Research Photographs Visual Resources Department of Art and Archaeology


The occupation of Japan by the United States and its allies took place over a period of more than six years, from Japan's formal acceptance of the Potsdam Declaration on August 15, 1945, to the implementation of the San Francisco Peace Treaty on April 28, 1952. Throughout the occupation, Japan was subject to the authority of General Headquarters (GHQ) in Tokyo, the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers (SCAP), General Douglas MacArthur, and a contingent of approximately 150,000 troops and 5,500 bureaucrats. In late 1945 the Far Eastern Commission and the Allied Council for Japan were established to give guidance and supervision to SCAP. However, these bodies could not act effectively without the concurrence of the United States, and their power was therefore limited. The occupation, while officially an Allied effort, was primarily directed and staffed by the United States. Divided into separate functional sections (Government, Intelligence, Economic, Scientific, etc.), SCAP representatives were set up throughout Japan to oversee the implementation of SCAP orders and to maintain contact with local Japanese officials.

Thousands of men and women with knowledge of the language or with a special interest or competence were sent to Japan. Still others, not so specially trained, were stationed in Japan as part of the occupation forces and had the opportunity to learn about and appreciate the country. One of the many agents sent to oversee the SCAP mandates was Egbert Giles Leigh ’25, an economic/financial reconstruction official and amateur photographer. Posted to Japan to participate in the rebuilding of a country devastated by war, he must have realized the importance of understanding the culture of the country where he would live and work from 1947 to 1950. His duties and fieldwork were eventually combined with exploratory and educational journeys, experiences which are captured in the photographs he took while living in Tokyo. The first of three albums, which contains photographs of colleagues, visiting officials, and family members, is a chronicle of the rather privileged lifestyle of the occupying force. The second reflects Leigh’s growing appreciation of Japanese art and architecture and is devoted to pictures of sacred temples and iconic landscapes, photographs typical of an enthusiastic tourist visiting a country for the first time. The third and most somber album attempts to depict the Japanese people struggling to survive in post-World War II Japan.

The photographs in this exhibition are not the product of a photo journalist and are not official documents made for submission to SCAP or GHQ, but rather the work of an accidental tourist.

The three albums of photographs were given to the Department of Art and Archaeology by Leigh’s widow Lucinda Kinsolving Leigh and his sons, Catesby Leigh ’79, John Townes Leigh, and Egbert Giles Leigh Jr. ’62. For a number of years they were in the care of Yoshiaki Shimizu *74, Frederick Marquand Professor of Art and Archaeology. Professor Shimizu was living in Tokyo when these photographs were taken. The photographs are now in the Research Photographs collection of the Department of Art and Archaeology. This exhibition honors Professor Shimizu on the occasion of his retirement.