Photo/IllutrationFarmers selling their produce in a market, called Naha Ufumachi, in Naha on Jan. 1, 1935, as a rickshaw waits for a customer (Photo by Mamoru Fujimoto. Caption by Takehide Yogi, The Okinawa Times)

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A small and grimy cardboard box in storage at The Asahi Shimbun's Osaka head office that had remained unopened for decades turned out to contain a treasure trove of photographic images of prewar life in Okinawa Prefecture.

The 277 negatives, taken in 1935 by a photographer of what was then The Osaka Asahi Shimbun, were hailed by researchers as an extremely valuable resource as much of Okinawa's photographic record was lost in the Battle of Okinawa that raged in the final stage of the Pacific War in 1945.

The images show market, fishing and farming scenes as well as other aspects of everyday life in the southernmost prefecture.

They had been kept in a warehouse. After The Asahi Shimbun Osaka Head Office moved to new premises in 2013, an employee sorted through documents and other materials in storage and came across the box labeled “Okinawa.” It also contained notes for the negatives.

Damage to the negatives was repaired and mold was removed. The result was 277 clear images of Okinawa 82 years ago.

The photos were taken by Mamoru Fujimoto when he accompanied Yoshio Moriyama, a reporter attached to the city news department. Fujimoto died in 1946 at age 40, and Moriyama died in 1964 at age 53.

Some images are of fishing in Itoman and Nago, while others are of a crowded market in Naha and sugarcane farming in Koja (current Okinawa city).

One shows a horse pulling a primitive type of tram car on tracks, and another shows a rickshaw.

Some of the images were used in a 10-part series carried in The Osaka Asahi Shimbun in July 1935 under the title of “Kaiyo Nippon” (Marine Japan).

The Asahi Shimbun offered all 277 negatives to The Okinawa Times as part of a joint project with the local newspaper company. The Okinawan paper's reporters were able to identify many of the locations where the photos were taken.

On occasion, The Asahi Shimbun and The Okinawa Times share articles with each other and exchange human resources.

“Many photos taken by the people of Okinawa were lost during the war," said Takeyoshi Tanuma, chairman of the Japan Photographic Copyright Association, who noted that photographer Ihei Kimura (1901-1974) also took photos in Okinawa but that only 20 36-exposure films remain as his studio in Tokyo was damaged during the war.

"It is extremely rare for nearly 300 old photos (of Okinawa) to be found." Tanuma said. "The backgrounds and people's style of dress are clearly shown, and this provides a very valuable record of life in prewar days.”