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Hibiya Park illuminations, Japan’s first mosque, ‘Vigorous’ Mount Fuji stymies relocation, minister resigns over war-guilt denial

by Edan Corkill

Staff Writer

100 YEARS AGO
Wednesday, May 14, 1913

Illuminations reap a tidy profit for city

Tokyo city has withdrawn the illuminations at Hibiya which it made for the benefit of the admirers of the park’s azaleas.

The plan proved very successful, greatly benefitting the city treasury. According to the investigations made by the Municipal Electric Bureau, the people who got off the street-cars at Hibiya during the illuminations of 15 days numbered 472,625. If they paid 9 sen each, a sum of ¥42,536.25 could be the receipts of the Bureau. As only ¥2,500 was spent for the illumination, there was a net profit of some ¥40,000.

In anticipation of similar enterprises, the city will make arrangements at the Park for the hot season.

[The staging of illuminations in Hibiya Park was an early manifestation of a form of entertainment still popular today.]


75 YEARS AGO
Saturday, May 14, 1938

Colorful ceremonies to dedicate mosque

The colorful dedication ceremonies of Japan’s first mosque, located in the Oyamacho district of Yoyogi, Tokyo, were observed Thursday afternoon, attended by about 500 people, including Prince Sif el Islam el Hussein of Yemen, Sheik Hafiz Wahana Pasha, the Saudi Arabian Minister to London, and representatives of 12 other Islamic nations.

Gen. Iwane Matsui, former commander of the Japanese Army in Central China, Vice-Admiral Chosei Ogasawara and Italian Ambassador Giacinto Auriti were among the guests.

The rites opened with the muezzin calling from the tower of the mosque at the hour of prayer at about 2:30 p.m. Mitsuru Toyama, one of the outstanding backers of Moslems in Tokyo, cut the green tape that closed the entrance of the edifice with a pair of scisssors, and the Prince of Yemen and other representatives of Islamic peoples abroad entered the central hall.

There, all fell on their knees on the large blue carpet and offered a prayer toward Mecca, led by Abdrasid Ibrahim, leader of the local Mohamadans. Then a passage of the Koran was read, bringing the function to a close. In the evening, a dinner was given by the Tokyo Mohamadans Group at the Moslem School attached to the mosque.

[The mosque, known as Tokyo Camii, was rebuilt in 2000.]


50 YEARS AGO
Thursday, May 9, 1963

‘Vigorous’ Mount Fuji stymies relocation

Plans to relocate government offices from Tokyo to the foothills of Mount Fuji have been discouraged by a prediction from scientists that the world-famous volcanic mountain, now dormant, could violently erupt at any time. Government officials were reported to be very pessimistic about the project after they were informed.

An area of some 5,000 hectares in the western foothills of Mount Fuji had been under study as the most likely site for a proposed new city to house government offices transferred from Tokyo under a government plan to rehabilitate the capital.

The area had been favored because land prices there are still relatively cheap; it is a pleasant and agreeable location; and it is to be connected with Tokyo by road in only an hour upon completion of a projected superhighway.

Scientists have opined that Mount Fuji is a “vigorous youth” in the seismological sense, and was very likely to come to life again. It last erupted in 1707.

The scientists said that there was no indication whatsoever at the moment of an eruption. They warned, however, that Mount Fuji could be considered as storing up its energy for eruptions in the future.


25 YEARS AGO
Saturday, May 14, 1988

Top minister resigns over war-guilt denial

National Land Agency chief Seisuke Okuno resigned from his Cabinet post Friday after controversial comments he made denying Japanese aggression in World War II drew sharp criticism from opposition parties, China and other neighboring countries.

Okuno tendered his resignation to Prime Minister Noboru Takeshita in a meeting with him late Friday afternoon. Former Construction Minister Hideo Utsumi was appointed as Okuno’s successor.

The comments that touched off the controversy were to the effect that Japan’s war against China was not one of aggression, and that Japan should not be told what to do by Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping.

Okuno later said his remarks were primarily directed at the Foreign Ministry, which bears a great responsibility in protecting the national interest, and not at China, with which Japan should maintain friendly relations. He later added that he meant to say that Japan should not be singled out as an aggressor in the last world war.

Okuno, who was one of the most senior politicians in the Takeshita Cabinet, is known for his hawkish and nationalistic sentiments.

Government leaders and senior figures in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party had feared a drawnout controversy would seriously affect Takeshita’s visit to Beijing in late August to mark the 10th anniversary of the signing of the Japan-China peace treaty.

Okuno’s resignation became certain after Cabinet ministers staged a heated debate Friday morning, with Eiichi Nakao, the hawkish director-general of the Economic Planning Agency, defending Okuno’s remarks, according to sources. Nakao reportedly said there was nothing wrong with Okuno’s remarks, after which Foreign Minister Sousuke Uno urged him to refrain from making the situation worse.

But Okuno launched into fresh criticism of China’s attitude toward Japan in relation to the last war, according to sources.

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. 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.