Hello, here is Izumi.

You may think that the photographs of old Japan are not to do with me and my seeking of the Decisive Moment, but if you read on you will see that they really are.

I have briefly mentioned before the Japanese photographer Nobukuni Enami, who was known to his clients and his world as T Enami, and his relationship with the Edo Ladies' Pinhole Camera Club, and perhaps also his relationship with a certain member (dare I say members?) of that Club.

When I was having thoughts about various people whose footsteps trod the footpaths many years before mine came along I thought also of Mr Enami and how he was a flâneur of his times, and even though he would probably not have understood the word itself I think he would have appreciated the concepts behind it and how they applied to his work.

Here is Nobukuni Enami in 1909

If you have visited my Diary page 6 or the page where I talked to you about the Edo Ladies' Pinhole Camera Club you will already know something of Mr Enami who was born in Edo in 1859 and had his studio there and in Yokohama from the 1880s until he died in 1929. I have found out a lot more about him, mainly from the wonderful website here, and I thank Mr Rob Oechsle for finding and sharing these wonderful photographs with us.

So come with me now and we will walk together with Nobukuni Enami along the footpaths and roads of the Japan of the 1880s, 1890s and early 1900s, when cameras were becoming more common and photographic postcards and stereo-views were replacing the ukiyo-e (woodblock prints) that had been the main way of showing the sights and scenes of the country both to its own people as well as those in other countries for the previous several hundred years.

As we are with him in his professional world, I shall call him by his flâneur name, T Enami. I think he will appreciate the courtesy.

Here is T Enami's studio in Benten Street, Yokohama in 1893
T Enami in Samurai costume seated in his Yokohama studio in 1898
T Enami in Samurai costume posing in his Yokohama studio in 1898

One interesting thing is that although Mr Enami was photographed several times in costume in his own studio, as you can see above, I have not been able to find any photographs of him at work.

The closest I can get to such a photograph you can see below, which was taken by himself in 1897.

The Shadow Catcher's Shadow
So the tradition of the shadow of a flâneur (or sometimes a flâneuse)
appearing in a photograph is an old one. I wonder if Mr Enami was the very first.
Budding flâneurettes
Would you like to think this is a photograph of T Enami when he was a young boy?
I would too but to be truthful I do not think it is so. It is not even known who took
it or exactly when it was taken, only Late Meiji or Early Taisho Eras, which makes
it several years either side of 1912.

I do not think that he was a particularly modest man so I like to imagine that if he had websites in his day he would like this one of mine.

I also like to think that if he was with us today and could look back on those who came after his original footsteps, like Yvon, M Cartier-Bresson, Ms Vivian Maier, Jeff Carter and others, even perhaps one young flâneuse who admires the work of these people very much, he would be very pleased that the traditions of street photography were still being carried on.

So thanks to the kindness of Mr Rob Oeschle (or Okinawa Soba if you go to his treasure trove of early Japanese photographs on Flickr - links at the bottom of the page), I can bring to you some more of Mr Enami's flâneuristic work.

Mt Fuji photographed by T Enami in 1892
This scene shows what a link there was between the woodblocks of
Hiroshige and the photographs of T Enami. One could very easily
have been the other, had their roles in life been reversed.
Overlooking Yokohaman suburbs in 1897
Apart from some of the building details, this photograph
could have been taken in the present day.
Overlooking Yokohama suburbia in 1905
This may be a wealthier suburb with lots of trees and other
greenery, or a lot may have grown in eight years.
A quiet day on Benten Street in 1895
This was the street where T Enami set up his studio after
moving from Edo, and where it remained until his death in 1929.
The Ice Cream Man cometh in Yokohama in 1898
It's the question that transcends race, time
culture and country - chocolate or strawberry?
Kids preparing for a procession in 1915
As usual, it's the adults who are making a fuss - the children just
want the photographer to finish so they can get on with their parade.
Young kids babysitting younger kids in 1923
No matter how young you are, there's always
someone else younger who needs looking after.
Tobacco-pipe repairman in 1915
She's either a potential apprentice or she's
waiting for her dad's pipe to be finished.
Kids on stilts in 1915
It is in the nature of people to aim for higher things.

From the photographs that I am showing you here, and they are typical of the work of T Enami, there seems to be one big difference between the working methods and therefore the results of T Enami and M Cartier-Bresson, and that is that the Japanese people in the street were quite willing to pause and pose and let T Enami photograph them whereas most of the time M Cartier-Bresson had to hide his intentions and ambush his subjects or catch them unawares.

Which method led to the better truth, I wonder. I think actually T Enami could not work any other way, as his camera would not allow him the quickness that M Cartier-Bresson's Leica did for him.

And in the same way that when I am on the streets I wish my PEN had a built-in viewfinder I wonder what extra thing T Enami wished his camera had. If he could join M Cartier-Bresson and me for our early morning coffee we could discuss topics such as these. I would love to be able to tell you what his thoughts were on this and other subjects,

Ceramics and pottery shop in Yokohama in the 1890s
I wonder if the teapots were really available in all those colours or
did the person who coloured this print have a little flight of fancy.
The brush man in 1892
I wonder what he would do if you wanted
one from the bottom of the pile.
The brush man's son in 1925
I'm not sure if they were related, but I like to think they were.
The son looks like he has prospered in his trade, too.
Boys showing off their kites in 1915
We think of Japanese cities as crowded places these days
but back then there seem to have been lots of open spaces.

Unlike today, a lot of people conducted their daily activities on the street. T Enami photographed many of them and in so doing created a very valuable record of how people lived their lives in his (and their) times.

Girl winding thread in 1915
She literally lived in a rough neighbourhood.
Homework in 1915
Some things are universal, and unavoidable.
Making porcelain lanterns in 1897
This may have been sort-of posed, probably to avoid
any blurring by the movement of the workers
Tempering knife blades, ca 1915
But this photograph looks very natural.
A swordsmith sharpens a blade, ca 1915
And he could have just held the pose for a few seconds.

You can read all about Mr Enami's life and studios at his website, so here I'll just let you marvel at his photographs which are so evocative of the times in which he lived that they still reward our thoughts as we look at them today.

You will note that I am not displaying them in chronological order, but grouping them according to their subject matter and perhaps shooting location. If I was putting them on the walls of a gallery that is the way that I would hang them, too.

So please enjoy more of them.

Like Hiroshige, T Enami also travelled all around Japan looking for interesting sights and people and activities so he could record them. He took many happy photographs of country people like farmers and fishermen (and ladies) going about their daily activities

Rustic road through a rural town
Mt. Fuji and a water carrier
A boy gathering leaves
Farmer with his loaded horse in the 1890s
The horse doesn't look too happy.
A happy girl with her load, ca 1915
She's happier with her load than the horse is with his.
Tea pickers
Mr Enami says they are gossiping but I think they are
just politely waiting for him to finish photographing them.
Preparing the sheaves
Farmer father…
Gathering the sheaves
… and daughters.
Laughing farm girls
There was a lot of happiness in Japan in those far-away days,
or perhaps they were just glad to see Mr Enami and his camera.
Barefoot farmer's wife, ca 1915
I think there could be be a sub-category of
Street Photography called Farm Photography
Rice farmers planting, ca 1915
Or Muddy Field Photography. I do miss not being able to
talk to Jeff Carter and hear his wisdom about
such things.
Coming home through the pines, ca 1915
I think, like photographers today, T Enami waited until late in the afternoon so
he could capture the lovely long, low shadows to enhance his subject matter.
Coming home from the fields in 1898
To me this looks like a candid photograph and not one where
people were expected to hold poses. So T Enami's shutter
speeds must have been reasonably fast.
Rice farmer leaving his field, ca 1915
Coming home from the fields in 1915
I wonder if the children were working with dad in the fields or they
were sent to tell him that dinner was ready. This happy photograph,
to me, shows that T Enami was a master of capturing a basic humanity
in his subjects. One day I hope that I can do it as instinctively as he did.

Yokohama is on a big bay so T Enami would not have had to travel far to capture photographs of fisherfolk for his postcards or stereo views.

These photographs of fishermen at work remind me very much of those of Jeff Carter when he was shooting stories for magazines that showed the Australian way of life to their readers. I remember Jeff telling me how he and his wife Mare would stay with people for several days or even weeks so that he coulld be sure that he was telling the story of their lives or livelihoods or activities as completely and truthfully as he could through the photographs that he took.

Fishing boats in 1897
Pushing a fishing boat into the sea, ca 1915
Waiting for the catch, ca 1915
Perhaps they are having a joke at Mr Enami's
expense, or maybe he is telling them a fishy tale.
Fishermen unloading their catch, ca 1915
Cormorants and fishermen in 1897

This is almost an action photograph. Was Mr Enami leaning over the side
of another canoe with his camera or was he on a piece of land that
protruded into the water? It seems like a fast shutter speed for 1897
to freeze the man with the pole and the wavelets in the foreground.

Cormorants and fishermen, ca 1915
I don't know where this was taken but both men and birds could
be a younger generation of those in the photograph above.
Kelp harvesters, ca 1915
You can see the eddies around the ladies' legs yet the end
of the dress on the left is blurred so I think T Enami's shutter
speed was about 1/50 second or so.

And of course, it being Japan, there were many temples and shrines in the country towns and villages and along the roads that T Enami travelled.

And now a little confession from T Enami, courtesy of me. Some of the people in these photographs were models used by T Enami and other photographers when it was difficult to get ordinary people to agree to be photographed when it may take some little time. Most of the time geisha and maiko (apprentice geisha) were used as they could do their own make-up and were used to holding poses and taking direction. They, or at least the house where they worked, received some payment for this.

The women in the photographs of the tea-house grounds below were models, but I do not think this is cheating as the photographs are obviously different from the more candid photographs of people at work or in the streets. They are intended to show to Japanese people, as well as those in foreign lands, famous buildings and landmarks and natural places and scenic views.

The steps of Nigetsu-Do temple in Nara in 1897
Bamboo cup seller at a country shrine, ca 1915
Girl at shrine, ca 1915
Three geisha and a little girl by the pond in Hikone Park near Kyoto in 1898

Two geisha in Hikone Park in 1898
Yes, the same ones as above. These are some of the more posed
photographs taken for tourist and promotional purposes. T Enami
a businessman, after all, with a studio and family to support.


Two men at the Inari shrine in Kyoto in 1890
This photograph would sit between a candid or street one and
a fully-posed one like the geisha above, as can be seen by the
way the two men are standing and facing the camera.
Two men and a child at the Inari shrine in Kyoto in 1890
If I had been T Enami there (I Enami?) I would have had the two men
talking to each other and ignoring the camera. Would this have been
a right thing to do? I think so, because I would not be doing anything
that could not have occurred naturally anyway, had I waited for it. So in
the way that a photograph captures a little moment of time in stillness
I am just compressing a length of time to get to the image I want a bit
sooner, perhaps while the light is just right or before the rains come.

It is hard to see with the resolution of a web-page but the enlargement of the two gentlemen above from the whole negative above that shows the detail that T Enami's camera could record. As it was taken in 1890 it was probably a 4 inch x 5 inch glass plate in his camera, which would have been on a tripod.

I shall try to find out more about T Enami's equipment and methods of working so if you are interested as well please come back to here after a little while and I may have some enlightenment for us both.

You can see large reproductions of this image, and many hundreds more, at Mr Rob Oechsle's Flickr album here.

Temple fox and old man, ca 1915
Temple fox and girl, ca1915
Geisha and two Maiko bowing, ca 1915
Offering a Good Luck stone, ca 1915
On the top of Mt. Fuji in 1897
Yes, that is the sun peeping over the early clouds.
In a way I am pleased to know that Mr Enami was prepared to be uncomfortable
and have difficulty in order to capture a happy photograph. My uncle used to say "A
photograph can't tell the viewer how cold or hungry you were. It can only show what
you and your camera saw in front of you. If you are happy and the photograph is happy
then you have succeeded and the short-time discomfort doesn't matter and will soon be
forgotten." I must say from my little experiences that I agree with him.
Tea house on a lake, ca 1915
Here to end with is a photograph that may trick or puzzle you. When your eyes first saw it
did you think, as I did, that it was a negative? But if you look closer you will realise that the
trees have very light cherry blossoms and what we thought was the sky is actually a dark,
tree-covered mountain. Then the shades of grey make sense to our brains and we can smile
with ourselves at what we originally thought.
I wonder if T Enami used it as a trick image also.



Well, there have been a lot of photographs to look at and think about but I wanted to give you a good view of Nobukuni Ebnami's work so that you are inspired to go to the web pages that have many, many more examples of his talents.

Mr Rob Oechsle's T Enami website is here.

And his Flickr collection of T Enami photographs is here.

Please enjoy what you find and see there, and join me in thanking him for all the work he has done to bring them into the daylight.

I hope you have enjoyed this diversion from my street walking. Because it is different I have put it in a section separate from my Diary writings, which I hope you are enjoying also.

Now, another cup of tea, perhaps?

Goodbye from your friend,


To fully understand my footsteps, please read me from the start.
A Flâneur Walks in Old Japan
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