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Yokohama conflagration, National Mobilization Bill debated, mines removed, five-day working week achieved

by Edan Corkill

Staff Writer

100 YEARS AGO
Saturday, March 8, 1913

Yokohama conflagration

Another big fire swept through Yokohama early yesterday morning, resulting in the destruction of about 300 houses.

It originated on the premises of Magosaku Nishioka in Fukutomi-cho [now part of Naka-ku] about half-past three when it was blowing a gale. The flames spread with great rapidity and soon developed into a conflagration. In a short space of time a whole block was reduced to ashes.

The flames devastated almost the whole of Yoshida-cho and Aioi-cho, making their way toward Onoe-cho across the canal [all areas around present-day Kannai Station]. The fire brigades tried to check the flames at the canal, but the fire crossed the water and spread to Onoe-cho. Many large buildings soon fell before their advance.

In spite of the great confusion and panic the casualties were few. Minoru Tomida, aged 17, an employee of Tashichiro Shimizu, was killed by the collapse of a burning warehouse at Yoshida Icchome. Five firemen were more or less injured.

The origin of the outbreak is attributed to the careless throwing of cigarette butts by Kaifu Kawana, who was boarding in the house of Nishioka, where the fire started.

75 YEARS AGO
Friday, March 18, 1938

Mobilization Bill referred to Peers

Interpellations were commenced on the National Mobilization Bill in the House of Peers this morning, when the bill was submitted to the Upper House and explained by Premier Konoye.

Premier Konoye explained the bill’s aim. He said that modern wars are wars of national strength, and that for the execution of a war, all national resources have to be mobilized with the unified support of the whole people, and that the proposed law was drafted to provide proper preparations in view of the present situation [in China, where Japan had been waging a war since July, 1937]. The law is based on patriotism of the people and is designed to obtain the best results from national unity, the Premier said.

[The National Mobilization Law, which gave the government the ability to legislate by ordinance on the nation's industrial activities, individual freedoms, and other matters, was enacted later in March, 1938.]

50 YEARS AGO
Monday, March 4, 1963

MSDF to sweep U.S. mines in Japan waters

About 95 percent of an estimated 55,000 wartime American magnetic mines remaining in Japanese waters are expected to be swept by the Maritime Self-Defense Force between this month and early next year.

The mines, among a total of 11,080 planted by the U.S. Navy in operations against Japanese forces, today pose a constant menace to shipping traffic around the Japanese islands.

The menace will be virtually cleared away when the Japanese sea defense force completes its mine sweeping at 15 different places, covering a total area of 5,365 sq. km, along the length of the Japanese islands.

Japanese Forces, too, planted 55,000 floating mines around the country during the war. But they were cleared away by 1947, after causing considerable damage to fishing ships and even mine-sweepers.

25 YEARS AGO
Thursday, March 17, 1988

At last, the 5-day workweek

The surest way to get the workaholic Japanese office man or woman to change is to shut the office. This has been recognized increasingly during the long effort to get the nation’s work force on a five-day workweek. The best cause for hope yet seen was sprung on Tuesday.

That came in a statement by Post and Telecommunications Minister Masaaki Nakayama. For good reason, the post offices have held the key to the five-day workweek, and now they are about to activate it. Mr. Nakayama announced that he had given instructions to prepare for closing the post offices every Saturday, beginning next February.

Immediately, the chairman of the Bankers Associations of Japan and the Tokyo Stock Exchange affirmed that they would follow suit. This will bring virtually all the private financial institutions into line, impacting every employer in the country.

At last. After decades of too little action, we have witnessed for the last decade a charade between the banks and the post offices over who would go first. Because Japanese post offices perform some banking services, neither would risk being disadvantaged. Somehow the process got under way: first one Saturday a month, then two. Now, going full-scale looks easy.

During all this, we have heard a number of spurious arguments about how hard it would be. Mainly it was the inconveniencing of the public. But modern automation, in the form of automatic teller machines, has taken care of that.

In both the public and private sectors, there will always be working slots that have to be filled while others are on holiday. But compensatory time-off arrangements ought not to pose such a problem as to hold up the whole system. Once the five-day workweek becomes standard, we will wonder why it look so long.

In this feature in Timeout on the third Sunday of each month, we delve into The Japan Times’ 117-year archive to present a selection of stories from the past. Stories may be edited for brevity. This edition was compiled with the assistance of Florian Turgeon. Readers may be interested to know that The Japan Times’ entire archive is now available on Blu-ray Disc. For more details, see jtimes.jp/de.