YOKOHAMA – Historical negatives depicting the devastation inflicted on this coastal city near Tokyo by the Great Kant earthquake of 1923 caused an uproar among researchers.
28 dry glass panels were discovered by accident in 2018 clearly showing the burning buildings in the downtown Chinatown area and warships not only from Japan but also from outside reaching Yokohama Port to aid relief activities.
“The find is important in ascertaining the damage caused by the Yokohama earthquake,” said an official from the Yokohama History Archive in Naka Ward here, who analyzed the negatives.
Dry glass panels were used extensively in city photo studios at the time. The photos are presumably taken by photographer Yoshinosuke Nishino (1881-1952) from Yokohama.
The paintings were uncovered by a Nishino descendant while searching in a box in the fall of 2018 at the former site of the Nishino Photo Studio in Kamakura, also in Kanagawa Prefecture.
At the family’s request, they were examined by Ritsuto Yoshida, an inspector and researcher at the Yokohama History Archive.
“Dry glass panels are at risk, so many dishes survive after nearly 100 years is something of a miracle,” said Yoshida in a surprised tone.
The photos also show a warship of the Imperial Japanese Navy anchored in the port of Yokohama and an unrepaired bridge over the Nakamuragawa River, estimated to have been cut off on September 10, 1923, just 10 or so days after the disaster.
The negatives depict panoramic views of a residential area in Yokohama devastated by fires and people walking between collapsing buildings. Although some photos appeared in pre-war posts detailing the 7.9 magnitude earthquake and the resulting hell, it was not known who took it.
Negatives can be enlarged to show the scene in more detail than is possible with printed photos, according to archive representatives.
Noting that this year marks the tenth anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami, Yoshida said the negatives are “valuable materials that will help people know that Yokohama was also severely affected by a massive earthquake nearly a century ago.”
The dry paintings, along with other articles, will be displayed in the Yokohama History Archive in a special display, “Captured through their lenses: Yokohama Photographers at the Time of the Great Kanto Earthquake,” until April 18.
Admission is 200 yen ($ 1.90) for adults and 100 yen for children attending elementary and middle school. The facility closes on Mondays.
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