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Kagoshima volcano erupts, warplanes fly over Tokyo, exhibit shows Okamoto’s bold side, Emperor dies

by Edan Corkill

100 YEARS AGO
Tuesday, Jan. 13, 1914

People flee as volcano erupts near Kagoshima

A terrible eruption on Sakurajima, an island in Kagoshima Bay having an active volcano, occurred yesterday at 10 a.m. Up to that time, since the night of the 10th, more than 70 earthquakes had been experienced in Kagoshima. With thundering sounds, the eruption was visible from all sides of Kagoshima. Columns of dark smoke cover the sky over the island. It would seem the people in the island are flying to the seashore for their lives.

The latest report from the Home Ministry says that telegraphic communications between Kagoshima and Sakurajima have been cut off as the result of the eruption, and nothing can be known of the conditions in the volcanic isle.

The eruption of Sakurajima on Jan. 12, 1914, caused 58 deaths and the destruction of more than 2,000 houses.


75 YEARS AGO
Friday, Jan. 6, 1939

Warplanes to fly in formation over Tokyo

More than 400 airplanes of the Imperial Army and Naval air forces will fly over the capital Friday morning and afternoon in spectacular formation.

The epochal undertaking, it is stated, was planned by the authorities in order to respond to the earnest support rendered by the people on the so-called “home front” as well as to demonstrate the activities of the military air forces.

According to an announcement by the Information Bureau of the War Ministry Wednesday afternoon, approximately 240 craft of the Army air force will gather over the Telegraphic Corps in Nakano in a great formation at 11:15 a.m. After appearing over Yasukuni Shrine, Kudan, via the Akabane and Fukagawa aerodromes, the participating machines are expected to circle over the city for about half an hour.


50 YEARS AGO
Wednesday, Jan. 22, 1964

Exhibition shows Taro Okamoto in full force

Open and direct expression of idea and personality is still a rarity in Oriental art. Still rarer are exuberance and humor in any art that aspires to “seriousness” and monumentality. The fact that Taro Okamoto’s art contains the qualities of exuberance and bold expression is not to be attributed to his decade of studies in Paris, for many other Japanese artists have returned from France without such liberation. His character is more likely derived from his parents, from a father who was a renowned cartoonist and a mother who was a poet.

If Taro does not fit the Japanese pattern, neither does he conform to any precise category or styles. His Parisian studies took place in the 1930s, in the decade of fashionable surrealism. Everything Taro says is emphatically delivered. There is much to anger him in this troubled, confused, stupid, irrational, belligerent yet cowardly world. He senses the surrounding chaos with an artist’s sensibility and the soapbox orator’s vehemence.

The years immediately after the war aroused his greatest indignation. The very titles of his paintings are embattled — as in “Man Atomized,” “The Disfigured One” and “Law of the Jungle” — or else sardonic, as in “Sunrise” (over chaos) and “Blue Sky” (with only a smidgen of blue in evidence). The long-awaited peace had brought new terrors, keener competition, aggravated hates, more powerful modes of destruction, and against these threats Taro finds only hypocrisy, shilly-shallying, cowardice. He strides forth to combat these devils, singlehandedly if need be. His tools are strident color, dynamic rhythms, violent oppositions, sharp contrasts, complex entanglements and diagonal crossings. Taro Okamoto is thus a “rara avis” among Japanese decorative artists. He has something to say and insists on being heard.

Taro Okamoto’s giant mural “The Myth of Tomorrow” (1969), an imagination of the moment the atomic bombs exploded over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, is installed at Tokyo’s Shibuya Station.


25 YEARS AGO
Sunday, Jan. 8, 1989

Emperor dies of cancer at 87; Heisei Era begins

The Emperor — who personified Japan during its conquest of its Asian neighbors and its surrender to the Allied powers, during war-inflicted devastation and the dramatic postwar economic recovery — died of cancer Saturday at the age of 87. His death, at 6:33 a.m. in Fukiage Palace of the Imperial Palace, ended the Showa Era.

The 55-year-old Crown Prince immediately succeeded to the Chrysanthemum Throne in accordance with the Constitution and the Imperial House Law.

The late Emperor reigned just over 62 years after acceding to the throne Dec. 25, 1926. He reigned far longer than his grandfather, Emperor Meiji, whose reign of 45 years and seven months had previously been the longest in Japan’s history.

At an extraordinary Cabinet meeting later Saturday, the government chose “Heisei” as the new era name. It takes effect today.

In announcing the name, Chief Cabinet Secretary Keizo Obuchi explained that it was taken from the Chinese classics and meant “achievement of peace both at home and abroad in heaven and earth.”

The Emperor’s death was announced by the Imperial Household Agency at 7:55 a.m. Shoichi Fujimori, grand steward of the agency, made the first official announcement of cancer as the cause of death. He told reporters the late Emperor had been suffering from glandular cancer of the duodenum, with complications including inflammation of the bile duct, obstructive jaundice and uremia.

Prime Minister Noboru Takeshita issued a statement of mourning. The statement expressed the hope that with the new Emperor’s ascension to the throne, the bonds that bind the Imperial Family and the people will become even stronger and good will towards other nations deeper.

In this feature, which appears on the first 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.