Photos of Showa Japan

One of my jobs when I’m not researching, writing, photographing, or washing the dishes at home is running the exhibition committee of the Foreign Correspondent’s Club of Japan. Each month we have a different photo exhibition. I’m going to blog them as they happen.

Here are two photos from this month’s show, “Showa Japan seen through Dutch Eyes” (until Feb 28th 2009)



The photos are reproduced here with the kind permission of  Hans Brinckmann. Please check out his site.

[From the correspondent’s club notice]

This month’s photographs were taken between 1951 and 1974 by two Dutch residents of Japan, Hans Brinckmann and Ysbrand Rogge. Hans Brinckmann joined a Dutch bank and was assigned to their Kobe branch in 1950, aged 18, at a time when Japan was still recovering from the devastation of war. In 1957, a fellow countryman, Ysbrand Rogge, was sent to work at the same branch.

Brinckmann and Rogge became fascinated with Japanese life and culture, using their weekends to travel around the country capturing images of the lifestyles of ordinary Japanese at work and play. They documented scenery, traditional arts and crafts, festivals, religious ceremonies — and in 1960, the mass demonstrations against the US -Japan Security Treaty.

The great thing about this exhibition is the simplicity and charm of the photographs. Neither Brickman nor Rogge were professional photographers.  They were just observing and rather skillfully recording their impressions. I’m not sure that could ever happen in today’s media savvy Flickr saturated world.

(P.S. the FCCJ is a private club, but the exhibitions are open to visitors who check-in at the front desk)

12 Responses to “Photos of Showa Japan”

  1. Tornadoes28 says:

    The beggar looks like he is wearing an old military uniform. I wonder if he was a former soldier.

  2. Shane says:

    Tony; I wasn’t aware that non-members could view the exhibits at FCCJ so thanks for the heads up.

    These images are great! I just love the big movie poster/advertisement in the second shot.

  3. Honor says:

    I also didn’t know non-members could see these exhibits! Thanks and love the pictures.

  4. Yes, the beggar was clearly a former soldier. There were still some of those handicapped war veterans around in the late 50s and early 60s, many of them reduced to begging as at the time there were no government pensions for these unfortunates.

  5. The government restored the pension system for the war veterans in 1953 which was banned by the US occupation force in 1946 (Japan’s pension for the Army&Navy veterans started in 1875). However, the amount for the ex-soldiers was very little — almost in the same region of the wage of a day labourer. As Hans correctly says, the only way for some veterans to survive was begging, particularly for those who ended up being disabled, like the one in the picture.

  6. one semantic correction in my previous comment: not ‘banned’ but ‘abolished’ thanks.

  7. Japan Travel says:

    Great photos, the black and white is super artistic. If I am interested in further knowledge about this time period of photos do you have any resources you can point me towards ?

  8. Alma says:

    Tried to check, but it’s a broken link – What is the ‘Foreign Correspondent’s Club of Japan’?

  9. […] or the B&W photo – although funnily enough the brilliant drinking game photo is actually from an exhibition by Hans Brinckmann I organised a while […]

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