National Geographic October 1964 – Tokyo The Peaceful Explosion Part 1: The Sights and Sounds of Tokyo in ’64

NatGeo_crowded train
“Sumimasen – very sorry….” Railway guards in a Tokyo station pack rush-hour cars to bursting with hapless commuters. Skyrocketing population threatens to cripple the Japanese capital; even now its 10,500,000 residents make it the world’s largest city. Long-suffering Tokyoites joke grimly about their city’s “crush hour.” Miraculously, scenes such as this morning jam a the Shinjuku Station produce few injuries.

Tokyo is not a city. Tokyo…is an explosion.

The crowds, the traffic, the lights, the smog, the noise, the peace, the plenty, the interplay of East and West, the exotic…. William Graves, staff writer for the monthly magazine, National Geographic, stayed in Tokyo for weeks if not months with cameraman Winfield Parks in an attempt to paint a picture of Tokyo in 1964 with words and photos.

Tokyo is not easy to love at first sight. In daylight, from the air, it resembles an enormous coffee stain, blotting the green velvet of the surrounding farm country. Seen from the ground, it lies blurred under layers of smog – a city wrapped in soiled cotton wood.

At night, however, Tokyo bursts through its somber wrapping. Then the city is aflame with neon, its low hills pulsing like great beds of coals, with crimsons, lavenders, greens, and golds of flashing electric signs announcing nightclubs, coffee bars, truck tires, television sets, cameras – everything that Tokyo owns or makes in some 57,000 factories.

Here are a few of the pictures and words from that National Geographic article, a portrait of an explosion.

Nat Geo_young women in red
Gone are wooden clogs and traditional kimono. Among Japanese young women, high heels and chic-knee-length dresses are everyday attire. Tokyo’s huge Ginza department stores tempt shoppers with top European designs. Copies in inexpensive Japanese cottons and rayons have all but driven classic styles from sight. Young Tokyo saves the conservative kimono and sashlike obi for ceremonial days or family occasions. Sign beneath American fashion magazines advertises a gift shop called “Yours.”
Nat Geo_smoggy Tokyo Harbor
Curtain of smog over Tokyo Harbor gives a coppery cast to the waterfront, one of many centers for the Japanese shipbuilding industry, now the world’s largest. Desperate for living space, Tokyo dumps its fresh trash into the bay and covers it with soil to create new land.
Nat Geo_danchi
Like immense cinder blocks, low-cost apartment houses rise amid factories and oil-storage tanks. Danchi, as Tokyoites call the developments, ease the crushing pressure of Tokyo’s housing shortage. Families with moderate incomes may rent a bedroom, kitchen, and living room for $20 a month.
Nat Geo_the home
Husband enjoys his ease, just as his father did, while wife clears the dishes I their three-room apato. Tokyoites call them and their neighbors danchi zoku – “apartment-house tribe.”
Nat Geo_traffic
Grill-to-bumper flood chokes a Tokyo street. During rush hours it may take half an hour to negotiate a downtown block. Beginners’ tests are strict but, once licensed, drivers develop an individual style. A sharp horn blast signifies, “Look out! I am about to do something extraordinary.”

 

Nat Geo_cars vs people
Evasive Action lifts a pedestrian clear of the pavement in his dash for safety. Tokyo traffic – dodging risks are high: on the city’s streets, a thousand die in a year.