Video of a Nippon Kogaku optics factory from the 1940s

This video footage is made up of excerpts taken from a Japanese war-time film. The film has a patriotic agenda and is titled 'Ichiban Utsukushiku' (The Most Beautiful). Directed & written by Akira Kurosawa (regarded as one of the most important and influential filmmakers in the history of cinema), the footage shows what an early Nippon Kogaku (NIKKO/Nikkor/Nikon) optics factory and the working conditions looked like in the 1940s.

The workers appear to be making trench-binoculars, similar to these ones. The film was shot between January and March 1944, largely at the Nippon Kogaku, Totsuka factory, Yokohama City. The factory was completely destroyed by fire as a result of US bombing raids on Feb. 25, 1945.

Thanks Ron Volmershausen!

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  • They didn’t have VIDEO back then, it is FILM

  • lorenzo

    Very nice historic and a bit sad document, thanks Peter.
    All women in that factory as men were flying war planes…

    • saywhatuwill

      By 1944, I guess you could say they were “flying” planes, sorta. Volunteers were taught to take off and land and that was all they needed to know, if you know which branch I’m talking about.

      • Not even landing training was necessary.

        • captaindash

          Disagree. Coming down properly was very important. If they ‘landed’ in the wrong spot it was all for nothing. Can’t really get them in trouble if they did it wrong though…

      • Michiel953

        Yes, the taking off was a lot more important than the landing was. Not exclusive to the Japanese though; google “twenty minuters” and “Blackadder”. Very funny and very sad (because largely true) at the same time.

  • Really an interesting piece of history. Since it was done in 1944, I’m surprised by the sense of humor of the workers at the beginning of the film. Anyone that’s ever worked in a big office with lots of people knows what I mean. I was also surprised that the workers did not appear to be underfed. I would have thought that food might be less available as the US military closed in around Japan.

    • Richard Haw

      it’s a propaganda moview

    • J.Coi

      Humor is the great defense of mankind against all adversity.

  • jmb2560

    My 17-35 f2.8 (circa 2001) must have been manufactured on a Monday morning by a group of women (or men) more focused on chatting than polishing glass. it’s way soft and not what I was expecting from Nippon Kogaku KK…

    • fanboy fagz

      so true useable from f4 but 17mm is soft till 5.6

      • jmb2560

        agree 100%

  • Andrew

    This is an interesting movie as it shows workers at a factory in a rapidly industrializing nation. War and peace has interspersed nations for thousands of years and it is no different in our age. Even in our current age, the world is blazed with propaganda and it is now debatable who the good versus the bad guys are. But at least we have the Internet, freeing us from the bias of and utter manipulation of-the-news by the mainstream media and from the control they once had on our minds. A recent gallop poll showed that 80% of Americans do not trust the media.

    It was only a few years (or decades) ago (with regards to history) that I was only a 13 year old boy in a boarding school attending a private grammar school in England watching documentaries many nights on television about Germany and World War II. I had no parental supervision which was not good since I literally had the maturity of a 9 year old kid. It made the indelible impression on me that some people were just plain evil.

    But later as I grew up I learned how the masses are easily controlled. For example, now the kids are having their minds conditioned being preparing for war all over again by spending hours playing war games on the PS4 and XBOX gaming consoles. Surely someone is getting the troops ready! But in order for them to succeed all they have to do is to prep up the public by creating an actual enemy. Ah, the media is needed for that. Didn’t a wise person once say that history always repeats itself?

    • captaindash

      “A recent gallop poll showed that 80% of Americans do not trust the media”
      -yet people will lose their minds over a 3 line article as if it was the gospel. So which is it?

      The only people’s minds being conditioned to play war games are the people at the maker who enjoy profits. It has nothing to do with any vast conspiracy. If war games stopped selling, they’d stop making them.

      • TO-DOUG

        A recent poll showed that 81% of Americans do not trust Gallup polls… 😉

    • PhilK

      I have long been a big cheerleader for the value and promise of the internet and its ‘democratization of information’.

      Unfortunately I have also discovered that the biggest challenge to solve when it comes to ignorance is not simply the availability of information. Most people will not make much use of it, much less seek it out, whether or not it is available to them.

      Thus what we see more and more of today in ‘technologically advanced’ societies – largely fueled by the vastness of information sources available online and the effects of social media platforms- is what I call “The New Tribalism”. Where people simply use all those available information sources and virtual communities as an even more comprehensive tool to filter-out data that challenges their existing biases, making it even easier and settle into groups of people and pay attention primarily to information-sources of like-mind.

      Under the circumstances it’s not much of a surprise that we now are seeing a wave of political populism which is fueled by this New Tribalism. These new ‘tribes’ are often fantastically unaware of other ‘tribes’, and show little willingness to find any common-ground with each other.

      • KnightPhoto

        Enjoyed your description, and to me this very much matches my experience with FaceBook that is handy for keeping in touch with Family/Close Friends but a pain to wade thru for all the preaching and non-facts that people think is somehow appropriate 😉

  • Ritvar Krum

    lazy ass biatches – only care about chatting and not to get trouble from the supervisor… I bet they can not even see the silver plane coming in those scopes.

  • MB

    Ah, those nazi propaganda movies, so naive and yet so touchy … straight to the heart of the brain washed nation…

    • Evan Richardson

      Because nazi’s were in Japan…ok.

  • PhilK

    Thanks for sharing.

    And yes – Nikon started out – about 30 years prior to the time this film was made – as a military optical equipment manufacturer.

    That emphasis didn’t change substantially until after WWII, when there wasn’t much choice any more..

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