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Japan called lackadaisical; simple-living laws introduced; tourist recommendations questioned; China’s use of force deplored

by Edan Corkill

Staff Writer

100 YEARS AGO
Tuesday, June 9, 1914

‘Tokyo is dull, muggy and uninteresting’

“Of course it may be all that you say it is, and all that the guide books assure that it is, but to me Tokyo is insufferably dull, very muggy and generally uninteresting!”

This is the opinion of Mr. Fredrick Williams, of Portsmouth, England, who is in Japan for a short time in the interests of a British Electrical concern. The representative of The Japan Times further gathered that Mr. Williams wishes he were almost anywhere but in Tokyo — but for preference he would choose a cottage on the Isle of Wight.

“The trouble with the Far East, saving of course at the British ports, is that it is too lackadaisical. I have been trying for nearly three weeks to conclude a very simple little business matter about some motors, and would you believe me, I understand that I may have to stay until the first of August? I mean to say the whole method of conducting business matters here seems to me to be mere child’s play, and a waste of time! No one seems very inclined to make up their minds.”

Mr. Williams did admit of the uniform courtesy of the Japanese.

“They are too polite, confound it! I am dined and motored about to my heart’s content, but if I even hint at the things that are uppermost in my mind a vaguely distressed expression comes across the faces of my hosts as if to say: ‘Oh dear! Now you have spoiled a very pleasant afternoon — or evening as the case may be.’”

Mr. Williams finished the conversation in a typically British way by saying: “I can jolly well assure you that if I ever get home I intend to stay there!”


75 YEARS AGO

Thursday, June 15, 1939

Seasonal gifts, long hair for males banned

Further curtailment of business hours at cafes and bars, simplification of wedding and funeral ceremonies and abolition of banquets are among the proposals which were adopted Tuesday afternoon by the subsidiary committee of the National Spirit Mobilization Committee.

Others adopted were abolition of seasonal presents, prohibition of long hair for male students and serving of alcoholic drinks on trains.

The code in question will stipulate early rising, punctuality, economic living and particular assiduity at work.


50 YEARS AGO

Saturday, June 27, 1964

Recommended tourist spots questioned

The Japan Tourist Bureau (JTB) has been working very hard over the years, and is working even harder this year in view of the Olympic Games.

I am not at all reluctant to pay tribute to the fine work being done by JTB. Yet, it seems that as far as JTB’s idea of “the places worth seeing” for foreign tourists is concerned, it is firmly fixed into a narrow, conventional mold. I cannot but feel that it is a pity their “places to show foreigners” are limited in most cases to just Hakone, Atami, Nikko, Kyoto, Kyoto, Osaka, Nara and a bit of Kyushu.

A friend of mine, an American, was quite disappointed at the program mapped out for him; he went to Kyushu, but Kyushu in his case was Beppu — that noisy uncomfortable place, overcrowd with buses and cars — and Takasaki-yama, famous for its hundreds of monkeys.

Takasaki-yama and its monkeys, indeed, mean something to us Japanese because it is the backdrop of one of the masterpieces of postwar literature, “Tadaima Zerohiki” written by the late Ashihei Hino. But for one who has never heard of the novel, it is not an interesting place to see.

Instead, he could have visited Kijima-Kogen, which is just one-hour drive from Beppu and is, in my opinion, one of the most restful places Japan can offer today. Surrounded by the graceful Hyuga mountains and facing the black valley created by a stream of lava from Tsurumidake, Kijima lies silently as an oasis.

I travel often. And I wonder why the Hokuriku district — the main city of which is Kanazawa — is not considered “officially” by the JTB as a major tourist spot.

Also, I have just returned from the Noto Peninsula in Hokuriku and am going again soon for the third time. I have fallen in love with this peninsular, so rich with legends, folklore and epics. The Noto scenery is not spoiled by television towers and antennas; people are not aware as yet of the nature of commercialization. They receive travelers as they did 50 years ago.

The quiet beauty of Hiraizumi of Tohoku, the serenity of Teramachi of Yamagata, and the dignity of Kanazawa, famed for its silk and kutani pottery, are among the many places where a foreign visitor may taste something of the richness of this small island nation. (Michiko Inukai)


25 YEARS AGO

Thursday, June 8, 1989

Uno deplores use of force in China protests

Prime Minister Sousuke Uno, referring to the armed suppression of pro-democracy demonstrators in Beijing, told the Diet on Wednesday it was extremely regrettable that troops had fired on their fellow citizens.

However, he stopped short of openly condemning the Chinese leadership for taking military action.

“As the situation of the country is in a state of confusion, with the government, troops and students involved, I’d rather avoid making a black and white judgment,” he said.

To justify his reticence, he cited the special nature of Sino-Japanese relations, which are still overshadowed by the war.

Because of Japan’s military aggression against China during World War II, government leaders often avoid making remarks that may be seen by the Chinese as interference in their internal affairs, a government source explained.

Uno made the remarks in response to a question posed by the Japan Socialist Party’s chairwoman, Takako Doi, in a plenary session of the House of Representatives.

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. This edition was compiled with the assistance of Sang Woo Kim. The Japan Times’ entire archive is now available to purchase in digital format. For more details, see jtimes.jp/de.

  • http://getironic.blogspot.com/ getironic

    “I have been trying for nearly three weeks to conclude a very simple little business matter about some motors, and would you believe me, I understand that I may have to stay until the first of August? I mean to say the whole method of conducting business matters here seems to me to be mere child’s play, and a waste of time! No one seems very inclined to make up their minds.”

    Yeah, not much has changed.

    • Jamie Bakeridge

      I fear that in another 100 years we will still be lamenting the inability of the Japanese to make decisions. The difference of course is that investing in the Far East now has a number of options for the Western business traveller and sadly Japan’s inability in this regard will mean they lose out and become irrelevant.