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Chiang Mai Citylife > Articles > ONLINE > Rising From the Ashes: a Photo Exhibition of Japan Post War

Rising From the Ashes: a Photo Exhibition of Japan Post War

Although Japan may seem like one of the countries leading in both innovation and technology, have you ever wondered what they went through to get to this point?

The “Metamorphosis of Japan After The War” is a photography exhibition of Japan during the post war period brought to you by Japan Foundation and Chiang Mai University Arts Centre and curated by Tsugo Tada and Marc Feustel. The exhibition is a collaboration of 11 of Japan’s Most talented photographers including Ihee Kimura, Yasuhiro Ishimoto, Ken Domon, Eikoh Hosoe, Hiroshi Hamaya, Kikuji Kawada, Shomei Tomatsu, Takeyoshi Tanuma, Shigeichi Nagano, Ikko Narahara, Tadahiko Hayashi.

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1945 will always be a year branded into the Japanese psyche, it was a year of great significance in world history. Japan was devastated in defeat; emotionally and economically. Not only that, the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Okinawa, and the radioactive fallout, resulted in 120,000 civilians’ deaths and Japan’s surrendering to the US.

This exhibition consists of 123 black and white photographs. The photographs take you back in time to the post-war period from the end of the Second World War in 1945 until the Tokyo Olympics in 1964. The exhibit is divided into three different sections, the first section, The Aftermath of The War, the second section, Between Tradition and Modernity, and lastly the third section, Towards a New Japan.

The first section, The Aftermath of the War was in its own separate room, as soon as i started walking around I felt lots of mixed emotions running through me, chaos was everywhere to be seen, isolation and desperation flooded all over the room. As a 15 year old girl, all I knew of the war was through my classroom; my parents and grandparents having all been too young to have experienced it.

I saw relief written into some of the faces in the photographs. What stunned me were the pictures of the children still smiling goofily, so innocent and still so oblivious as to what had happened around them. This was in stark contrast to the images of the elder,s whose faces were drawn in defeat. Solicitude washed through me as soon as I came across a framed picture of one of the soldiers and lying next to it an old uniform covered in dust – it looked somewhat like a memorial or funeral. The young man in the picture was a part of the special attack force, and guessing from the picture, he died in the war, but what captured my attention was his facial expression. He looked like he knew what was coming, he knew what was going to happen to him but he didn’t have a choice.

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a man who died in the war, part of the special attack force.

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As soon as I entered the second section, i was astounded by the change in terms of emotion. From the first section where the majority of the images were filled with emotion, the second section on the other hand were more refreshing, even uplifting. The pictures in this section include pictures featuring aspects of Japan’s agriculture, entertainment, architecture and traditions, it showed a nation living again. The ladies were in yukatas and kimonos, onsens were filled with the elderly, the cityscape was being rebuilt, farmers were picking up where they left off.

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In the last section, Towards a New Japan, I noticed that most of the pictures were of groups of people, which I’m guessing is trying to convey the fact that Japan is now united and they will work together and will stick together as a country in order to make Japan a leading nation which they are now. The city was again filled with joy and happiness, men and women were making the most of their youth, the Japanese flags were everywhere, they were welcoming new beliefs and ideas, the cities were being repaired and Japan became a leading nation in almost everything.

The exhibition is located on the second floor of Chiang Mai University’s Art Center and is open from tuesdays to sundays from 9 am to 5 pm and will be available until the 28th of August.