This month marks the 70th anniversary of end of World War II. There’s a lot to remember from that time period, much of it horrific, some of it humorous, and some of it downright amazing. But perhaps the most powerful images from that time are just of ordinary people getting on with their regular lives.
And now, thanks to a Belgian DJ, we can catch of glimpse into the life of ordinary Japanese people in the years right after WWII. The background video to one of his songs is an absolutely beautifully recorded film of daily life in Tokyo. And this video is not your typical 1940s quality; it looks like it could have been recorded today!
So prepare to take a walk down the street of 1940s Tokyo and see how different, and similar, it is to now.
The DJ who created the music and posted the video goes by the name Boogie Belgique. Even though the video was posted over three years ago to YouTube, it is now suddenly being widely shared as people try to pinpoint exactly when in history the footage was shot.
Before we blab any more about dates, landmarks, and how it was filmed though, watch the video for yourself. The music fits pretty well, but if you’d prefer a more authentic silent film experience, feel free to mute while you watch too.
▼ Shimbashi in Minato-ku, Tokyo. No, this isn’t someone’s smartphone picture with a black and white filter. This is the 1940s real deal.
▼ Some things you don’t typically see in modern-day Tokyo: people walking around in geta sandals, military personnel being transported around in trucks, and streets that aren’t completely filled with cars.
▼ One thing that hasn’t changed: salarymen. One thing that has changed: their hats are much less badass nowadays.
▼ Two lovely kimono-clad women walking along modern-day Dogenzaka in Shibuya.
▼ If you listen hard you can still hear a faint “a-WOO-ga” echoing today.
▼ Wait a minute… why is that sign in English?
From both the English signs and the impressive filming technology for the time, netizens have deduced that this was most likely recorded by the occupying American forces. Still, to film something so clearly that it rivals the steadycams of today, on what was probably not the smoothest of roads, is absolutely amazing.
But one question still remains: when exactly was this filmed? Japan was occupied from 1945 to 1952, so it was most likely around that time. There are some clues in the video to help us place the year.
▼ Clue #1: Toward the bottom of the pole on the right here, there are some posters. One of them is for Hatsu Imai, the first woman elected to the Japanese House of Representatives in 1946. So perhaps this was filmed in 1946/1947?
▼ Clue #2: In the upper-left is a large sign for the “Koyama Barbershop.” But right beneath that is what is believed to be a movie poster for The Miracle on 34th Street, which was originally released in November 1948. If that’s true, then this film could be from fall/winter 1948.
But no matter the specific year, it’s still a treat to get a peek into the past and see people walking, shopping, and talking just like we do today. Even right after the horrors of World War II, people still went to their jobs, watched movies, and of course, smiled.
On this 70th anniversary of the end of WWII, let’s all take a moment to remember those who worked hard, in Japan and in countries all over the world, to get us where we are today. Thanks guys! Oh, and one more thing, if you wouldn’t mind lending us your awesome hats for a bit, that would be great.