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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Aftermath of the Tsunami in Japan

It was one week ago that a pow­er­ful 9.0 mag­ni­tude earth­quake struck off the coast of north­ern Japan. The tsuna­mi that fol­lowed, with waves reach­ing as high as ten meters, swept as far as ten miles inward. In this video shot for The Guardian, we see the haunt­ing dev­as­ta­tion in Shin­tona, a small town in the Miya­gi pre­fec­ture (one of the areas worst affect­ed by the tsuna­mi). Amidst the wreck­age on the streets, it is quite stir­ring to peer inside some of the washed-out hous­es, where we observe bro­ken chi­na and dam­aged pho­tographs, remind­ing us how life can be so pro­found­ly and per­son­al­ly inter­rupt­ed by nature’s fury.

The Guardian arti­cle accom­pa­ny­ing this video can be read here. For more videos and resources relat­ed to the earth­quake in Japan, includ­ing ways you can help, see this post.

Eugene Buchko is a blog­ger and pho­tog­ra­ph­er liv­ing in Atlanta, GA. He main­tains a pho­to­blog, Eru­dite Expres­sions, and writes about what he reads on his read­ing blog.

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.