Way of Life: Rare Footage of the Hiroshima Aftermath, 1946

The recent 9.0‑magnitude Tōhoku earth­quake and tsuna­mi, and sub­se­quent Fukushi­ma nuclear acci­dents were among the most dev­as­tat­ing envi­ron­men­tal dis­as­ters in record­ed his­to­ry. The imme­di­ate con­se­quences are fright­en­ing, but their full, long-term impact remains an unset­tling mys­tery.

This, of course, isn’t the first time Japan has faced a nuclear emer­gency. After the World War II atom­ic bomb­ings of Hiroshi­ma and Nagasa­ki, the U.S. gov­ern­ment record­ed the raw after­math of Hiroshi­ma in can­did, grim detail (while Hol­ly­wood was busy lam­poon­ing Amer­i­ca’s nuclear obses­sion). Filmed in the spring of 1946 by the Depart­ment of Defense, Way of Life doc­u­ments how the peo­ple of Hiroshi­ma adapt­ed to life after the atom­ic bomb. Though the archival footage lacks sound, its imagery — mov­ing, heart­break­ing, deeply human — speaks vol­umes about the del­i­cate dual­i­ty of despair and resilience.

Maria Popo­va is the founder and edi­tor in chief of Brain Pick­ings, a curat­ed inven­to­ry of cross-dis­ci­pli­nary inter­est­ing­ness. She writes for Wired UK, The Atlantic and Desig­nOb­serv­er, and spends a great deal of time on Twit­ter.

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