Nicholas Orzio’s Occupied Japan


Musician and Child, Nicholas Orzio

Musician and Child, Nicholas Orzio

Saint Louis has this odd penchant for collecting unusual museums. When we first moved here, this city was the home for both the Dog Museum and the Bowling Hall of Fame. Since then bowling has left town completely and West County has gone to the dogs or more correctly the dogs have moved west. New museums have arrived to fill the void. There is the Chess Museum, Moto-Museum (European motorcycles) and of particular interest here, the Photography Museum or more formally, the International Photography Hall of Fame and Museum, which we had a chance to visit last week. Showing there were a collection of photos that were taken in 1948-49 in occupied Japan by Nicholas Orzio, a then 19 year-old US Army photographer. I have included a couple of his pictures here as examples. Most of these photographs deal with scenes of everyday like, like the two that I’ve included, but some of them are of historical significance, like photos of the Emperor, Douglas MacArthur and the last picture taken of then convicted war criminal Tojo, before his execution.

Family history peaked my interest in this show. My Great-Aunt Alice was a nurse in the Army of Occupation. Part of this exhibit includes a selection of period Life Magazine covers. One of which showed a nurse, Lt. Hines. She is seen wearing a US Army women’s wool jacket over her nurse’s uniform. Anne wears this style jacket now, the same one that Alice once wore and it still looks pretty sporty. Later, not too long after the formal occupation had ended, but while the American military was still a formidable presence in Japan, my Dad was stationed in Japan. My Mother and I both joined him there and I lived most of my first year of life in Japan.

Fishing Village, Nicholas Orzio, 1949

Fishing Village, Nicholas Orzio, 1949

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