100 YEARS AGO
Friday, May 17, 1912
Back from Antarctica
Imperial Army Lt. Nobu Shirase and four members of his Antarctic expedition returned to Yokohama yesterday aboard the N.Y.K. Nikko Maru.
Among a quantity of things he brought with him were Antarctic fishes, seabirds, other scientific specimens and data. The lieutenant told the Japan Times about his explorations:
“Abandoning our first idea of trying to reach the South Pole, in accordance with the instructions from our supporters, we sailed in the Kainan Maru from Sydney on Nov. 19 last year for Antarctic regions to carry on scientific investigations. On Jan. 16 we arrived at Whale’s Inlet [Bay of Whales], 78 deg. 29 m. South, and established camp at a point about 6 miles [9.7 km] from where Capt. [Roald] Amundsen’s men were based.
“From there our journey inland was impeded most by crevasses in the icy wilderness. We advanced about 1½ miles [2.4 km] from the sea over about two weeks.
“During this time we sent a second party in the Kainan to King Edward VII Land, where they gained the impression that the landmass there is in fact a separate island joined to the mainland by ice. Hitherto, it was thought that it was a peninsula, so if our party’s assertion proves correct, we shall have made at least one great discovery.
“On Feb. 4 we reunited with the second party at Whale’s Inlet. We wanted to remain in the area, but had to abandon that idea on account of terrible weather and our scanty supply of fresh water. We reached New Zealand on March 23 on the homeward voyage.
“Many things we had hoped to accomplish had to be given up,” the officer concluded, “owing to many circumstances. But I shall be satisfied if our party has contributed anything to science or added anything new to the knowledge of the world.”
[Amundsen's men based close to where Shirase's team set up camp on Jan. 16, 1912, were waiting for their leader's return from a bid to reach the South Pole. In fact, on Dec. 14, 1911, he and four other Norwegians had become the first people to reach the Pole. King Edward VII Land is not an island, as Shirase inferred, but a peninsula.]
75 YEARS AGO
Tuesday, May 11, 1937
The civilized world cannot but feel sympathy for the nation that suffers most by the recent Hindenburg disaster at Lakehurst, New Jersey, in the United States. It is a calamity that affects Germany nationally as well as the families of the dead and the dying, for it is a violent blow to an industry in which it is supreme.
The catastrophe marks a pause in the heroic effort, initiated by Count Zeppelin, to conquer the upper air with rigid dirigibles. The Zeppelin airships were a failure in the Great War because of their vulnerability. Zeppelin’s works thus shifted its attention to passenger airships.
More than three score passages were made between the American and European continents. As for danger of explosion, that was all taken care of. There was insulation against static electricity [which actually did cause the disaster] and the engines were positioned beneath the long cigar-shaped envelope, so that if gas escaped, it would rise and not descend to the engines.
Some people will continue to believe in the dirigible’s safety, but it is doubtful whether capital will be available for them to continue to compete with airplanes.
The object of air travel is to shorten distances by speed. There never was any strong competition between the dirigible and the airplane on that score, and there never will be. It is now practical to operate airplanes commercially at nearly three times the cruising speed of the Hindenburg.
50 YEARS AGO
Friday, May 4, 1962
102 dead in triple Tokyo train crash
At least 102 persons died and 147 were injured in a triple train accident at Mikawa-shima Station on the Joban Line in Tokyo last night, when a Toride-bound commuter train smashed into a derailed freight train at about 9:30 p.m., and a Ueno-bound train coming from the opposite direction rammed into the two derailed trains.
The freight train’s engineer had ignored a signal to stop, gone onto a shunting track, rammed into buffers and so derailed his train.
Most of the dead were passengers on the Toride-bound train. Many were helping others when the Ueno-bound train roared up five minutes later and plowed into them.
Japan National Railways Vice-President Yutaka Abiko expressed deep regret, saying the company will do its best to compensate the injured and the families of the dead.
25 YEARS AGO
Thursday, May 21, 1987
Issey Miyake debuts
Eventually, like a fine day, the show arrived. Following months of rumors, Issey Miyake finally brought his men’s collection to Tokyo after showing for several years in Paris, where his men’s collections have become one of the highlights of the season.
The designer did not disappoint, presenting a range of clothes never seen on the Tokyo runway. Tailored suits and worsted fabrics, tweeds and serges, synthetics and textured materials were shown in a wide array of jackets, coats, sweat shorts and trousers.
The colors are decidedly drab: earth browns, dark olives, fawns, dark gray and khaki, and lots of black interspersed here and there with an occasional white or blue.
Coats are long, jackets oversized and trousers loose and flowing. Especially good was a range of black formal wear in pure nylon. These one-piece jumpsuits are made of a shiny lightweight fabric — but how will such a fabric fare in the Japanese winter?
Cold or hot, wet or dry, Japan’s winter will come and go — but when the Miyake winter comes, it will hit with force and style.
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 Han Zhang.