*** Japanese boys clothes -- families 20th century

Japanese Families (20th Century)

Japanese families
Figure 1.--A Japanese reader writes, "Here is my family on New Years Day 1940. It was a family tradition to take a New Years portrait. My sister and I are wearing our best clothes. I had not yet begun school. My brother was in the last year of primary school and wears his school uniform. Note how we boys wear Western clothes while our sister wears traditional Japanese clothes."

We have begun to collect a few images of Japanese families during the 20th century. Much larger numbers of images are available for the 20th century, especially after World War I. The phiotographic record shows a remarkable remarkable transition from large families and traditional clothing to small nuclear families and Western dress. This is essence the visual record of the transformation of a backward, agricultural society to a modern industrial nation. Our archive is still quite limited so we can not yet make any detailed assessment, but this is an area we hope to develop over time and we are gradually adding images to our archive. Hopefully our Japanese readers will provide their insights to help us understand these images. After World War I we see more and more Western clothing, especially among urban school children. Western clothing quickly becomes dominant in rural arwas after World War II. By the 1950s, traditional clothing increasingly becomes reserved for special dress up events. Many children, especially the boys did not even have traditional outfits.

The 1900s

We mostly see Jaonese families wearing traduional dress at the turn of the 20th century. This was the case noh in the cities as well as the ciountryside. Here we note a Chruistiam family with all but the fther, who is a ckeric, dressed in tradiional clothes. And Chrustians wiould be some of the people most affected by Western ideas.

Christian Family (About 1900)

Here we have an unidentified image of a Japanese family. It was reportedly a Christmas portrait. The family is all dressed in traditional clothing except the father. He seems to be wearing clerical garb. All we know for sure is that he certainly was not Catholic. The traditonal clothing makes it impossible to estimate the date of the photograph. It looks, however, to us like an old photograph. We would giess that it was taken about 1900. We believe that the convention of dressing in traditional clothing for portraits continued for many years, although it became less common after World War II. Note the boys have cropped hair.

The 1910s

We continue to see Japanese families wearing mostly traditiinal clothing in the 1910s. This was almost universal in the countryside, but few there had portraits taken. Families haveing portaits taken would be siome of the most affluenty and mostly urban opooulation, again often the people most touched by Western infuences. And here we do see Western dress making an appearance. Interestingly at fiorst iot was mostly the children. We are not entirely sure why thus was. Practicality may have been a factor. Perhaps a more importnt factor was that that city scgools began intriduing uniforms, mostly Wesrern styles. Alsoamong the newly affluent middle-clas was people who wanted to be modern and trendy. Adopgting Western dress was on ay to do this. But evenamong such people, they also would have had traditional garments, particularly for special occassions.

Unidentified well-to-do family (1911)

Here we see a Japnese mother and her two childrm in their garden an their hom in the backgrojund. They are claerly a well-to-do family if not rich. Not very many Japanee familirslived in surondings like this. Japan had a rich elite and thanks to industrialization a rising middleclass. This was, however, a smaller part of the populayion than other industrial countries. A substantial part of the population still lived in rural areas and were part of the still important, but not very efficent, agricultural economy. Here we see the familiy, including the boy, wearing traditional garmenrs such as kimonos. Wearing traditional garments at home seams a common convention in the early-20th century as Japan was modernizing. Traditional garments were also worn for some formal events. We do not see father, presumably dad took the portrait. Tere is some information on the back of the portrait. We can not read it as it is in Japanese. Hopefully our Japanese readers will translate for us. We only know that the portrait was taken in 1911 (meiji 44 year) and the studio was Dokuritsu-ken.

Unidentified young family(1910s?)

Here we have a cabinet card portrait mother and her three very young children, all pre-school age. We have no idea how to date it, but the dealer suggests about 1910. Mother and children wear traditional clothes, exceopt the baby is wearing what looks like a sailor cap. Of course this does not mean that the family did not wear Western styles. Many modern Japanese dress up in traditional styles for portraits. Curiously, the fnmily seems to have chosen a Western oriented studio named 'Matter of Fact'. Many Japanese studios had cabinet cards with the writing all in Japanese. In this case the writing is all in English. The city is not identified.

Unidentified well-to-do Japanese family (1910s?)

This cabinet card shows a well-to-do Japanese family we think in the 1910s. It is not dated, but we think the 1910s is the most likely date. We see the father anmd mother along with the grandmother akong with six children. There appears to be two pre-school children wearing sailor suits. One primary school boy looks to be wearing his school uniform. The older boy in a uniform may be a secondaty school boy or an army cadet. The boy at left is surely a secondary school boy, but wearing traditional clothing rather than his school uniform. The photograph was taken in the garden of their home. You can see part of their home in the background. There is writing on the back of the card.

Modern Tokyo family (1910s)

Here we have a very modern-looking Japanese family, although we are left wondering where mother is. The children look to be about 5-10 years old. The boy wears a aailor outfit with knee socks. The girl weara a dress with sailor touches and white long stockings. Dad wears a natty boater, sporys jacket and white oants. This could not have been in sharper contrast with traditional Japan. We wonder if this may be why mother is not in the portarit, she mnay still be dressed traditiionally. The portrait is not dated. It could be the early-1920s, but the 1910s seems more likely. If this was a Westrn portrait, there would be no doubt in out mind that it was a 1910s potrtrait. The down-turned hats the children are wearing are a give-away. But of course fashion trends in even in Tokyo may not have beeb as current as in New York. It does show how fashionablr Japanese urban families were adopting Wesrern fashions. The men and boys were ther girst afopters. Here we see avery fashionable lttle girls. Sailor fashions seem very popular. The portrait was done in a paper fram. The style and color of the paper frome is consistent with the 1910s-20s of those frames in the West.

The 1920s

Six child family (1920s)

This studio portrait shows six Japanese children ages about 3-15 years old. We think there are two girls and four boys, but we are not at all sure. The two younger children wear pinafores covering their clothing. We are guessing that they have not yet begun school. The two middle boys wear traditional clothing, except for a Western cap and hat. Children in urban chools often wore Westerndress, but traditional dress was also worn and still common in rural areas. We are not sure why the headwear is different. It is possibly that the childwith the hat is a girl. We believe they attend a primary school which did not require a uniform. The two older boys wear a school uniform. Secondary schools at the time had military-styled uniforms. The sandard boys' uniform was a Prussian cadet uniform. This may be a summer uniform. There is a Japanese inspription which may provide a date. We believe it was taken in the 1920s.

Japanese Family (1927)

Here we see a prosperous Japanese family in 1927. The father kiiks like an important imperial beaureacrat or business executive. He is impecially dressed in a Western suit and would have fitted in at a Government office or business board room anywhere in the West. Both children wear Western-styled school uniforms. The boy wears a cadet knee pants uniform. Note his shaved head. His sister wears a sailor-styled uniform. These were the two primary Japanese school styles. Mother in sharp contrast wears a traditional kimono. This dichotmy was very common at the time. The fatherand children wear Western dress and the mother dressed traditionally. The portrat had three sleeves with a message inside which would tell us something about the family. The leaves fold together. The studio was Y. Nakasato.

Japanese Family (1929)

This is a portrait of a Japanese family taken by a Methodist missionary in 1929. We know nothing about the family other than what can be observed in the photograph. We do not note if the missionary has converted them. Their home can be observed in the background, but I can't make out a great deal. .They are all dressed in traditional clothing. I think this reflects the conventions for forml phortraits rather than the status of the family. The bearing and grooming of the father suggests to us that he is a man of considerable status and affluence. I would guess that he goes to work in a business suit. The children, especially the boys, probably commonly dressed in Western play clothes and of course school uniforms. Notice that the boys are all dressed identically. The girls have Western hair bows added.

Japanese military family (late-1920s)

This family portrait is especially interesting bcause it was taken outside their home. They are a military family. The farher is a career military man, obviusly in the army. We thinkj he mazy be a seargent, although we are not sure. Ot looks like the boys are ikn the Army, but wse think they are wearing school uniforms. The mother znd older daughters wear traditiional kimomos. TYhey may have not attended secondafry school like their brothers. The younger girl wears a classic summer school uniform. The little boys may hve just started school. We are not sure how to date the portrait. On the back is written 18 10 21. This suggests 1921, but we are not sure bout that. We think the late-1920s or early-30s is more likely. The family is pictured outside their hiughly flamable wood and paper home. We syspect that studios hied people to go out and take these portrairs in the community. At the time the Japanbese military was on a path toward war and developing a modern air firce that would begin bombing China (1931). The militry appears comvinced that Japan itself would bever be bombed. They were right bout China, but eventually the militarisdts decided on war with America. This was a very dangerou undertken given that a country with wood and papoer cities was the most vulnberable to aerial bombardment.

The 1930s

Japanese Family (1930s)

Here we see a Japanese family during the 1930s. It looks like the grandmother, mother, and four sons. They look to be about 4-16 years of age. To the twp older boys wear school uniforms. The two younger boys seem to be wearing sweaters and knit pants. They do not look particularly prosperous, but the home in the back ground suggest rather well-to-do family. We are surprised that the boys would not have been better dressed. The fact that the older boy is goung to secondary school, also suggests a degree of prosperity. Most Japanese children did not continue their education beyond the primary level.

Urshibara Family (1935)

Here we see a family photo of the distinguished Japanese specialist and curator of Japanese woodcut prints, Yoshijiro Urshibara. He worked in both Toyko and London. The portrait shows him and his wife, Tsuru, in Tokyo (1935). His daughter, Hideo, was born in 1929; his son Ichiro was born a year later in 1930, so the children are 5 and 6 years old respectively. Notice that the boy wears short trousers with white long stockings and supporters. The girl also wears white stockings. The children are dressed in typical clothing for an affluent Tokyo family. We do not see English influences beyond the generalized westernized children's styles. English boys in the 1930s did not wear long stockings. They were not even common with girls, but we do see them worn at conservative girls schools. Long stockings were very commom in Japn.

Nishi Family (1936)

This is a photo of the distinguished Japanese athlete, Takeichi Nishi, who was a famous entrant in various riding competitions worldwide. He is shown here with his two young children, a daughter and son, and his wife. They have just boarded a train in Tokyo and are enroute to Berlin where Nishi will compete in the famous 1936 Olympic Games. He did not win the riding events there, but he was very well known throughout Japan and Europe during the 1930s. He was attached to the First Cavalry in the Japanese army, hence his uniform and the sword which he wears. He was associated with horses his whole life long. He continued to serve in the Japanese army during World War II. Notice the family's Western dress. This was not common at the time, especially for girls and women. We see some modern city families dressing like this, but not generally conservstive army families. Probably the fact that they were headed to Europe was a factor.

Japanese Family (1930s)

Here we have a family potrait of all three generations, parents with grandparents and mostly young choldren. You get a feekling for the close family ties. We think two families are involved here, gathered together for the portait. They are variously dressed, but most are wearing long stockings. We see two mothers, but only one father. The other father prbably took the photograph. The photograph is not dates, but was probably taken in the mid- to late-1930s. One interesting aspect of this photograph is that they are stnding in front of one of their homes. Notice the wooden construction. After Japan launched the Pacific war, this would be a factor in the War. American fire bombing of Japanese cities prived exceedingly effective because of the mostly wooden buildings.

The 1940s

Affluent Japanese family (1940s)

A Japanese reader tells us, "I am very pleased to hear that you are preparing a section on the post World War II American occupation of Japan. I was born in 1934 in Tokyo. I and my family were in Tokyo during the American bombing. The terror and destruction were overwealming, just like Dresden. Our house was destroyed by incendiaries and we went to live in a rural village. I think most Japanese were surprised with American occupation policy. I was second son of a publisher. My father was a socialist in pre-World War II Japan but there were strict Government controls. After Japan surrendered and the American occupation began, father enjoyed freedom to publish Marx, Engels, and Lenin under Macarthur's regulations. My memories are somewhat limited because I was only a young child, but you may find them of interest. I will tell you what I remember, both about life in Japan during and after the War.

Middle-class Japanese family--Kamikazee pilot (1944)

This is a portait of a midle-clas Japanese family, we belive in 1944. It was froma a photograh kept by the eldest son. He apparently enlisted in the Navy during early-1944. This of course was not the best time to enlist in the Japanese military. The youth was tarined at Yokaren Naval Aviation Training School. He was in the 13th class. We thought that might mean 1943 as the facility was opened in 1930, but the dealer was sure about 1944. Numerous Yokaren-trained pilots carried out Kamikaze on Allied ships. One reportt suggests that about 80 percent of the graduates of the Yokaren died in battle. And most of the forces of the special attack (Kamikaze) formation in the last years of war were made up of 13th generation students. W normally only see the young men ritually drinking a cup of saki and then flying off to their death and then as they descended on the American hips, Thus glimpse of the normality of the families from which they came is fascinating. The album does not have any images of flight training, perhaps that came later. Wedo not know the name of the family or where they lived. Rgre is wruing on many pages, but we can not read it.

The 1950s

Trucker family (late-1950s)

Here we have an interestung family snapshot of an unidenbtified, young Japanese family. There is no information associated with the photograph. So all wee have to go on is the image itself. We see mother and father with three young children. They look to be about 1-5 years old. The mother and the children are dressed in Western clothes, only father wears traditiinal clithing. This is kind of interesting because, normally in Japan it is mother that was nmire likely to wear tradirional clothing. The photograph seems to have been taken outside their home because if the unformal dress. The kinmono the father is wearing is anot a dressy garment, butvwe think keisurewear around hime. The family is not posed by a family car, but a small truck. We are guessing that father ius a small-scale truck operator. The truck is a Nissan. (Nissan was marketed as Datsun in America.) We are not an expert on Japanese motor vehicles, but it looks brand new and like a 1950s model to us, probably mid-decade. This is the time that Japanese had begun to recover from World War II and the the Japanese Economic Moracle had begun. This photograp is a microcosim of that process.

The 1960s

Middle Class Family (1962)

Here is an interesting middle-class domestic scene in a Japanese city (perhaps Tokyo) in 1962. The scene is the living room of a rather westernized Japanese home (figure 1). The family are relaxing after dinner and enjoying a little musical entertainment provided by themselves. The mother plays the piano, the older son (perhaps 18 or 19) sings from a song-book, and his younger brother accompanies the others on his small-sized child's guitar. The boy playing the guitar looks to be about 8. The clothes are interesting. The older boy is dressed like an American high-schooler or college student in slacks, a striped pullover V-necked sweater, and a white shirt open at the collar. The 8-year old wears a plaid long-sleeved shirt, dark short pants, and long stockings, apparently held up not by hose supporters but by round garters around his thighs. You can see that the stocking tops are rolled around the garters, or perhaps the stockings have built-in garters at the top. The stockings would seem to be tan or beige. A little later in the decade tights would probably have replaced the long stockings. Notice that the boy is wearing no shoes. Japanese families, like many other Asians, tended to leave their outdoor footwear in a vestibule or entry way and to move around the house in stocking feet or house sandals.

The 1970s

Northern Japanese family (1970s)

This is a scene of a young mother with three very young children and the family dog. It is undated, but as it is a color image we think it was probably taken noo earlier than the 1970s, although the late-60s is possible. . We might have guessed the 80s, but one of the boys seems to be wearing long stockings rather than tights. As tights were probably replacing long stockings in the 60s, we think that the 80s is unlikely. Perhps readers will have some idea The boys look to be about 2-7 years old. The younger boy wears shortals. The other two boys wear sweaters, short pants and tights or long stocking. The middle pre-school boy wears rather oversized shorts. The older boy wear trim-fitting shorter cut shorts. At first we thought he as wearing tights, but on closer examonatiin the may be long stockings. We think the family lived in northern Japan because the photograph came with a group of images from the north.

City Family (1970s)

Here we have an identified Japanese family. The image is undated, but was probably taken in the 1970s based on the boys' clothes. We see a mother with two young boys. The image is interesting because it shows them outside their home, at least I think they are outside their home. Perhaps our Japanese readers will know more.

The 1980s

Middle Class Family (probably 1980s)

Here we see a middle class family on a outing. The image is undated, but we would guess it was the 1980s. There are two children, a boy and a girl--common in urban families by the 1980s. It appears to be a cold day. Every one but the boy is dressed warmly. Note that mother wears a long coat and gloves. His sister wears long pants. The boy wears a sweater and scarve with grey short pants. Most schools did not require uniforms. This may be how he dressed for school. I am not sure where they are. It looks like a lobby to a theater or shrine. Perhaps our Japanese readers can tell us more about the scene.


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Created: 7:51 PM 3/1/2011
Last updated: 4:32 PM 11/12/2021