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Tokyo homeless, Olympics cancelled, medals given for kindness, Mandela’s birthday feted

by Edan Corkill

100 YEARS AGO
Wednesday, July 23, 1913

Tales of woe abound among Tokyo jobless

Summer is generally a good season for employment-seekers of the laboring classes. This summer, however, there are twice as many unemployed men as usual. The Free Lodging House of Honjo, Tokyo, for instance, generally takes in about 20 lodgers nightly during the hot months, but this season some 45 are finding shelter there every night.

Mr. Ito, director of the establishment, tells some interesting facts about its residents.

“In summer, the gas and electric companies require a larger force of hands,” he says, “and these places are generally sought by fewer men than in any other season. Things are quite different this summer.

“Men in the prime of life come here every day starving and fagged out. The majority are from the country. They come to the city with high ambition, and write home exaggerated accounts of their success. A few years later, they go back to their homes, with borrowed money, rigged up in royal style to impress their folks and friends. When they return to the city, their debts leave them in more trouble than before. These young men generally begin as hard workers or ambitious students, then as cheap laborers or coolies, and finally loafers, sheltered in the Poor House.”

Among the more interesting free lodgers there is a young man who had a highly commendable record at the Osaka Hygienic Laboratory and was once recommended to go abroad to finish his studies. Deprived of his work, he wandered around in vain in quest of employment and finally, as a day laborer, came to the brink of starvation in the Free Lodging House.


75 YEARS AGO
Saturday, June 16, 1938

‘Wartime’ precludes 1940 Tokyo Olympics

The Cabinet decided this morning to urge the Olympic Organizing Committee to return the 1940 Tokyo Games to the International Olympic Committee.

The Welfare Ministry decided there should be no Tokyo Olympic Games in 1940 due to the present wartime circumstances. That decision was formally submitted to the Cabinet meeting today.

While the Olympic Games have been awarded to the city of Tokyo and not to Japan as a nation, the O.O.C. is expected to comply with the request.

Not only financial difficulties but also the psychological effects that the Games would have on the people — of whom a higher grade of concentration is now required on the fighting in China — were given by Welfare Minister Koichi Kido as reasons for his Ministry’s decision.

“If Tokyo cancels the Olympics, it will cause considerable repercussions abroad,” he admitted. “But I think it is advisable to decide our national attitude over the Games now. At this time when the nation is required to endure material hardships, we may incur disdain from abroad if we are excited over the Olympics. Some people may argue that returning the Games may discourage physical culture, but I believe such an eventuality is forestalled by holding Meiji Festival sports meets on a larger scale or by sponsoring other national sporting events.”

Matsuzo Nagai, Secretary-General of the O.O.C. reported the Welfare Ministry’s decision to Mayor Itta Kobashi of Tokyo Friday afternoon. Still reluctant to abandon the Games, the mayor the same day visited several Cabinet members. “I have done all I could for retaining the Olympics and am awaiting the Cabinet’s decision,” he said. “Even if the Games are cancelled, I wish to complete Komazawa Stadium for the sake of the health of Tokyo citizens after peace is restored in China.”

Those who will be deprived of work as a result of returning the Games include three German Olympic technical advisers, who have been in Tokyo nearly one year on a three-year contract.


50 YEARS AGO
Friday, July 5, 1963

100 given medals for their kind deeds

On Wednesday, 100 persons were awarded the first Kind Behavior Badges by the Be Kind to Others Campaign headquarters in recognition of their acts of kindness.

Seven of the 100, who were chosen from among the 210 recommended to the headquarters, attended the awarding ceremony held in Tokyo. Two of the seven were small primary school pupils.

One of them, an 8-year-old girl, won the award for picking up a baby’s hat near her home and promptly handing it to the baby’s mother.

Among other kind deeds recognized were guiding 14 blind masseuses to safety every day and lending a bus fare to a stranger who lost his wallet.

The campaign was launched by Seiji Kaya, president of the University of Tokyo, early this year to make society better.


25 YEARS AGO
Wednesday, July 13, 1988

ANC Tokyo group to fete Mandela’s 70th

The Tokyo branch of the African National Congress (ANC), South Africa’s anti-apartheid organization, will hold a rally Saturday to celebrate the 70th birthday of their leader, Nelson Mandela, and to demand an end to his imprisonment, which has lasted 25 years.

Jerry Matsila, representing the ANC Tokyo Office, said at a news conference Tuesday that the rally will be held at the Yamanote Church in Shibuya, Tokyo, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Ambassadors from black African nations have been invited to speak at the gathering and a film depicting the situation in South Africa will be shown, he said.

“Mandela means our hope. The name Mandela means freedom for us because of his contribution to the struggle against apartheid,” Matsila said.

There have been similar gatherings and concerts in all parts of the world, including London, East Berlin, New York and Amsterdam, to fete Mandela’s birthday and demand his release.

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 Natasha Vik. 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.