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Japanese People Smiling 100 Years Ago (Taisho Period): Video Introduction

This video, titled "Japanese people's smile from 100 years ago (colorization / extended definition)," was uploaded by "笑顔のおっさんチャンネル A Smiley Daddy's Channel."

The photos in the video were taken approximately 100 years ago, from 1914 to 1918, by Elstner Hilton, an American who went to Japan to sell sawmill machines.
At this time, the world was in the midst of war as World War I had broken out. Japan was in the midst of a war economy and enjoying the "Taisho Roman style," a reimagining of traditional Japanese clothing worn in modern styles.

Taisho Period Japan is very similar to the roaring 20's (1920s) of America, with the country experiencing a renaissance of arts, cultural, and political ideology. Flappers, a subculture of young women in the west at the time who yearned for an independent lifestyle, can even be seen in the so-called "Moga" (Modern Girl) of Japan, that arose during this time, both in ideology and fashion.

Check out the colorized and high-resolution video showing Japanese people smiling while going about life 100 years ago.

Smiles on the Faces of Japanese People in the Taisho Period

The people who appear in the video were living in the same period as World War I. Incidentally, this is the same time period as the setting of the popular anime/manga "Demon Slayer." Because these people are living in a time of war, their smiles are very strong and leave a lasting impression.

The video shows various black & white photos that have been colorized. Let's take a look at some of the most impressive photos.

Work Clothing and Clothes Worn in Everyday Life in Taisho Period Japan

A number of the photographs show men and women working during the Taisho Period. They can be seen making waraji (traditional shoes), plowing fields, harvesting rice, and winnowing rice. They wore kimono called noragi, and women wore work pants called monpe, and they often tied up the sleeves of their kimono using a cord called a "tasuki." Much of the clothing they wore made it easier for them to move around.
[Video] 0:37 - A Man in a Straw Hat Plowing a Field

Many women working in this period wore tenugui (handkerchiefs) around their heads to protect their heads, in what was called "hokkamuri."
[Video] 0:42 - A Female Farmer Wearing a Kimono and a Handkerchief
[Video] 1:31 - Women Picking Tea Leaves With Their Kimono Sleeves Tied Up
[Video] 2:43 - Two Girls Winnowing Rice

In summer, the people can be seen wearing short-sleeved kimono.
[Video] 2:25 - A Woman in a Short-Sleeved Kimono, and a Man in a Straw Hat and Short Pants in Summer

The photo, "Flower Vendor with Cart," shows two children and a man selling flowers.
[Video] 2:48 - A Man Selling Flowers and Children in Kimono
[Video] 2:55 - A Woman Holding a Basket and Wearing a Kimono and Monpe Work Pants

Japanese Men's and Women's Festival & Event Clothing: Cultural Clothing in the Taisho Period

For New Year's attire and other occasions, single women wear furisode, which is considered formal attire, and wear their hair in a traditional Japanese style with hair ornaments. Men wore haori and hakama and yamatakabo (bowler hats) or flat caps.
[Video] 0:02 - A Girl Wearing a Furisode
[Video] 0:07 - A Woman Wearing Furisode and a Traditional Japanese Hair Style
[Video] 0:48 - Women Wearing Kimono at a Tea Party

We can also see young women enjoying some snacks with smiles on their faces. They're wearing kimono with vertical stripes and other small patterns, and for some reason, they are wearing tenugui (hand towels) around their necks. Perhaps a fashion trend at the time?
[Video] 0:55 - Stylish Women With Traditional Japanese Hair Styles, Hair Ornaments, and Tenugui Around Their Necks
[Video] 1:00 - A Group Photo Featuring Women With Hair Ornaments and Men in Hats

Japanese Children's Clothing in the Taisho Period

Children's smiles are always heartwarming. Let's take a look at the clothing of children of the Taisho Period in the video.
Many of the boys are wearing kasuri-patterned kimono and sandals, and some of the children wear maegake (aprons) to keep their kimono clean. There are also some girls wearing kimono with a haori of the same pattern as the kimono, which may be a kasuri or komon.
[Video] 0:15 - A Girl in a Kimono Beside a Man Making a Waraji Sandals
[Video] 0:21 - A Boy Wearing a Kimono and Maegake Apron, and a Girl Wearing a Kimono
[Video] 1:13 - Boys Wearing Kimono
[Video] 1:26 - A Girl Wearing a Kimono Behind the Azaleas

Various Seasonal and Situational Clothing in Japan

The photo called "Dressed for Rain" is one that shows the lifestyle of the time. We can see that men wore straw raincoats even in this period.

The woman holding a shamisen and smiling at a festival is very memorable. You can feel the liberating atmosphere of the festival.
[Video] 1:19 - A Woman Participating in a Festival With a Shamisen
[Video] 1:37 - A Man Wearing a Straw Raincoat and a Woman With an Umbrella
[Video] 2:13 - A Woman in a Short-Sleeved Kimono on the Porch During Summer
[Video] 3:01 - A Woman Taking a Bath in a Wooden Tub

Bringing Historic Photos to Life With Colorization Technology

The photos featured in the video are all black and white photos that have been colorized using colorization technology that converts them into color photos with natural coloration.

This colorization technology was established through the research of Professor Hiroshi Ishikawa, Assistant Professor Satoshi Iizuka, and Assistant Professor Edgar Simo-Serra of the School of Science and Engineering at Waseda University. This technology is based on AI (Artificial Intelligence) technology called deep learning, which automatically colors the target image and colorizes it. Natural colorization is achieved on various images as well as black-and-white photos, and the colorization results have even been evaluated to have an accuracy of approximately 90%.

Until now, colorizing was done on film or performed manually, which was not inexpensive. However, with the development of this technology, it's now possible to colorize black-and-white photos simply by using an application available for free on the Internet.

Summary of Clothing and Smiles of Japanese People 100 Years Ago

The beautiful colors that emerge are so beautiful that it's hard to believe that they were taken 100 years ago. They're truly invaluable photos.

Colorization technology is a wonderful technique that transforms old black and white photos into vibrant color photos. Old family photos and historical photos can be brought to life as well.

The smiling faces of Japanese people who lived 100 years ago in the Taisho Period are captured in color so vividly that it is almost as if they were people living today. The color images also add to the glamour of the outfits. You can easily colorize your own memorable photos, so if you're interested, consider giving it a try!

Written By
Last Updated : Dec. 10, 2023
平敷 篤(Atsushi Heishiki)
My name is Atsushi Heishiki, a writer who loves Japanese culture and lives in Okinawa.
Clothing in Japan's Taisho Period – Colorized 4K Video
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