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Kusakabe Kimbei Stunning Old Japanese Photos Free To Print

After posting some gorgeous vintage Japanese travel posters last week, I decided to carry on the theme. Here I have curated a collection of stunning old Japanese photos by the photographer Kusakabe Kimbei.

Born in 1841 Kusakabe Kimbei was a Japanese photographer that worked mainly for western clients and visitors. He liked to photograph Japanese women in traditional dress for his clients.

Kimbei learned his trade whilst working with both the photographers  Felice Beato and Baron Raimund von Stillfried as a photographic colorist and assistant.

Personally, I think that these photos are beautiful and fascinating to look at. It really gives you a glimpse of old Japan. I would love to create a gallery wall of a collection of these photos as they are so interesting to look at.

Another great glimpse into Japanese culture is with the woodblock prints of Utagawa Kuniyoshi. You can find the sites complete Japanese vintage collection of prints here.

Colourized vintage Japanese Photos by Kusakabe Kimbei

The Coloring of Old Japanese Photos

The coloring of photographs by hand was first developed in Europe. It, however, became very popular in Japan in the late 19th century.

The skills of Japanese watercolorists and woodblock printmakers were easily applied to the coloring of photographs and became very popular.

These hand-colored photographs were like early postcards and very popular with foreign tourists and collectors.

With hand-coloring photography, color is added to black and white photos manually to make them more realistic and artistic. Many different materials are used for hand colorings, such as oils, pastels, crayons, watercolours and other paints and dyes. Brushes, cotton swabs or even fingers are often used to apply the colour to the black and white photographs.

Downloading The Kusakabe Kimbei Colored Photos of Old Japan

To download a higher resolution of the photo you want then just click on the title of the image above. A higher resolution photo will open in a new window on your browser. If you click on that photo with your mouse you will have the menu option to save it to your hard drive.

All these wonderful photos are in the Public Domain. You can either print them at home on photo quality paper or send them to an online printers. With an online printer you are more likely to get a more professional quality print. You will also be able to choose your size.

Also, with print shops, you can also have the images printed on many different products from iPhone cases, mouse mats to pillows and mugs. Just like how I print my vintage personalized map pillows.

1.Pilgrim going up Fujiyama

This old Japanese photo by Kusakabe Kimbei is of a pilgrim in a traditional dress about to climb Mt Fuji.

Mount Fuji is the tallest mountain in Japan and one of the “Three Holy Mountains”. It is an iconic symbol of the country and is named after the Buddhist fire goddess Fuchi.

Mt Fuji is a beautiful cone-shaped mountain located to the west of Tokyo in a national park. Every year, thousands of Japanese pilgrims climb the mountain throughout the night to reach the summit at dawn. Just to witness the magnificent sunrise from the mountain’s summit.


2. Japaneses Tattoo – Kusakabe Kimbei

I love the composition of this photograph and the colouring on the wonderful tattoo is amazing.

Traditional Japanese tattoos are known as Irezumi. This kind of tattoo is done by hand, with a special ink called Nara ink, using wooden handles and metal needles attached via silk thread. It is a painful and time-consuming process, done by a limited number of specialists.

Japanese Tattoo

3. Yoshiwara Girls

A beautifully coloured photo by Kusakabe Kimbei of a group of prostitutes in Yoshiwara. Yoshiwara was a well-known red-light district in Edo, present-day Tokyo.

Old Japanese Photo by Kusakabe Kimbei

4. Old Japanese Photo of Girls Playing Hane

The girls in this photo by Kusakabe Kimbei are playing a game similar to badminton but without a net. Instead of strung rackets, they are using paddles (hagotia) made from lightweight wood of the paulownia tree.

The shuttlecock is actually a berry and the idea is to keep the berry in the air. It was more of a game than a sport, traditionally played by girls at New Year.

Old colourised Japanese photos.

5. Old Japanese Photo of Country Children

A lovely colorized vintage photo of a group of children in the Japanese countryside. I love the children’s traditional dress.


6. Kusakabe Kimbei – Girls Hairdressing

This is a delightful photo of 2 girls in traditional kimonos doing their hair. I love how the kimonos and the painting in the background have been colorized.

Kusakabe Kimbei-Hair_Dressing

7. Old Japanese Photo of Harakiri

A rather gruesome colorized photo by Kusakabe Kimbei of Harakiri. Harakiri is a form of Japanese ritual suicide by disembowelment. It was traditionally carried out by Samurai, to die with honor rather than be captured by the enemy.

photo of Harakiri

8. Kusakabe Kimbei – Flower Seller

I really like the way the delicate flowers have been colored in this Kusakabe Kimbei photo of a flower seller. Another stunning photo of vintage Japanese everyday life.

Kusakabe Kimbei Flower Seller

9. Three Girls From The Back

Another lovely Kusakabe Kimbei photo showing women in traditional kimono’s from the back.


10. Selling Flowers

Another vintage colourized Kusakabe Kimbei photo of someone selling flowers.

Kusakabe Kimbei selling flowers

11. Vintage Japanese Photo – Lantern Makers

It is the vivid red and pink pigments on the lanterns, in this colourized vintage Japanese photograph that makes it so wonderful.

Vintage Japanese photo lantern makers.

12. Vintage Japanese Photo – Vegetable Seller

Another vibrantly colourized photo of everyday Japanese life from the late 19th Century. A market trader carrying his wares the traditional way balanced on a pole.

Market trader
Kusakabe Kimbei tattoo man

If you liked these vintage Japanese photos by Kusakabe Kimbei, check out these old Japanese art prints from the Shin-bijutsukai , these traditional Japanese designs and those of Watanabe Seitei. You will probably also like some of these other vintage images.

If you want to try out your own colorization of photos then print them onto watercolor paper first, this can be done on an inkjet printer.

Julie Briones

Monday 21st of October 2019

My sister's last name is Wakabayashi... I think these would really interest her. Sharing the link!


Monday 21st of October 2019

Thank you, I’m sure she’d love them they are fascinating photos.


Wednesday 16th of October 2019

The watercolors are lovely! Thank you for sharing at Vintage Charm!


Wednesday 16th of October 2019

Thank you glad you liked them.