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Navy on alert in Shanghai, Japanese actor lauded, nuclear arms race, world’s best-selling computer

by Edan Corkill

Staff Writer

75 YEARS AGO
Friday, Sept. 25, 1936

Navy to protect Japanese in Shanghai

An important instruction was dispatched to the Commander of the Third Squadron this morning concerning the steps to be taken for the protection of life and property of Japanese residents in China.

Receiving the news of the attack Tuesday night on Japanese sailors at Woosung, Shanghai, the Navy Department held an all-night conference, and came to a decision to exterminate the anti-Japanese terrorism in China and protect Japanese residents.

The Navy’s attitude is as follows, according to Domei: 1. Of numerous recent anti-Japanese outrages, the premeditated shooting Tuesday night of three Japanese bluejackets by Chinese gunmen was a grave insult to the dignity of the Japanese Navy. 2. The protection of Japanese lives will be left to the Japanese man-of-war and marine corps now in China. 3. It is no longer necessary to continue negotiations with China on this matter. 4. Although diplomatic relations with China may arrive at a standstill temporarily, the situation is so serious that Japan need not file any more protests with the Kuomintang Government.

It is believed that the War and Foreign offices are in agreement with the Navy.

The Navy Office also made the following announcement regarding the details of the Woosung Incident, at 11:25 last night:

“Three Japanese sailors, belonging to warship Izumo, were shot at by the Chinese gunmen with revolvers, in which one sailor was instantly killed and the others were injured. One of the gunmen was arrested on the spot.”

50 YEARS AGO
Sunday, Sept. 10, 1961

Men in the news: Toshiro Mifune

Toshiro Mifune, winner of the Volpi Cup, which the Venice Film Festival gives to the best actor, is the apple of the eye of noted director, Akira Kurosawa.

At a press conference by the director soon after he finished shooting “Yojimbo,” Japan’s entry which won Mifune the award, Kurosawa said: “Mifune is the mainspring of my activity — without him I as a director would have found very little left in me to tell through the medium of film.”

Not a few Japanese films have won international prizes since the end of World War II. However, to date, no individual actor or actress has been singled out for recognition.

In Kurosawa’s films, Mifune often takes the role of an uncouth, cynical character. Actually, the 42-year-old is nothing of the sort; he is a poor talker who is easily abashed.

50 YEARS AGO
Thursday, Sept. 7, 1961

Nuclear arms race

The announcement by the United States Atomic Energy Commission that Soviet Russia has detonated a third nuclear device in the atmosphere in Central Asia hardly comes as a surprise. Indeed it has been expected that the Russians, having resumed testing, would explode a series of devices.

What it does suggest, however, is that the Russians feel they need to make several tests for military reasons — possibly to give a practical tryout to some new nuclear weapon.

However this may be, the announcement by President Kennedy that the U.S. will now resume “underground and laboratory nuclear tests” can hardly be considered unjustified.

It is thought that the Russians are developing a “super-warhead” for intercontinental ballistic missiles. Their boast that they can deliver such weapons to any point on the globe is no empty one. The U.S. needs to devise adequate defenses against such a threat and also develop its ability to wage “push-button” warfare if called upon to do so in self-defense.

The prospect of a practically unlimited nuclear arms race is now upon us. Where it will lead is hard to say, but it is natural to feel fearful for the future. We can only hope that the atomic powers will prove able to reach some workable agreement.

25 YEARS AGO
Monday, Sept. 8, 1986

The world’s best-selling computer

Forget about Commodore, Apple and Atari. The world’s most successful computer is Nintendo’s Family Computer, better known as Famicon. As of this July, 8,240,000 had been sold and the end appears nowhere in sight. “Sales have definitely not peaked yet,” declares company spokesman Kazuo Kawahara.

Actually, it’s only now, for the first time since the Famicon appeared in 1983, that you can even see these computers in department stores long enough to consider the possibility of “Me, too?”

The Famicon boom is even louder than the Space Invaders video game explosion that zapped and thundered through Japan about eight years ago. In fact, much of Nintendo’s present success is due to its past experiences in coin-operated video games. “We had already placed best-selling video games like Donkey Kong and Popeye in game centers all over Japan,” says Kawahara. “And so we asked ourselves, Why not develop a computer for the home that could play these same games?”

After Famicon’s launch, it soon became a case of trying to keep up with the snowball effect. Because Nintendo could offer popular software, kids would more often choose its machines over rivals like Epoch and Sega. As sales grew, independent software houses began concentrating on developing game soft for the Famicon, which in turn stimulated sales.

Kawahara claims that Famicon’s vivid color graphics and high-speed action have also been important to its success. Also important is it’s price. The Famicon costs just ¥14,800. The software for the Famicon comes in two forms: the older plug-in ROM cartridge and the newer “disk card.” With the greater memory capacity of the disk (110k vs. 37k for the older cartridge), far more sophisticated games can be written — and who knows what else.

Nintendo has also begun exporting the phenomenon. Some 200,000 were sold in the U.S. in 1985 and there’s hope 1 million will be sold by the end of this year. (John Boyd)

In this feature, which appears in TimeOut on the third Sunday of each month, we delve into The Japan Times’ 115-year-old archive to present a selection of stories from the past. Stories may be edited for brevity.