Recently found films show Japanese expatriates working in Western clothes and playing baseball in the Philippines in the prewar years. (Provided by the Matsui family)

OSAKA--Prewar films have been found showing Japanese living, working, playing sports and wearing Western clothes in the Philippines in the years before the Southeast Asian islands were turned into bloody battlefields.

Fifty 16-mm films, running 220 minutes in total, were discovered in the former residence of Seiei Matsui in Osaka Prefecture by his relatives.

Matsui was the general manager of Manila-based trading house Osaka Boeki Kaisha Ltd., which was known as Osaka Bazar until January 1934.

The films were shot between 1929 and 1939 when the Philippines was under U.S. colonial rule.

The footage shows not only the company’s outlets and employees but also daily scenes from numerous Philippine cities, including Manila, Davao and Cebu, where Osaka Boeki set up its business bases.

One film captures a crowd of shoppers inundating Osaka Boeki’s retail outlet for Christmas sales, along with a vehicle-filled boulevard and an urbanized cityscape.

Another film shows a bustling port as well as workers toiling at a noodle factory, sorting cargo at a warehouse or relaxing in a company dorm.

But it was not all work and no play in the Philippines in the prewar days. One film features people playing baseball and tennis, popular sports in the Philippines, and flickering neon signs of Western buildings at night in a downtown area.

Drawn to vibrant commercial activities, an estimated 20,000 Japanese worked in the Philippines during the 1930s.

Under the leadership of Americans living there, the U.S. colony regularly hosted the Far East championship, an athletics event featuring competitors from the Philippines, China and Japan from the 1910s to 1930s.

But things all changed after Japan went to war against the United States in December 1941.

More than 100,000 civilians were killed as collateral damage in a battle that erupted in Manila in February 1945, pitting U.S. and Philippine forces against Japanese troops.

Just before Japan’s surrender in 1945, Matsui, who served as a civilian worker for the Imperial Japanese Army, died in fighting on the island of Luzon.

Shinzo Hayase, a professor of modern Asian history at Waseda University who is knowledgeable about Philippine history, described the films as an “extremely precious discovery” because they show the way of life for Japanese expatriates in the prewar years.

“A wealthy class in the Philippines back then was more affluent than the Japanese elite,” he said. “The footage of Japanese running Western-style outlets and enjoying sports shows the influence of their host community.”

Part of the films will be shown at the Daiwa House Nobuo Ishibashi memorial hall at the University of Tokyo’s Hongo Campus from 6 p.m. on Oct. 19.

Admission is free, but attendance will be limited to the first 125 people in line.