Views of Post-WWII Hiroshima: A Japanese American Woman Documents Life in Occupied Japan

Shiuko Sakai was twenty three years old when she decided to join a friend to work for the Department of the Army in Occupied Japan. At the time of this big life decision, having been released from the Minidoka concentration camp in 1945, Sakai was living in New York City in a place the War Relocation Authority had arranged for her to stay.

After a long journey across the Pacific on a ship full of Army servicemen and civilians, Sakai arrived at the Port of Yokohama on Dec. 7, 1946. Bringing her camera along with her for what was supposed to be a short adventure overseas, Sakai went on to document “six to seven years” of her life in Occupied Japan. Starting as administrative assistant with the G2 Section, or Army Intelligence, Sakai was later transferred to the United States Embassy by the time she left.

Traveling around Japan on her days off, Sakai took snapshots of what life was like at the time through the eye of her camera lens. Visiting cousins in Hiroshima in early 1947, she was able to “see what really happened” and how “complete devastation” affected her family’s lives. From the streets scenes of war-torn Tokyo to trips across the country with what turned out to be lifelong friends, Sakai captured it all with a click of a shutter button.

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Shiuko Sakai standing with Toshiaki, Shiuko’s first cousin twice removed, Miyajima Island, Hiroshima Prefecture, April 1947. Courtesy of Shiuko Sakai Collection, Oregon Nikkei Endowment.

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View of Hiroshima leveled after the bombing, February 1946. Courtesy of Shiuko Sakai Collection, Oregon Nikkei Endowment.

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A child in the foreground of a debris pile and construction site, April 1947. Courtesy of Shiuko Sakai Collection, Oregon Nikkei Endowment.

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A damaged cupola building in Hiroshima, April 1947. Courtesy of Shiuko Sakai Collection, Oregon Nikkei Endowment.

A free-standing smokestack stands in the midst of destruction.

A free-standing smokestack stands in the midst of destruction, April 1947. Courtesy of Shiuko Sakai Collection, Oregon Nikkei Endowment.

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Another view of Hiroshima rebuilding, April 1947. Courtesy of Shiuko Sakai Collection, Oregon Nikkei Endowment.

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Shiuko Sakai, standing in front center with white sleeveless dress and hands clasped, with six unidentified paternal relatives and five children, 1953. Courtesy of Shiuko Sakai Collection, Oregon Nikkei Endowment.

Text and photos courtesy of Todd Mayberry, Director of Collections and Exhibits at Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center.

[Blog header: Photo of Hiroshima, April 1947. Courtesy of Shiuko Sakai Collection, Oregon Nikkei Endowment.]

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