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.

Afternoon Map
The Most Popular Infomercial Product in Each State

You don't have to pay $19.95 plus shipping and handling to discover the most popular infomercial product in each state: AT&T retailer All Home Connections is giving that information away for free via a handy map.

The map was compiled by cross-referencing the top-grossing infomercial products of all time with Google Trends search interest from the past calendar year. So, which crazy products do people order most from their TVs?

Folks in Arizona know that it's too hot there to wear layers; that's why they invest in the Cami Secret—a clip-on, mock top that gives them the look of a camisole without all the added fabric. No-nonsense New Yorkers are protecting themselves from identity theft with the RFID-blocking Aluma wallet. Delaware's priorities are all sorted out, because tons of its residents are still riding the Snuggie wave. Meanwhile, Vermont has figured out that Pajama Jeans are the way to go—because who needs real pants?

Unsurprisingly, the most popular product in many states has to do with fitness and weight loss, because when you're watching TV late enough to start seeing infomercials, you're probably also thinking to yourself: "I need to get my life together. I should get in shape." Seven states—Colorado, Idaho, Kentucky, Montana, Nebraska, Utah, and Wisconsin—have invested in the P90X home fitness system, while West Virginia and Arkansas prefer the gentler workout provided by the Shake Weight. The ThighMaster is still a thing in Illinois and Washington, while Total Gym and Bowflex were favored by South Dakota and Wyoming, respectively. 

Kitchen items are clearly another category ripe for impulse-buying: Alabama and North Dakota are all over the George Forman Grill; Alaska and Rhode Island are mixing things up with the Magic Bullet; and Floridians must be using their Slice-o-matics to chop up limes for their poolside margaritas.

Cleaning products like OxiClean (D.C. and Hawaii), Sani Sticks (North Carolina), and the infamous ShamWow (which claims the loyalty of Mainers) are also popular, but it's Proactiv that turned out to be the big winner. The beloved skin care system claimed the top spot in eight states—California, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, and Texas—making it the most popular item on the map.

Peep the full map above, or check out the full study from All Home Connections here.

A Florida Brewery Created Edible Six-Pack Rings to Protect Marine Animals

For tiny scraps of plastic, six-pack rings can pose a huge threat to marine life. Small enough and ubiquitous enough that they’re easy to discard and forget about, the little plastic webs all too often make their way to the ocean, where animals can ingest or become trapped in them. In order to combat that problem, Florida-based Saltwater Brewery has created what they say is the world’s first fully biodegradable, compostable, edible six-pack rings.

The edible rings are made of barley and wheat and are, if not necessarily tasty, at least safe for animals and humans to ingest. Saltwater Brewery started packaging their beers with the edible six-pack rings in 2016. They charge slightly more for their brews to offset the cost of the rings' production. They hope that customers will be willing to pay a bit more for the environmentally friendly beers and are encouraging other companies to adopt the edible six-pack rings in order to lower manufacturing prices and save more animals.

As Saltwater Brewery president Chris Gove says in the video above: “We want to influence the big guys and kind of inspire them to also get on board.”


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