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Prince Ito assassinated, English language lauded, socialists accused of seeking Japan-U.S. split, butoh dance heads overseas



Wednesday, Oct. 27, 1909

Prince Ito shot dead in Harbin

An official dispatch received from Harbin says that Prince Ito (the Resident-General of Korea and four-time former prime minister of Japan), was shot at several times by some Koreans, just as His Excellency landed at 9 o’clock Tuesday morning.

A later dispatch received at the Mitsui Bussan Kaisha yesterday states that Prince Ito was shot at by a Korean at Harbin station that morning at 11. His Excellency died on the spot. Mr. Kawakami, Consul-General, and Mr. Tanaka, Director of the South Manchuria Railway Co., sustained light injuries. The ruffian was arrested on the spot.

On the authority of Tuesday’s evening edition of the Hochi, we deeply deplore to learn that His Excellency Prince Ito expired at the Harbin Hospital at 10 o’clock yesterday morning.


Thursday, Oct. 18, 1934

English tongue lauded at annual teachers’ parley

The universal use of the English language was praised as a practical road to international peace at the 11th annual conference of English teachers which opened at the Tokyo University of Literature and Science today.

Speakers included Sir Robert Clive, the British ambassador. More than 200 English teachers from all parts of Japan were present.

Sir Robert Clive declared that the use of English in Japan is proof of this country’s sincere desire to be international in spirit and practices. He declared that the English language is the most widely spoken language in the world and he praised the study which Japan is making of that language.

“Personal contact,” he continued, “is more important than notes or documents. But to make this personal contact count for the most, a common language must be used.”


Saturday, Oct. 18, 1959

Japan-U.S. split is aim of socialists, Kishi charges

Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi yesterday accused the Socialist Party of attempting to alienate Japan from the United States and bringing the nation close to the Communist camp.

He made the accusations at a meeting of the Liberal Democratic Party’s National Organization Committee.

Stressing the need to expedite the talks for revision of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty, Kishi told the committee that the LDP must fight resolutely against the call of the Socialist and Communist parties for a neutral policy.

The Socialists, he said, had first contended that the security treaty should be revised because it was an unfair pact. However, Kishi said, they are now demanding that the treaty be scrapped.

He charged that the Socialist intention was to drive the Government into taking a neutral foreign policy in an attempt to estrange Japan from the U.S. and to lead the nation close to the Communist camp.

The LDP was expected to finalize the policy on the impending revision at a meeting today of its Security Pact Revision Subcommittee.


Tuesday, Oct. 9, 1984

Sankai Juku gains followers abroad

It is vile, grotesque and beautiful. Half-naked men with shaven heads, covered in white rice powder are lowered onto a stage by a rope.

These scenes from Sankai Juku troupe’s performances are typical of the Japanese avant-garde stage, or “Butoh,” which is now gaining followers in Europe and America. And this week, following their success at the Olympic Festival earlier this year, Sankai Juku is starting their second tour of the United States.

“There has not been anything as new as ‘Butoh’ in the last 10 years,” said Marie Myerscough, a writer and a “Butoh” enthusiast. “It jolts you . . . makes you see things in a new perspective.” Indeed, “Butoh” resembles no other contemporary dance. It depicts human beings on the edge — of death or sometimes birth — using only minimal, but carefully controled movements.

“I have no sense of what is pleasant or grotesque,” explained Ushio Amagatsu, the founder and director of the nine-year-old Sankai Juku. “I’m simply trying to create new images, which stick in audiences’ minds.”

Though new to the Western eye, “Butoh” is no new phenomenon in Japan. It began in the 1960s. Founders Katsumi Hijikata and Kazuo Ono sought to bring onto the stage the hitherto hidden, dark, abnormal and hideous aspects of society. The word “Butoh,” meaning repetitive and slow movements, was then coined to distinguish it from “Buyo,” Japanese for dance.

Today, nearly 20 troupes pursue the controversial art form. Hijikata’s disciple, Akaji Maro’s, Dai Rakuda Kan, and its offshoot, Sankai Juku, are the most prominent.

“Trendy people in Europe like Butoh . . . They are always looking for new ways of expression,” said Donald Richie, an art critic. But in Japan, the reception is cold. “It’s angura (an underground art),” one Japanese woman said dismissively.

Amagatsu is reluctant to explain his work. Each one should interpret the images he creates on stage in his own way, he insists. “I’m not trying to give a message through my work . . . Perhaps that’s a new concept to Europeans,” he said.

In this feature, which appears in TimeOut on the third Sunday of each month along with our regular Week 3 stories, we delve into The Japan Times’ 113-year-old archive to present a selection of stories from the past. Stories may be edited for brevity.