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To many in the West, Japan is an exotic country, seen through the distorting lens of tourist cliches: cherry blossoms, geisha, samurai, kamikaze. In that sense, little has changed since the Meiji Era (1868-1912), when Japan was first promoted abroad as a sort of Oriental theme park.

Baron Raimund von Stillfried, a 19th-century pioneer of photography in Yokohama, was the first in Japan to recognize the new medium’s potential as a global marketing tool. Adept at producing theatrical souvenir photos, Stillfried also took the first ever photograph of Emperor Meiji and shocked Vienna when he imported Japanese teenage girls to the city to work in a mock teahouse.

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PHOTO GALLERY (CLICK TO ENLARGE)