Since the early days of photography, tourism has been a major contributor to the commercial success of the art form. The act of preserving memories through photos was taking the world by storm, and photographers and tourists alike were thirsty to record and share famous sights and events through this fabulous new medium. When Japan finally ended its 250-year isolation in 1858, tourists came in droves to see the “exotic” island nation, and local photographers obliged the demand by selling prints of Mount "Fujiyama," "geisha" girls, rickshaws, and cherry blossoms- images that would become symbols of the land. The most famous of all these photographers was the industrious and artistic Nobukuni Enami (“T.Enami”, for short) and his prolific stereoscopic image.
The only photographer of his time known to work in all popular formats, Enami was barely credited for half of his work that appeared in the U.S. However, Enami’s photos swiftly spread throughout Japan, the Far East, and even the National Geographic; of which he was a four time contributor. He went on to become Japan's most prolific photographer of small-format images, becoming a world-supplier of the stereoview image (the illusion of three-dimensional depth from given two-dimensional images) and master of glass lantern-slides.
Born during the Edo-Bakumatsu period, Enami accumulated the majority of his photo collection during the Meiji, Taisho, and early years of the Showa era. In 1923, the Great Kantō earthquake destroyed his famous Benten-dōri (Benten Street) studio and the greater part of his library. With the help of local regulars and patrons, Enami was able to significantly restore his collection and rebuild a flourishing new studio. Upon his death in 1929, his first son, Tamotsu, took over the studio until it was once again demolished in 1945 by the Allied bombing of Yokohama during World War II.
This set contains hand-painted images captured by Enami during the years 1895 to 1910, with the majority taken ca.1898-1905. However, there are a few taken ca.1870, at the beginning of the Meiji era.
How to see 3D without a stereoscope:
Put your face right up against the computer screen -- left eye over the left pic, right eye over the right pic. Adjust your head a little until you see what appears to be just the one merged, out-of-focus picture in front of your eyes. Now… slowly move away from the screen maintaining that one central out-of-focus image of the Geisha girls playing music (or whatever stereoview you are looking at).
As you back off, you will notice that you now have what looks like three of the same picture in front of your eyes. Consciously ignore the extra pictures on either side of that central image you are 'holding with your eyes" as you move you head slowly away from the screen. While holding that gaze, back off about two feet...or even three if you have to. If you are able to hold the "three picture" spread, the one in the middle should be in real 3-D.
If not....do it again. And again. Don't let your eyes break that original lock on the one fuzzy picture you see when you start out with your face against the screen on top of the stereoview.
(Click on the pictures for a better view)
(Above: Ad for boxed set of T. Enami stereoviews of Japan in the Sears, Roebuck & Co. 1908 catalog)
Have a pair of red/blue 3D glasses handy? See the anaglyphized version here: http://imgur.com/a/j6NxS