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Emperor, councilors weigh war declaration; simplified Japanese created for foreigners; Russian musicians defect; foreigners’ office hears thousands of problems

by Edan Corkill

Staff Writer

100 YEARS AGO
Sunday, Aug. 16 1914

Emperor, councilors weigh war declaration

The Emperor of Japan, his councilors and his Ministers met yesterday in the Grand Council Chamber of the Palace to consider the most momentous question such august councils are ever called upon to decide. For the third time in the history of Japan, the discussion turned upon whether Japan should declare herself in a state of war or whether further effort should be made to find some honorable way to avoid it.

For the last week, Dame Rumor has had the stage to herself. In official circles something more than what is commonly called a discreet silence has been maintained. The newspapers have openly stated that “on good authority it is said that Japan is going to declare war upon Germany,” but no confirmation or denial of those statements has been forthcoming.

The grand council went into session at four o’clock, with the Emperor himself presiding. It adjourned around six o’clock. The faces of those who came and went were grave, but beyond this there was no indication that Japan is on the eve of a declaration of war.

Japan officially entered World War I on Aug. 23, when it declared war on Germany, citing its commitments to Britain as set out in the Anglo-Japanese Alliance of 1902.


75 YEARS AGO
Friday, Aug. 4, 1939

Simplified Japanese created for foreigners

A system of basic Japanese, employing 1,776 words, was recently evolved by linguistic experts at the National Language Society, enabling foreigners to learn the tongue with more ease.

Almost anything can be expressed by the new system, though complicated matters have to be put in a roundabout way because of the limited vocabulary.

Yoshimi Ishiguro, an Esperantist who is on the Basic Japanese Committee of the National Language Society, rewrote Kan Kikuchi’s famous play “Father Returns” using just 1,700 words. Dictionaries and other books are being edited under the new system by the linguistic society.

Mr. Ishiguro considers it more advisable to send abroad books written in basic Japanese than translations in English or other European languages. Because the system is easy to learn for foreigners, books in basic will serve to popularize Japanese abroad as well as to acquaint the foreigners with things Japanese more directly than through translations.

The Basic Japanese Committee was organized in March last year with the assistance of the Education Ministry.

The 1,776 words were selected after a careful survey of words used in magazine, newspaper articles and books. The committee held discussions to select most representative words from groups of synonyms.


50 YEARS AGO
Sunday, Aug. 16, 1964

Russians defect, seek help at U.S. Embassy

Two Soviet musicians, missing since Friday, defected Saturday and asked the U.S. Embassy for help in seeking asylum.

The two Russians, members of the Bolshoi Variety Troupe now touring Japan, were reported inside the U.S. Embassy, but an embassy spokesman would neither confirm nor deny this.

Nathaniel Thayer, embassy press attache, said in a statement late Saturday night: “Two Soviet citizens, Igor Berucshtis and Boris Midney, have informed the officers of the American Embassy they do not wish to return to the Soviet Union and desire to seek refuge elsewhere.”

Soviet Embassy officials went to the U.S. Embassy at about 8:30 p.m., Kyodo News Service reported, but neither embassy would comment on any conference that took place.

This was the second defection involving a Soviet citizen in Japan since the end of World War II. In 1954, Yuri Rastvorov, considered the chief spy at the Soviet Embassy, sought asylum at the U.S. Embassy and was taken out of Japan secretly, which caused an uproar here. The U.S. later offered apologies.

The two men were reported missing early Saturday morning by the Cultural Exchange Association, the private organization sponsoring the Bolshoi Variety’s tour here, to the Takanawa Police Station. The Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department identified the two men as Igor Berecshtis, 31, contrabassist, and Boris Midney, 28, drummer.

There was no known reason for the defection.

The men were granted asylum and issued travel documents with which they left Japan, bound for Europe, on Aug. 16, 1964.


25 YEARS AGO
Tuesday, Aug. 1, 1989

Foreigners’ office hears thousands of problems

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government’s foreign residents’ advisory center received a total of 2,173 inquiries in the year since it was set up in July 1988.

By the end of June, foreigners from 56 countries had come to the center with their problems. Among the foreigners who sought advice from the center by telephone, mail or visit, 537 were Americans, 172 were Chinese and 95 were Canadians.

The center also handled the inquiries of 148 Japanese who had problems with foreign residents.

Common inquiries brought to the center concerned immigration regulations, job contracts, driver’s licenses, the tax system, housing regulations, Japanese-language schools, and marriage and divorce, according to a spokesman for the center.

Sachiko Yamamoto, an English-language advisor, said language-school teachers are prone to encounter problems involving job contracts because “many of them make contracts carelessly and assert many rights once a problem occurs.”

“They should accept the Japanese way of giving in and not asserting their rights all the time. Otherwise, it makes the matter worse,” she said.

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. The Japan Times’ entire archive is now available to purchase in digital format. For more details, see jtimes.jp/de.