Kimbei Kusakabe (Japan, 1841-1934)

Antics in a Restaurant

Tinted albumen print, circa 1890

This is a rare example of humor in earlyJapanese photography. The man in the center is about to eat a shrimp that's been tinted bright green -- the color of fiery-hot Japanese horseradish called wasabi. Next to him, second from right, another young man reads something shocking in a book that's perched on a hibachi. At far right, another member of the group plays air guitar on a broom.

An array of dishes is in the foreground of this animated scene; we can identify a tray of eggs and a plate of sliced cucumbers. (For a closer look, an enlarged detail is available -- click here to open it in a new window.)

Kimbei apprenticed under the globe-trotting British photographer Felice Beato, who opened a studio in Yokohama in the 1860s. Kimbei also worked for Beato's successor, the Austrian Baron Raimund von Stillfried-Ratenicz. From 1885 until 1913 Kimbei operated a studio under his own name in Yokohama.

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