National / History | JAPAN TIMES GONE BY

Japanese sword sent to teacher; 12,800 war heroes to be enshrined in Yasukuni Shrine; Russian steps into outer space; Japanese-language 'Satanic Verses' raises Muslim ire

by Edan Corkill

Staff Writer

100 YEARS AGO
Tuesday, March 30, 1915

Japanese sword sent to English teacher

Mr. J. M. McGregor, once a popular teacher of English in Waseda University, went to England, it may be recalled, some years ago, to follow up a new line of work he had chosen. A Canadian by birth, he has lately been heard from, and it is known that he has joined the British Army to fight at the front. The news has aroused much interest among Mr. McGregor’s former associates and pupils at Waseda, and they have bought a fine old sword to be sent to him. The sword is now on its way to England, and will be a fitting souvenir of the warm hearts of his Japanese friends. The following is the text of a letter that accompanies the sword:

“Dear Mr. McGregor,

“We were rather surprised when we heard of your enlistment in the army. We have thought you would be the last man to fight; not because you are afraid of fighting, but because you believe so much in peace.

“We feel deep sympathy for your brave determination to go to the front. There is nothing, we think, which can better express our present feeling than a Japanese sword.

“We earnestly pray that this sword may protect you through your march to victory. Wishing you good luck and all success.”


75 YEARS AGO
Wednesday, March 6, 1940

12,800 war dead to be enshrined at Yasukuni

Approximately 12,800 war dead will be enshrined in an extraordinary festival from April 24 to 28 at the Yasukuni Shrine, it was announced today.

Those who will be deified in the shrine include officers and men of the Army and Navy who were killed in action or died of wounds or illness in the China Affair since its outbreak until the end of May, 1938.

The number of 12,800 is about 2,500 larger than the number of those who were enshrined at the shrine last October. Family members of those to be deified will be invited shortly by the Army and Navy authorities to attend the special festival.


50 YEARS AGO
Friday, March 19, 1965

Russian astronaut steps into outer space

The Soviet Union thrilled the world with a new space triumph Thursday, being the first nation to let a spaceman step into space for a “weightless swim” before returning to a high-flying manned satellite.

A 30-year-old miner’s son, Lt. Col. Alexei Leonov, became the first to separate from a spaceship in orbit — and to survive.

Radio Moscow said Leonov, father of a 4-year-old girl, “felt good” as he clambered back through the Russian spacecraft, Voshkod (Sunrise) II, after his 90-minute space adventure.

Leonov’s breathtaking space swim was seen by millions on television in Russia and throughout the world as Moscow released a graphic videotape two hours afterwards.

Scientific observers said it appeared to put Russia far ahead in its space race with the United States.

Television viewers saw Leonov, carefully shielded in a specially-equipped spacesuit and helmet, step gingerly out of the hatch of the capsule.

For a few seconds he floated free in a horizontal position. Once he was seen floating upsidedown.

Tass, the Soviet news agency, said Leonov moved up to 5 meters away from the spaceship as it hurtled through space at eight kilometers per second.


25 YEARS AGO
Saturday, March 30, 1990

Japanese “Verses” raises Muslim ire

The Japanese version of “The Satanic Verses,” put on sale the middle of last month, continues to arouse vehement protests from Muslims here and abroad.

Muslims in Japan have demonstrated against the publication and are demanding that it not be sold at bookstores. Some Muslim countries are reportedly considering asking that the Japanese government ban its sale.

The original publication of the book, which many Muslims consider blasphemous, prompted the late Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeni to pronounce a death sentence last February against Salman Rushdie, the book’s Indian-born British author. Rushdie has since been in hiding.

About 130 Muslims living in Japan demonstrated in Tokyo last month in anticipation of the release of the Japanese version by the Tokyo publishing house, Shinseisha.

During a Feb. 13 news conference held to announce the publication, a Pakistani national tried to assault an Italian promoter of the book. He was arrested on the scene.

The book sold out immediately in Japan, and the publisher is planning to print additional copies, a spokesman of the firm said. But the Islamic Center of Japan is urging bookstores to stop selling the book. The organization, based in Tokyo’s Setagaya Ward, represents about 30,000 Muslims in Japan, a spokesman for the group said.

A spokesman of the Japan-Pakistani Association in Akasaka, Tokyo, said his office is getting many calls from people voicing their desire to kill the Italian promoters.

“We cannot forgive the novel because it is insulting our prophet indecently and making God’s words the devil’s words,” the spokesman said. “Japanese people also get angry when their family members are insulted.”

Some major bookstores are hesitating to sell the novel. “It is difficult for us to put the book on counters because of the potential problems,” said a spokesman for Maruzen books.

On July 12, 1991, the Japanese translator of the book, Hitoshi Igarashi, was found dead in his office at the University of Tsukuba. He had been stabbed multiple times. The case remains unsolved.

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.