Photography is an art form that allows us to enjoy a sense of timelessness as beauty. As buildings fall and and scenery changes, the moment captured in a still photograph exists in its own world, untouched and able to be appreciated for what is on display in just that instance. It makes sense then, that Japan, a country which features spectacular landscapes both old and new, is one of the most attractive of subject matter for artistic photography.

Now, courtesy of The New York Public Library's Digital Collections, we can take a look back upon photography of a Japan that existed before the bright lights of metropolises and buzzing crowds came to be. Some of the buildings and areas featured in the pictures, much like the moment in the photographs, stand untouched and in tact.

A good portion of the photography below comes from the work of Kusakabe Kimbei, assumed to have been a pupil to Italian-British photographer Felice Beato, who set up a photography studio in Yokohama in 1863. Kimbei helped hand-color photographs, and their digital restoration gives us an important resource to appreciate early photography in Asia. Here are some samples that give us a rewarding look into the past, with a few modern day comparisons. Be sure to check out the full gallery!

Oji Tea House at Tokyo

Town Honcho-Dori, Yokohama

Theatre at Osaka

View of Sacred Bridge, at Nikko


Source: Spreng Ben

Daibutsu, Bronze Image at Kamakura


Source: Axion Magazine

Kiyomizu Temple at Kyoto


Source: JKT-c

Kinkakuji Garden at Kyoto


Source: お湯日記

Gion-Machi Street, at Kyoto

View of Osaka, Castle


Source: Go Japan Go

Ainos, Island of Yezo

Ieyasu Temple, at Nikko


Source: Berta Angi

By - grape Japan editorial staff.