About the Duits Collection

A legacy to protect, cherish and share

I am passionate about the extraordinary in the ordinary; the beauty, power and depth of ordinary people and the everyday things around us.

I have focused on that in my long career as a Japan correspondent, but you can also see that passion expressed in my private collection of old images of Japan.

The 19th and early 20th century Japanese photographs and prints in my collection specifically document the everyday life: the people and their customs, their clothes and tools. It shows the homes, shops and factories, and the streets and city views of a long lost Japan.

Measuring rice with a square wooden box known as masu

My collection especially focuses on the beauty and uniqueness in small everyday things that we rarely give much thought.

This focus extends to my selection of media. Next to thousands of photographic prints, there are for example countless glass lantern slides, art postcards, and even advertising flyers in the collection.

This is because the radical change that Japan underwent from the 1850s on, gave birth to great creativity that was often expressed in what we would now consider unusual media.

The Japanese photographer Nobukuni Enami (1859–1929) for example published much of his work as glass lantern slides. The delicately hand tinted slides measure only 8 by 10 centimeters (3x4").

Glass lantern slides by the T. Enami studio in Yokohama, Japan

Meanwhile, many prominent Japanese artists in the early 20th century expressed their graphic genius on humble postcards.

The postcard, born out of what were then revolutionary new printing technologies and distribution channels, was a brand new medium that inspired top creative minds like Japanese artist and poet Yumeji Takehisa (1884–1934).

Postcards gave a kind of freedom comparable to what the internet would give people a century later. Yumeji, as he is popularly known, regularly published postcards himself.

This way, he could reach his fans directly with inventive and visually exciting artwork, without having to go through publishers.

Art postcards by Japanese artists and poet Yumeji Takehisa

But because of their size and character, these media are both difficult to display and easy to ignore. A rare exception is the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, which has held major postcard exhibitions in 2004 and 2012.

However, I yet have to see an exhibition at one of the world's top museums fully dedicated to glass lantern slides or advertising flyers from Japan.

Sadly, too many of these Japanese photographs, glass slides, postcards and prints lay hidden away in boxes. Possibly the most beautiful art that you have never seen.

My aim is to give these stunning works, and their often forgotten creators, back the light and attention that they so clearly deserve.

Help me protect, cherish and share this important historical and artistic legacy.

Kjeld Duits
(Pronounce as kyelt do-its)

4-27-26-301 Yoyogi
Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
151-0053 JAPAN

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