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Japan was cut off from the world for many centuries, and when Western civilization discovered the culture the images and ideas astounded us. One westerner who made it East with a camera in the mid to late 19th century, during the Meiji Restoration, was Adolfo Farsari, an Italian and abolitionist who served in the Union Army during the American Civil War. After the war ended, he ended up in Japan working as a commercial photographer selling images to tourists. Japan had two photographers in the country at this time, Farsari and Kozaburō Tamamura, who over time had a falling out and became competitors. No one is sure how long the partnership between Farsari and Kozaburō lasted but it was not long. By 1886 Farsari and Tong Cheong (a Chinese photographer) were the only commercial non-Japanese photographers working in the country. By 1887 Farsari was on his own. What follows are images photographed by Farsari, hand-colored photographs preserving a time long gone. Following are some photographs made by Farsari, made in Japan in the late 1800s. Photo source: Quazen.com

ABOVE: Japanese warriors photographed by Adolfo Ansari.

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A street scene from the late 1880s.
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Farsari’s abolitionist spirit and ideas about equality may be seen in his photographs of women who are photographed independently and as often as men.
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Farsari photographed women as much as men. 
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An umbrella maker in 1800 Japan.