Identifying Photographs of an Event

Photographs from a football game in Tokyo.

Genealogists often come across unidentified photographs. Most of the time these are photographs of unidentified people. There are a number of books and articles that have been written on how to identify someone in a photograph. A few of the techniques include studying the photograph for clothing styles, other features in the background and photographer marks on the back. All of these clues can help you to place a photograph in a particular time and place giving you a chance of identifying the person in the photograph. But what about events and places? Some of those same techniques with a few others can be used to identify an event.

Currently I am working on chronicling my Dad’s military career in the form of digital scrapbooks. In the fall of 1954 Dad received orders for 180 days TDY (Temporary Duty) to Tokyo, Japan. He took about 50 photographs while he was there. Not a single one has any identifying information on them. There are a couple with my Dad in them and others that are of people he worked with. While Dad was still living he was able to tell me who one of the guys were. One remains unidentified. What I neglected to do was ask Dad what all the other photographs were of. These include a number of buildings and other locations around Tokyo.

There are 7 photographs of a football game. While looking at these a number of questions and thoughts came to mind. This game must have been a big deal. I couldn’t see Dad taking pictures of a football game unless it was a big deal. I wonder if I can figure out what game this is? Could it be an Army/Navy game?

How I identified a football game:

I started out using Google images of Tokyo in 1954 and 1955. I also searched eBay for images and postcards from 1954-55 time frame. This processes allowed me to identify a number of the buildings in my Dad’s photographs but not the football game. I tried Googling Tokyo football 1955 with no results in the images. Then I searched everything on Google using the following terms, Tokyo 1955 football military. The very first result was:


Clicking on image will open in a new tab

Clicking on the link, (opens the website into the above image.) I discovered that indeed two significant games were played in Tokyo while my Dad was TDY there. The first was the Sukiyaki Bowl 2 where the 3rd Marine Division played the Army All-Stars on 19 December 1954. The 3rd Marine Division won 27-13. The second game was the Rice Bowl 8 which featured the US Air Force verses the US Marines on 1 January 1955. Both of these games were played at Meiji Stadium.

My next step was to determine if Dad’s photographs were from Meiji Stadium. Google searches for Meiji Stadium was a mixed bag of results. Instead I decided to see if I could find a map of Tokyo from the mid 1950s. I went to the David Rumsey Map Collection and searched for a map of Tokyo. I found a bilingual map published in 1954. Perfect. The map included an index with the following entries: Meiji Bowl, Meiji Park Baseball Stadium, Meiji Park Stadium and the Meiji Park Swimming Pool. They were all located at G-12. Upon viewing the map at G-12 I discovered there was an “Art Gallery” and that the area was called Meiji Park. Below is an image of the G-12 section of the map.

Clicking on image will open in a new tab

A search of gettyimages for Meiji in the 1950’s produced the following photograph.

Hum. That building looks similar to the one in Dad’s photographs.

During my search on eBay I found the following photograph listed.

Clicking on image will open in a new tab

Although they are labeled differently they are of the same building . Parts of this building appears in a number of Dad’s photographs. If you look at the map the building is the same shape as the building in Meiji Park labeled as “Art Gallery.”

I found one more image on gettyimages. This one is from 1964 depicting the Meiji Shrine and the site of the 1964 Olympics. This aerial view shows the relationship between various locations. Comparing it to the map from 1954 you can clearly see that Dad’s photographs were taken at Meiji Stadium.

All of the evidence points to Meiji Park Stadium for the location of the football game Dad photographed. The only question that remains is which game? The one on the 19th of December 1954 or the one on the 1st of January 1955. Is there anything else I can use to help figure out which game? In Dad’s stuff I found a receipt for his camera. Perhaps that offers a clue?

He purchased it on 4 December 1954. Unfortunately the receipt doesn’t narrow down which game. But it does tell me he did have a camera.

Looking at a calendar the 19th of December 1954 was a Sunday and 1 January 1955 was on a Saturday and was a holiday. No clue there.

I went back to the photographs blowing them up and looked one more time and wouldn’t you know it there is one with the Army mascot. Dad photographed the game between the Army All Stars and the 3rd Marine Division.

I did one more search on Google. This time I searched: 1954 SUKIYAKI BOWL and a completed listing on eBay for a program from the game was one of the results. The listing included several images which I copied to OneNote. The images are not high scan images but they do give me a bit more information and a bit of history I can use in the journaling on the pages in Dad’s book. Just in case you are wondering. Yes, I would have purchased this program if it was still for sale.

I am off to create some more pages for Dad’s military book. I hope you have discovered some new ways to identify places and events in your old family photographs to tell a richer story of their lives.


10 thoughts on “Identifying Photographs of an Event

  1. I hope you contact NARA to get a copy of your father’s military record. My own father’s was lost in the records’ fire along with 16 million others. But I do know, once the war was over, the military held Olympiads because the 11th Airborne “Angels” did quite well.
    Keep up the hunt for info, you never know where data will come from.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. agilchrest

      I don’t really need to contact NARA for Dad’s military record. I do need to contact Saint Louis for my own records as a dependent. My Dad kept just about every piece of paper he ever received during his 22.5 years in the military. There are over 800 documents. I have scanned them all and the originals are filled in document boxes. I actually did a post about my military series in my family archive.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. agilchrest

        I am truly grateful for all of the paper he kept. There are even welcome packages to various bases, receipts for moves that give itemized listings of all our household belongs, and receipts from Turkey for items purchased and electric bills. It is truly amazing what he kept. There is even course material from classes he took.

        One of his favorite sayings was do not through out anything the government gives you. You never know when you may need it.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. tschwartz1935wowwaycom

    Another terrific post, Ann. It’s great that you keep track of how you solve your search problems. It’s helpful to others; if nothing else, it encourages us to be persistent and logical. Great context for the specific material that your father left you. Thanks for sharing.


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