- JAPAN IN FOCUS
Rare color photos show Naha’s Kokusai-dori street under U.S. occupation
16:32 JST, May 16, 2021
NAHA — Rare color photos of Naha’s main street in the early 1950s, during the U.S. occupation, were recently provided to The Yomiuri Shimbun in digital form.
Saturday marked the 49th anniversary of Okinawa Prefecture’s reversion to Japanese control. A former photographer who grew up in the area helped repair the pictures of the street, taken at a time when the prefecture was recovering from the Battle of Okinawa.
One photo shows a young girl in a sailor-style school uniform walking down the street, which is dotted with signs in English and Japanese. Another features a man pushing a cart on a muddy dirt road, wearing a work uniform with a Coca-Cola logo.
Stretching about 1.6 kilometers, Kokusai-dori street takes its name from the Ernie Pyle Kokusai Gekijo, a movie theater that opened on the street in 1948. The theater is said to have been named after Pyle, a war correspondent who died in the Battle of Okinawa, in order to gain permission from U.S. authorities to open it.
Kokusai Gekijo means “international theater” in Japanese.
A department store also opened on the street in the mid-1950s, and the street has been popular among tourists since the 1990s. In recent years, it had flourished thanks to visitors from cruise ships, but 51 stores, including drugstores and others popular among foreigners, had to shut down by April amid the novel coronavirus outbreak.
The photos were taken by an executive of Zenitaka Corp., a general contractor involved in construction work inside a U.S. military base at the time. They were included in a photography book compiled by a local publisher in 1979.
Ikemiya Co., a printing and publishing company in Naha, bought the copyright of the book around 1983 and obtained the film as well. Akira Ikemiyagi, 72, an advisor to the company and a former photographer, has been working on digitizing the old photos for about 10 years.
There was not much fading of the color on the Kodak film — Ikemiyagi used computer software to restore the parts that were faded to the same color tone as the surrounding areas.
Ahead of the 50th anniversary of the prefecture’s reversion to Japan next year, Ikemiyagi provided the data to The Yomiuri Shimbun “in the hope that as many people as possible will get an opportunity to see the photos.”
According to the Naha City Museum of History, color film had to be sent to Hawaii for development at the time, making it rare to find such photos that were taken by a Japanese person as opposed to U.S. military personnel.
Okinawa Prefecture is now one of the most popular tourist destinations in Japan, and Kokusai-dori street also changed drastically to cater to tourists. However, the prefecture has not yet been able to break away from being an island of U.S. military bases, in the way that many Okinawans had envisioned it would following its reversion to Japan.
Ikemiyagi still doesn’t feel that Okinawa has truly been returned.
As an increasing number of people don’t know what it was like in the prefecture under U.S. occupation, Ikemiyagi feels many residents accept the situation as it is.
“If you don’t know about the time when we started out amid unreasonableness and chaos, you can’t understand why we sought to get Okinawa back,” said Ikemiyagi. “I want to restore as many photos as possible.”
"FEATURES" POPULAR ARTICLE
Autumn in Full Swing in Kyoto
Kintetsu Dept Store, Fujiya Open New Pekolicious Sweets Shop in Osaka
Nagasaki: Mom, Young Daughter Help Keep Mask-changing Chinese Art Alive
Illuminations Brighten Up Events, Buildings and Roadside Trees in Central Tokyo
My Wife Hasn’t Bathed for 2½ Years, Claiming It’s ‘Bothersome’
JN ACCESS RANKING
- Exports of Nishikigoi Carp to China Halted; Permits for Japanese Aquaculture Facilities By China Have Expired
- Japan April-Sept. Current Account Surplus Hits Record High
- Food, Beverage Price Hikes Show Signs of Easing; Fuel Prices, Consumer Frugality Slowing Down Price Rises
- Japan 2023 Food Exports Reach 1 Tril. Yen at Record Pace
- 69.7 Bil. Yen in COVID-19 Loans to Small Businesses Uncollectible