Public Library.

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Since it first added plastic, interlocking bricks to its lineup, the Danish toy company LEGO (from the words Leg Godt for “play well”) has inspired builders of all ages to bring their most imaginative designs to life. Sets have ranged in size from scenes that can be assembled in a few minutes to 5000-piece behemoths depicting famous landmarks. And tinkerers aren’t limited to the sets they find in stores. One of the largest LEGO creations was a life-sized home in the UK that required 3.2 million tiny bricks to construct.

In this episode of the List Show, John Green lays out 26 playful facts about one of the world’s most beloved toy brands. To hear about the LEGO black market, the vault containing every LEGO set ever released, and more, check out the video above then subscribe to our YouTube channel to stay up-to-date with the latest flossy content.

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Of Buckeyes and Butternuts: 29 States With Weird Nicknames for Their Residents
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Tracing a word’s origin and evolution can yield fascinating historical insights—and the weird nicknames used in some states to describe their residents are no exception. In the Mental Floss video above, host John Green explains the probable etymologies of 29 monikers that describe inhabitants of certain states across the country.

Some of these nicknames, like “Hoosiers” and “Arkies” (which denote residents of Indiana and Arkansas, respectively) may have slightly offensive connotations, while others—including "Buckeyes," "Jayhawks," "Butternuts," and "Tar Heels"—evoke the military histories of Ohio, Kansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina. And a few, like “Muskrats” and “Sourdoughs,” are even inspired by early foods eaten in Delaware and Alaska. ("Goober-grabber" sounds goofier, but it at least refers to peanuts, which are a common crop in Georgia, as well as North Carolina and Arkansas.)

Learn more fascinating facts about states' nicknames for their residents by watching the video above.


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