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North Pole discovery, 1923 earthquake, first trans-Pacific flight and Emperor’s regret for colonial rule over Korea

by Edan Corkill

100 YEARS AGO
Friday, Sept 10, 1909

Discovery of the North Pole

Almost any encyclopedia may be consulted for a history of Arctic exploration, and we do not propose here to take up the subject, except to touch on the latest phase of it, namely the discovery of the North Pole itself.

It is said that, on departing on his fifth Arctic exploration in July last year, Cmdr. Robert Peary of the United States left behind him a promise that if he succeeded in reaching the North Pole, the civilized world would hear of his discovery between Aug. 15 and Sept. 15 this year.

The month of prophecy was gone by half when the world was surprised to find Dr. Frederick Albert Cook, instead of Peary, announcing that he had discovered the Pole. But not three days elapsed before Peary was heard from, making good his prediction, and he has now become the lion of the house. As for Cook, he has weakened his claim by admitting that he is not quite sure of having actually trod on the Pole, except that he was near it.

This much said, the chief interest of the event would center on the question of how far the discovery would tend to solve various problems. Would it lead to any scientific truth hitherto unknown? No doubt such questions will be asked of Peary, and as his party included several scientists he may be expected to answer them all.

75 YEARS AGO

Saturday, Sept. 1, 1934

The great disaster recalled by foreign resident in Tokyo

The catastrophe of Sept. 1, 1923, came as a thief in the night, without warning, not the slightest tremor of the earth to prepare the mind for what was about to happen.

Like a crack of doom, the first shock struck. I stood in the middle of my sitting room and held on to a wood panel above my head, while pictures fell off the wall and bric-a-brac tumbled about.

The terrific noise was made up of the straining and creaking of the house, the tiles falling from the roof, the breaking of glass, the shrieks and calls of people, confusion and terror.

Before the second shock I took refuge in a corner of the garden and saw the heavily tiled roof of the house swaying this way and that. I expected to see the whole structure collapse, but it held.

All night long the fires raged and pieces of burning material floated into the garden where we sat on bamboo stools. Had the wind been in our direction nothing would have saved thousands of homes.

Crossing a half-burned bridge I visited the Honjo field, where thousands had been suffocated. Their futon and belongings were piled up and were still smoldering. Their bodies had been reduced to ashes and had been placed in rude receptacles of corrugated tin.

The half of the great earthquake will never be told. It was a thrilling adventure to have lived through this great, but terrible event.

50 YEARS AGO

Monday, Sept. 7, 1959

First jet airliner crosses the Pacific

A sleek, four-jet Pan American World Airways Boeing 707 airliner rolled to a stop at Tokyo’s International Airport yesterday, ending the first trans-Pacific jet passenger flight in history.

Veteran pilot Captain Ben Harrell brought the giant craft to a landing at 8:06 p.m., just 3 hours and 51 minutes after the jet roared into the air at Honolulu.

Tokyo International Airport took on a festival-like air to welcome the Boeing jet, named the “Clipper Liberty Bell.” Kimono-clad girls carrying paper lanterns greeted the disembarking passengers and crew. Similar ceremonies had marked the plane’s initial departure from San Francisco in California.

25 YEARS AGO

Friday, Sept. 7, 1984

Emperor regrets Japanese colonial rule over Korea

Japan and South Korea buried their “unfortunate past” for the sake of a new future for the two countries Thursday, as the Emperor expressed strong regret for Japan’s 36-year-long colonial rule over Korea during a banquet for visiting South Korean President Chun Doo Hwan.

Chun arrived in Tokyo on Thursday afternoon for a three-day state visit as the first Korean leader to make an official visit here.

The Emperor said, “It is indeed regrettable that there was an unfortunate past between us for a period in this century and I believe that it should not be repeated again.”

Chun responded, “I, on behalf of the entire Korean people, listened solemnly to the remarks Your Majesty has made on the unfortunate past history of our two countries’ relations.

“I believe that the unfortunate past our two countries experienced should be made to serve for the cultivation of an even closer relationship between Korea and Japan in the future,” the president said.

Chun’s visit to Japan has been regarded as an occasion for the two countries to settle once and for all their past bitter relations — namely, Japan’s colonial rule over Korea from 1910 to 1945.

The Emperor’s remarks made to Chun were stronger than any of his previous remarks made in reference to Japan’s past deeds. The Emperor did not go beyond an expression of regret, because he is not allowed by the Constitution to make any political statement or involve himself in matters of state.

In this feature, which appears in Timeout on the third Sunday of each month, along with our regular Week 3 stories, we delve into The Japan Times’ 113-year-old archive to present a selection of stories from the past. Stories may be edited for brevity.