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Titanic survivor’s tale; a whaler’s arrival; Osaka-Tokyo in half the time; early cases of AIDS

by Edan Corkill

Staff Writer

100 YEARS AGO
Tuesday, June 4, 1912

Titanic’s sole Japanese passenger describes his lucky leap for life

On board the T.K.K. liner Shinyo, which reached Yokohama yesterday afternoon, was Mr. Masabumi Hosono, Vice-Councilor of the Railway Board, a survivor of the Titanic disaster — the only Japanese, as reported, who was on the ill-fated vessel. He described his narrow escape:

The night of April 14 when the awful calamity fell upon the vessel, which sank early the following morning, was calm and beautiful. About 10 o’clock a jar awoke him in his cabin. Then the engines stopped.

Almost immediately a sailor delivered a life-belt to his cabin and ordered him to go on deck. Half out of curiosity and half out of fear, he paced from one deck to another. A big crowd of passengers was flocking on the upper decks, none of them knowing why they were called out.

To their surprise they saw four life-boats being lowered. The boats could not take all the passengers and one officer made them obey him, with a revolver. The first boat that was lowered was filled with women and children. The second and third boats, also full of women and children, were lowered and rowed away.

There now remained one boat. It was fully loaded with women and children. As it was on the point of being lowered, he saw many passengers who were left behind screaming for help. It was a most pitiable sight. The moment the boat was going to be lowered someone said there was room for another person, and the man who stood before him rushed into the boat. It was then declared full.

The boat had been lowered about a meter when he heard an officer say there was room for one or two more. He lost no time jumping into the boat.

As the boat pulled away, he could behold the whole Titanic. Soon the deck on which they stood was swallowed by the sea, and in a few minutes the Titanic vanished with thunder-like sounds of explosions.

Mr. Hosono then spoke of unexpected rescue by the Carpathia, which he said he felt “more happy and joyous than if he had met merciful Buddha in Hell.”

[Reacting to a 1913 book about the disaster by American survivor Archibald Gracie, in which a "Japanese" man is described as a "stowaway" on one of the lifeboats, the Japanese media for decades accused Hosono of ungentlemanly conduct — assuming he pushed his way onto the lifeboat ahead of women and children. Evidence that came to light in the late 1990s, however, suggested Gracie had confused Hosono (whose grandson is famed musician Haruomi Hosono) with another passenger of Asian descent.]

75 YEARS AGO
Sunday, June 21, 1937

Giant whaler arrives

The whaling mother-ship Terge Viken, at 17,000 tons the largest whaler afloat, arrived in Yokohama yesterday morning with 21,000 tons of crude oil for Japan. The vessel has a draft of 35 feet (10 meters) and was held off port for several hours while part of her cargo of oil was unloaded because it was dangerous for the ship with such an unusual depth to be brought alongside the pier.

The Terge Viken was launched last year and on her maiden voyage to the Antarctic processed 3,000 whales. This is more than double the catch of the largest Japanese whaler.

The Terge Viken, which is 634 feet (193 meters) in length, is owned by the British United Whaling Co. After completing her voyage to the Antarctic and transshipping her whale oil, the whaler proceeded to San Diego, California, and there loaded 21,000 tons of crude oil for the Mitsui Co. of Japan.

The Terge Viken is expected to leave shortly for home waters and then start out again for the Antarctic to hunt for whales.

50 YEARS AGO
Friday, June 29, 1962

Tokyo-Osaka 3-hour rail link still on track

The 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo will mark an important milestone in the progress of Japanese railway engineering, for in that year the Japan National Railway Corp. will inaugurate a new Tokaido trunk line to link Tokyo and Osaka in an incredible three hours — half the present travel time.

The first trial run was held Tuesday on the partly completed new line. The test proved a big success except that the train could not run at its maximum speed of 250 km/h, but had to go at a snail’s pace of 50 km/h as the tracks are not yet long enough for high-speed testing.

The new line will be the first wide-gauge railroad (143.5 cm) in Japan. The broad gauge will reduce the vibration to give utmost comfort to passengers.

The line is expected to be finished in March 1964.

25 YEARS AGO
Wednesday, June 17, 1987

Total of confirmed AIDS cases now at 43

Five more people in Japan were found to have developed symptoms of AIDS during April and May, bringing the total in this country to 43, a Health and Welfare Ministry committee reported Tuesday. Twenty-seven of those victims have died.

The number of people infected with the AIDS virus but who have not yet developed symptoms increased by 68 to 255 during the same period. Of the five who have recently developed symptoms, two are believed to have been infected by imported blood plasma. The other three include a Chiba man in his 40s, an American woman now dead, who was resident of the same prefecture, and an Okinawa man in his 30s.

The AIDS Surveillance Committee said the Chiba man is a homosexual who lived overseas for six years and had relations with prostitutes. It warned that the AIDS virus is gradually spreading in Japan because of lack of care in sexual contacts.

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 Chris Robinson and Bridget Honan.