Last week, the Hiroshima Peace Museum released newly digitized footage of Hiroshima in 1935, approximately ten years before the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb on the region. The original film was shot by the late Hiroshima resident Genjiro Kawasaki and is the only footage of the city before World War II in the museum’s possession.
According to the Japan Times, the 16 mm film footage is “valuable data that clearly shows how Hiroshima looked before being atom-bombed,” a museum staff member said.
The black-and-white film itself is very short — a little over three minutes in length — but it paints a picture of a simpler time in the city. Citizens scurry about in the street, some in Western attire while others wear the traditional kimono, as they tend to their business. Children stare curiously at the camera, and a group of boys pass by, smiling as they make their way to an unknown destination. Cherry blossoms bloom, people row boats across the river, and a man can be seen fishing at the water’s edge.
Digitizing the film enabled museum staff to give a better estimate on the year it was shot. Before, it was thought to be filmed in 1936, but after improving the quality of the video through digitizing, the museum was able to read a previously illegible movie theater marquee, and the team estimates the year to be 1935 based off the movie playing at the time.
The film is a stark reminder of a bygone world unaware of what was to come — on August 6, 1945, ten years after this film, the U.S. would drop an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, killing an estimated 150,000 people. Three days later on August 9, the U.S. dropped another atom bomb on the city of Nagasaki, killing an estimated 50,000 people to force Japan into unconditional surrender and marking one of the most atrocious acts of war the world has not seen since.