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Men marrying later, the new Diet building opens, grenade causes plane scare

by Edan Corkill

100 YEARS AGO
Thursday, Oct. 26, 1911

Young men marrying later; women same

A statement issued by the Bureau of Statistics gives an interesting view of society in modern Japan. Marriage was formerly contracted at a youthful age in this country, but this is no longer the case. As in European countries, the high cost of living is now the question which every young person has to answer before finding himself or herself ready to take the vow of “for better or for worse.”

Statistics show that in 1897, 22 was the most popular age for young men to get married, and 19 the most popular age for young women. In 1900, it was 25 for young men and 20 for young ladies. A bureau spokesperson said: “The same trend is still continuing today as far as men are concerned; but the most popular age for young women to get married is fixed at 20. This shows that young men prefer a wife that is not over 20 years of age.”

75 YEARS AGO
Monday, Oct. 12, 1936

Magnificent new Diet building opens

The Imperial Diet of Japan, which was established in 1890 — thus changing Japan from an absolute monarchical state to a constitutional monarchy — has, in the years which have since elapsed, convened in 69 sessions. However, it has never in all that time had a permanent home. The four buildings which have housed it, including one in Hiroshima Prefecture during the Russo-Japanese war, were all temporary structures.

So the magnificent, newly constructed Diet building, in which the 70th session is scheduled to be convened this winter, will be the first permanent home of the Upper and Lower Houses.

It is an irony of fate that the completion of this ¥26-million structure, which was planned during the heyday of party politics 18 years ago, finds the parliamentary system and party politics at a very low ebb. But whatever the future of the parliamentary system in this country, the new Diet building will undoubtedly be one of Japan’s most famous landmarks for generations to come, and a symbol of Nippon today.

The tower, which stands at 216 feet (65.8 meters), is the highest point in the city of Tokyo. From here alone it will be possible to see the whole city. But it is not likely that the public will be permitted to go up the tower for it also overlooks the Palace grounds.

Typical of the trend of current thought in this country is the strained effort to have the building constructed by Japanese minds with Japanese material by Japanese hands. Outside of the eight large mirrors and stained-glass windows which were imported from England, and the mail chutes, thermostatic heaters, pneumatic carriers and locks which were imported from the United States, everything is Japanese-made.

Perhaps if the best architectural minds of the world had been consulted, a more architecturally excellent work might have resulted. But the structure would, in that case, not represent the Nippon of the present generation any more than the Imperial Hotel represents modern Japanese architecture. It is certainly a tribute to Japan that so magnificent an edifice has been constructed without outside assistance.

One of the first things anyone inspecting this unique building wants to know is, quite naturally, the name of the architect and the style of architecture. Here is where you encounter your first surprise, for nobody in particular designed the structure and no one knows what style of architecture it comes under. True, the chief architect is Dr. Yoshikuni Ohkuma, and before him it was Prof. Kenkichi Yabashi — but these men did not design the Diet building. They studied designs submitted by architects of the Bureau of Construction and made suggestions. No special style of architecture was followed.

But whatever the style of architecture and whoever designed the Diet, there is no doubt it is a magnificent and durable thing. Marble is used liberally in the interior. In all, 2,775 tons of finished marble was used in the entrance, hallways, waiting rooms and committee chambers. The exterior of the building is a mass of granite — 24,750 tons of solid rock to be exact.

Unlike in most buildings in which granite is used, the stones in the Diet were laid immediately after the steel framework was set up, and not after the concrete was laid in. Through this means, it was possible to connect the stones with the framework with iron rods by boring holes into the granite. The completed building is naturally much more durable than otherwise would have been the case, and is claimed by the contractors to be absolutely earthquake-proof.

The opening ceremony of the Diet session will be performed in the House of Peers, in the presence of H.M. the Emperor.

25 YEARS AGO
Thursday, Oct. 30, 1986

Gangster’s grenade causes jet scare

Osaka Prefectural Police said Wednesday that a hand grenade smuggled aboard a Thai Airways Airbus A300-600 exploded in one of the lavatories in the rear section of the plane during flight, forcing the plane to make an emergency landing a Osaka airport Sunday night.

Police suspect that a 43-year-old gangster from a group affiliated with Japan’s largest yakuza organization, Yamaguchigumi, carried the grenade aboard the plane. Police said he boarded the plane in Manila.

They theorize that he bought the grenade in Manila as a “souvenir” for his fellow gangsters and tried to smuggle it into Japan. They believe that the man later decided it would be difficult to deceive Japanese customs officials, and so he tried to hide the grenade in the lavatory, where it went off.

The man was found lying with his head lodged in the gap between the lavatory and the destroyed rear pressure bulkhead when a rescue team went inside the plane after it made an emergency landing at Osaka International Airport. He suffered burns all over his body when oil from a broken hydraulic pipe poured over him.

The wide-body jet flying from Bangkok to Osaka via Manila was near its destination when the pilot requested permission to make an emergency landing about 8 p.m. Sunday after the aircraft descended rapidly following the explosion.

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.