National / History | JAPAN TIMES GONE BY

Debate over WW1 role; 21 Nazis snatched off Yokohama; new Red China policy adopted; Nagasaki mayor shot

by Edan Corkill

Staff Writer

100 YEARS AGO
Tuesday, Jan. 26, 1915

Debate over role in European conflict

Amid many rumors and arguments about Japanese participation in the European war, two things are certain — namely, that Great Britain does not like it, and that Japan is ready to participate the moment its ally requests it.

German diplomacy is doing what it can to prevent the participation.

Japanese participation, says a high official, would have political as well as military significance, as it will persuade Italy and Rumania to join the Allies. The new British troops to arrive on the battlefield this spring will be hardly sufficient in number to drive the enemy out of Belgium and France. It seems to be Japan’s plan, characteristic of an Oriental nation, to offer participation on certain conditions when a real crisis has come for the Allies. These conditions will include the grant of favorable terms when Japan wishes to float loans in Great Britain or France, and the recognition of her commercial privileges in China. It is reported in other circles that Germany, anxious to get Japan to betray her allies, has offered her a free hand in Asia while she herself and Austria are engaged in the conquest of Africa.

Japan’s contribution to the European war was ultimately limited to naval operations.


75 YEARS AGO
Tuesday, Jan. 23, 1940

Cruiser snatches 21 Nazis off Yokohama

Twenty-one German merchant marine officers were prisoners of war aboard a British cruiser Monday, following a drama on the high seas which brought Japan a taste of the European conflict.

The men were forcibly taken from the N.Y.K. Liner Asama Maru noon Sunday about 50 miles off Nojimazaki Point at the entrance of Tokyo Bay by a boarding party of British officers and men.

The Asama Maru, bound from Los Angeles to Yokohama, was stopped by the cruiser which fired a shot across the Japanese vessel’s bow.

The British Embassy in Tokyo issued a statement confirming the raid and emphasizing that it was in full accord with wartime international law.

Captain K. Watanabe of the Asama Maru strenuously objected to seizure of the German sailors, according to Purser Hideyoshi Nanjo. The name of the British cruiser was not learned but it was a 10,000 tonner of the “A” class.

The sailors taken were en route to Germany via Japan and Russia. They had been in service on oil tankers out of Panama and, when war flared over Europe, were taken off the ships for transfer to Germany.

A passenger on the liner told The Japan Times the cruiser appeared off the Asama Maru’s port side Sunday about 12:40 p.m. and fired a blank shot across the Asama’s bow. The Asama hove to and a launch, bearing four officers and 16 men in uniform, put out from the cruiser and came alongside. The British officers had a list of the 51 Germans on board, but took only 21 men as being members of Germany’s armed forces.

Two German sailors succeeded in hiding while the vessel was searched and escaped capture. They refused to give their names when the boat docked at Yokohama.

The Asama passenger told The Japan Times: “When the cruiser first appeared all the passengers, even the Germans, thought it was a Japanese cruiser and they got out their cameras. Then the cruiser ran up the British flag and the Germans became worried.”

According to one of the German sailors who evaded capture, 400 German sailors were taken off Standard Oil tankers at outbreak of the war and kept four months in New York City. In December, 41 of them were sent to Los Angeles where they boarded the Asama Maru.

“We thought we were safe, way out here in the Pacific,” he said ruefully, “but we were fooled.”


50 YEARS AGO
Thursday, Jan. 21, 1965

Japan to adopt new Red China policy

Prime Minister Eisaku Sato said Wednesday Japan would put forward an independent policy to deal with Communist China as a neighboring power.

Sato made the statement at a press conference to report to the nation the results of his talks with President Lyndon B. Johnson and other American leaders in Washington last week.

He said that the new policy on Communist China will be of “Japan’s own making and pursued independently.” The United States will not be allowed to interfere in its shaping or implementation, he said.

Sato said his Government has as yet no plan for a direct official contact with Peiping authorities. He predicted, however, that trade between Japan and Communist China would be expanded greatly in the future. Sato, touching on the China question, said: “I pledged Japan’s continued normal ties with Nationalist China in the Washington talks. As for our relations with Peiping, I reaffirmed our policy of separating politics from economics. I believe it’s the best policy at the moment to maintain the status quo.”


25 YEARS AGO
Friday, Jan. 19, 1990

Right-winger shoots Nagasaki mayor

A member of a Nagasaki-based right-wing group was arrested Thursday evening following the shooting earlier in the day of Nagasaki Mayor Hitoshi Motoshima, police said.

Motoshima was reported in stable condition Thursday night with a gunshot wound to his back.

He caused controversy last year by saying the late Emperor Showa bore some responsibility for World War II.

The mayor was shot in broad daylight outside Nagasaki City Hall. He was rushed to a hospital and was reported to be in a stable condition following a two-hour operation.

Police said they arrested Kazumi Tajiri, 40, a member of the right-wing group Seikijuku, about five hours after the shooting.

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