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Morioka, Japan 1949-1950

In 1949 my grandfather, Lt. Colonel Millard Maclaughlin, and grandmother, Marie Maclaughlin, went to Japan as part of the United States Occupation of Japan. Japan had been under a military occupation since the end of WII that would not end until 1952. Millard and Marie were sent to Morioka, in northern Japan. 

Millard took two of the photographic marvels of 1949 to document his stay in Japan. The first was a Leica IIIc with a Summitar 50mm/f2 lens.  In 1949 there may have been other 35mm cameras as good as the Leica but none better. The camera in the picture is the camera my grandfather used. He gave it to me in the early 1970s. I still have it. It’s been refurbished and still gets used on occasion.

The other marvel was Kodachrome. It had been introduced by Kodak in 1935 as the first successful color film. It was a color reversal film  that during processing reversed the negative image to give a positive image that was meant to be projected onto a screen. It was also a slow film at ASA 16. (Now photographers whine if they can’t shoot above ISO 3,200.) Kodachrome was noted for it’s beautiful colors and it’s longevity. We can be thankful for both.

My grandfather generally did a good job of getting the exposure right. Most erred on the underexposure side. The underexposed slides have been digitally corrected but there is a limit as to what can be done. There are slides with the sunlit portion of the scene correctly exposed but with areas in shade that were difficult to open up. There are a few where the focus is off or there is motion blur. This is the selection of images that were important to my grandfather so I scanned them all.

There are 44 slides. The order of these prints are different than I found them. There were slides not grouped together that obviously were taken at the same time. Over the years the original order of the slides was lost. I’ve taken the liberty to arrange them in logical groups while still keeping some of the original order. I’ve identified each photograph with a slide number indicating my ordering.

 

On the back of each slide my grandmother wrote a description. That description is underneath each slide in bold. On some prints I add my comments under the description.

It was a thrill to scan and bring these slides to life again. I hope everyone enjoys them as much as I do.

 

Back of house at Morioka
My grandmother, Marie Maclaughlin.
Slide 1

Our home in Morioka
Slide 2

Thatched roof house
This is more likely a temple
Slide 3

 

School scene Morioka
Sports Day. The game is 玉入れ (tama ire) which means “enter or put the ball in”. Each team has a basket of balls on the ground to throw into another basket stuck to the top of a pole. They still play same game today on Sports Day.
Slide 4

 

School 1949 Morioka
It is not mentioned but this is probably the awards ceremony for Sports Day in Slide 4. My grandmother is on the right.
Slide 5

School scene in Morioka
It is not mentioned but this is probably the awards ceremony for Sports Day in Slide 4. My grandmother is in the middle.
Slide 6

 

 Rice paddies at Ichinoseki
Slide 7

Rice Paddie
Slide 8

Rice Paddies at Ichinoseki
Millard took Slide 7 and Slide 8 from the same spot just by moving the camera horizontally. This made it easy for me to stitch them into one picture.
Slide 9

 

Street scene in Morioka
The man is a story teller. He is showing pictures that illustrate the story he is telling. He makes his living selling candy to the kids. Of course he doesn't tell the entire story in one day.

Slide 10

 

Street in Morioka
Slide 11

 

City Hall in Morioka
Slide 12

Fruit store in Morioka
Slide 13

 

In front of our home in Morioka
Slide 14

 

 Mt. Iwati
Slide15

Mt. Iwati Morioka
Slide 16

Mt. Iwati
Millard took Slide 15 and Slide 16 from the same spot just by moving the camera vertically. This made it easy for me to stitch them into one picture.
Slide 17

Believe it or not by Ripply tree Morioka
Ishiwarizakura (The Rock-Splitting Cherry Tree) is an approximately 380-year-old cherry tree.
Slide 18

Store in Morioka
Slide 19

Street scene in Morioka
Slide 20

Morioka street
My grandmother, Marie Maclaughlin
Slide 21

Morioka street
Slide 22

 

 Police box in Morioka
Slide 23

Honey cart in Morioka
“Honey” is a euphemism for human waste.
Slide 24

Black Market District Morioka
Slide 25

 

Japanese City
Slide 26 

Japanese City
Slide 27

Japanese City
Slide 28

Japanese City
Slide 29

Japanese City
Slide 30

Festival
Slide 31

Festival
Slide 32

Japanese street scene festival
Slide 33

Japanese women
Slide 34

Japanese festival
Slide 35

Festival
Slide 36

Morioka race track
Slide 37

Morioka race track
Slide 38

Morioka
My grandmother’s cook and maid.
Side 39

Morioka Setsiko Izumi
Slide 40

Mr. & Mrs. Sato me
Mrs. Sato was my grandmother’s best friend while in Japan.
Slide 41

Millard in kimono
Slide 42

 

 Little Japanese girl in kimono
Slide 43

Japanese women
Slide 44

 Morioka
Slide 45

Children in Kimonos
Slide 46

Epilogue

When Millard and Marie returned to the States they opened a cafe in Santa Ana, California. After a couple of years they sold that and took over a five and dime variety store just down the street. 

I have very fond memories of that store. Among other things it was a toy store! The pictures of the their store were taken by me on a visit after Christmas in 1958, when I was 14. Also on Kodachrome.

The front of Millard and Marie’s variety store—1958
Slide 47

 

The side entrance to Millard and Marie’s variety store—1958
Slide 48

In 1959 they sold the store and retired. 

By 1959 my family had moved to Japan. My dad was in the US Air Force stationed at Tachikawa.

In 1959 Millard and Marie visited us at Tachikawa and then they, along with my mom and dad, went back to Morioka to visit old friends. They were treated as guests of honor. The following three pictures were from that trip in 1959.

Millard and Marie in the blue head gear
Slide 49

Millard and Marie in the blue head gear, Mrs. Sato in front of them, and my mom, Doris, and my dad, Beetle, on the right.
Slide 50

From left center: my dad, Mrs. Sato, Millard, my mom, and Marie.
Slide 51

 Afterword

That was Millard and Marie’s last trip to Japan.

There were two things that jumped out at me as I was scanning these pictures. Remember, these pictures were taken just four years after the end of WWII. Four years after Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The first thing I noticed were the eyes. In many of the pictures Millard is the center of attraction. People have turned and are looking at him. He was not just someone with a camera.

The second thing I noticed about these pictures was the complete absence of cars. In only a few pictures do you even see a truck and they look like military vehicles. It’s all foot, cart, bicycle, and animal power.

My dad first flew in to Tokyo in 1952 on the way to Korea. He remarked on how Tokyo still had large areas that were still rubble from the fire bombing of WWII. When we arrived in 1957 the empty city blocks of rubble were all gone. And the scooters, motorcycles, buses, and cars had arrived.


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  • Andrew on

    Wonderful photographs. And stories. Thank you for sharing.


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