The French actress Emmanuelle Riva is best known for her role in Alain Resnais’s Hiroshima, Mon Amour, an innovative 1959 drama that explores memory and loss against a background of the after-effects of the Hiroshima bombing. While filming on location in Hiroshima, Riva also took these striking photographs of the city and its people, which provide a fascinating peek into everyday life in Japan back then.

The photos were taken in 1958, in Hiroshima city. Some details differ little from today: Japanese elementary school students still wear uniform caps and carry leather randoseru backpacks. Other scenes, like children fishing alone in the middle of the city, seem to capture an image of urban Japan now consigned to history.

▼ A baby’s pushchair and crib stand on the street, as children play in the background.


▼ Boys fishing in the Ōta river, with the bombed-out genbaku dome just visible in the background.


▼ A child rides on the back of a bicycle on an unpaved road.


▼ In this arresting shot, Riva captures a child gazing directly at the camera.


▼ Elementary school students’ uniforms are similar to those often worn today.


▼ Two girls read in the street outside simple wooden constructions.


▼ A man with a fishing net wears geta, traditional Japanese wooden sandals. Once again, children stare curiously at the camera – or, perhaps, at the photographer.


Emmanuelle Riva, photographed on the set of Hiroshima, Mon Amour in 1958.

tumblr_misllqnGLb1qaihw2o1_1280Sylvette Baudrot/Tumblr

Riva went on to continue a successful career in film and theatre, including a starring role in the critically acclaimed 2012 film Amour. Fifty years later, her photos were collected and published in a hardcover book entitled Hiroshima 1958. We’re glad these moments have been preserved for posterity, and hope you enjoyed seeing this snapshot of life in Japan, almost six decades ago.

Source and images: taishou-kun, via Japaaan magazine