This clip from a newsreel film of the Asahi Home Graph imprint, released sometime around 1940, shows the Teizan-bori canal in Miyagi Prefecture. (The Asahi Shimbun)

SENDAI--Prewar newsreel images of a canal have been found, offering a rare glimpse of people's livelihoods around 1940 and a hometown that was lost in the 2011 tsunami.

The footage shows the Teizan-bori (Teizan Canal), which extended about 30 kilometers, linking coastal areas of Miyagi Prefecture. It was discovered in a newsreel film made by The Asahi Shimbun Co. for children.

The digging of the canal began under Date Masamune (1567-1636), the inaugural feudal lord of the Sendai domain, to enable boat transportation and develop wetlands. It was named after part of Masamune’s posthumous name.

“Japan has canals of its own: Teizan-bori, Miyagi Prefecture,” so goes the title of the clip, which lasts slightly under two minutes. It shows scenes filmed from aboard a boat sailing along the Teizan-bori, which is described as the “biggest” of all canals in Japan.

Pine forests and thatch-roofed private houses are seen in the images. The film also shows a boat depot (river port), which was the site of rice granaries in the feudal age, along with a boat plying the waters.

The community shown by the side of the canal was likely located in or around the Gamo district of Sendai’s Miyagino Ward.

The scenery in the film is very dear to elderly people who previously lived in the neighborhood.

Isao Hirayama, 88, who long served as head of a neighborhood association in the Gamo district, said the Teizan-bori had clean and clear water, where people caught eels and corbicula clams. Hirayama’s family operated a shop and used to stock products from a boat plying the canal, the man added.

Masanobu Sato, 72, who is active in sharing his accounts of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami with visitors, watched the film.

“This shows how important the Teizan-bori was as part of community life,” he said.

Part of the Teizan-bori was reclaimed for development in the postwar period. The earthquake and tsunami damaged the canal, including destroying part of its embankments.

The tsunami also washed away houses from several communities along the canal side, where many lives were lost. The entire neighborhood was designated a “disaster risk area,” where people are not allowed to live.

With residents relocated inland, the Gamo community no longer exists.

Reiko Endo, 72, said she lived in Gamo for 46 years after her marriage, up until the tsunami took the life of her husband, who was 63.

“Not a single photo was left, so I am happy to have this opportunity to get to know scenes of the community where my husband was born and raised,” Endo said.

The clip was found in a newsreel of the Asahi Home Graph series, which started out as Asahi Kodomo Graph.

One hundred and twenty-three installments of the news series were screened at movie theaters and elsewhere between 1938 and 1943.

The films crossed the ocean to the United States after World War II, as part of them were seized by the Allied occupation forces. Starting in 1967, however, they were returned to the National Film Archive of Japan (NFAJ), previously known as the National Film Center under the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo.

The NFAJ currently owns 32 installments of the films.

The Asahi Shimbun has been studying and organizing the content of the archive for several years now.