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Frog battles carp, indignant seamen strike, Roppongi the new night-life hub, passive-smoking case stubbed out

by Edan Corkill

100 YEARS AGO
Tuesday, March 15, 1912

Frog fights carp for pond croaking rights

Frogs are reputedly contentious by nature, and a slight provocation may lead to a bitter feud. But it is seldom that these homey creatures wage war with members of other tribes.

It seemed a unique spectacle, therefore, that a carp about 45 cm in length, and a frog of remarkable size, on Saturday afternoon closed in a life-and-death fight in the pond in the garden of Mr. Kinbei Kuroki of Neribei-cho, Shitaya (present-day Kanda, Tokyo). With stern determination, the two denizens of the pond grappled desperately and continued to fight for about half an hour. In the end, the frog got astride the fish, but by this time, both combatants had become exhausted. The interested human spectators separated the gladiators. The crestfallen carp dived deep in the water, and the doughty frog is now preserved as an honored appendage of the Kuroki family.

75 YEARS AGO
Tuesday, March 2, 1937

Seamen’s group halts work over ‘disrespect’ at Grand Naval Review

Seamen of middle status with the shipping company Nihon Yusen Kaisha started a strike Sunday, demanding stricter discipline in the company’s managerial policy. Several of the company’s ships at Yokohama, Osaka and Kobe were held up as a result.

Meirokai, an organization of second- and third-class engineers, has been demanding an accounting of the failure of the company’s ships to fly celebration banners on the occasion of the Grand Naval Review off Kobe last autumn.

On Sunday, Meirokai representative Mr. Waichi Hibi, 37, presented five demands to Mr. Noboru Otani, president of the company. These call for a clarification of responsibility for the failure of N.Y.K. ships to show proper respect on the occasion of the Grand Naval Review, and also a correction to its current business policy based on sheer utilitarianism.

Mr. Hibi also visited the War, Navy and Communications ministries to put Meirokai’s position before the authorities concerned.

The Japan Marine Labor Union commented that Meirokai’s true motives remain to be clarified, and for this reason it advised the strikers to exercise prudence.

“The company is regarding the present action of Meirokai, a body of seamen of extreme ideas, as anything but serious, as the company is not in the least affected by it,” said company president, Mr. Otani.

[On March 15, the company gave in to the strikers' demands. Meirokai later gained notoriety when Hibi and others committed suicide in front of the Imperial Palace days after Japan's surrender in August 1945.]

50 YEARS AGO
Thursday, March 29, 1962

Changing night life

Since before the war, there has been little change in Tokyo’s entertainment areas, with the major wine, women and song centers remaining now as then as Ginza-Shimbashi, Asakusa, Shinjuku, Shibuya and Ikebukuro.

In the past couple of years, however, a new entertainment area has sprung up from the wilds of Roppongi and now threatens to outshine the rest.

Roppongi now boasts five main clubs: Club 88, Kojikaen Club, the Gas Light, Club Shima and Club Chaco.

The newest addition to Roppongi night life is the Kojikaen Club, which opened in November a few steps from the Roppongi Corner. Open from 8 p.m. to 3 a.m., it offers two, 15-minute floor shows at midnight and 1 a.m., as well as two dance bands — the seven-piece Tokyo Ponchos and the Ishiguro Quintet. Unlike other clubs in the area, Kojikaen has a cover charge, which runs about ¥600 on average.

Club Shima and Club Chaco are somewhat smaller in size. Shima is open from 6:30 p.m. to 5 a.m. and features dancing until the wee hours of the morning. Apparently these two off-color clubs operate on the outer fringes of the law and shun publicity.

Neither club has hostesses, shows or a cover charge, but both depend on the late-hour patronage of hostesses and customers from Ginza and other nearby clubs and bars. A strange assortment of beatniks, hoodlums, off-duty hostesses, film and TV stars plus a generous sprinkling of Westerners can usually be found in both clubs. They are often used for clandestine rendezvous as well as pick-up places.

Incidentally, it might be added that some of the most ardent enthusiasts of the “The Twist” can be found nightly at Shima and the Chaco, introducing this crazy dance to Japan.

25 YEARS AGO
Saturday, March 28, 1987

Court stubs out train campaigners’ passive-smoking case

Tokyo District Court on Friday ruled that passive smoking on Japanese National Railways trains was within tolerable limits, turning down claims by an anti-smoking group in the country’s first lawsuit concerning passive smoking.

Passive smoking refers to the inhalation of smoke by those in the proximity of a smoker.

The plaintiffs, school teacher Midori Fukuda, 37, and 13 other anti-smoking advocates, filed the suit in 1980, demanding that JNR, the state, and Japan Tobacco Inc. pay ¥9.2 million damages and allocate more than half of all JNR train seats to non-smokers.

The court stated as reasons for turning down the plaintiffs’ demand that major JNR services now included some non-smoking cars, and that there was no definite evidence on the effects of passive smoking on people’s health.

“There is little danger of people actually being exposed to tobacco smoke in trains, and effects on health, such as sore throats, are temporary and within the limits of endurance,” presiding judge Katsuji Tachibana said.

[No appeal was made against the decision. Despite winning the case, JNR did in fact increase the number of non-smoking seats on its trains shortly afterward.]

In this feature in Timeout on the third Sunday of each month, we delve into The Japan Times’ 116-year-old archive to present a selection of stories from the past. Stories may be edited for brevity. This month’s feature was compiled with the assistance of Mads Berthelsen and Maaya Konagai.