A Moment in the Showa Era

The Imperial Palace

Tokyo,  Japan  1970

There were things he wanted to remember, and on each trip from Yokohama to Tokyo he made notes of the things he saw, like people wearing paper masks, or tatami mats drying on a distant hillside. Forty years later he found the notebook and a group of photographs he’d taken stored in a box labelled with the words “Bright Peace”.  Bright Peace was the term for an era, a way of measuring time.

In America he’d marked time by the calendar, living year by year. In Viet Nam he’d lived by the day. In China he was told he was living in the year of the Cock, and in Japan he’d lived in the Showa Era.

Along with pictures the box contained a 1989 newspaper obituary about the death of Emperor Hirohito. It said that with Hirohito’s death the Showa Era had ended.  Prince Akihito had ascended the throne and the Heisei Era had begun.

Among the photographs was one that looked like a French Impressionist view of a park in the 19th century.  A gravel promenade stretched into the distance with a row of trees on either side.  Men in black coats and women in magnificent kimonos walked away toward some private destination while others moved toward the camera, talking with each other as they walked, on a mild winter morning in the 45th year of the Showa Era.

© Text and photographs copyright Wayne Miller

Meiji Shrine, Tokyo