100 YEARS AGO
Tuesday, April 25, 1916
Munitions orders from Allied nations grow
Orders for munitions continue to come in from the Allied countries engaged in combatting Germany, and factories in Japan are now busily engaged in the manufacture of supplies. The total value of munitions to be manufactured in the military arsenals during the year is estimated at 80 million yen, and that in the naval arsenals at 20 million yen. If the orders taken up by private concerns are added to the above figure, it makes a grand total of 120 million yen. Besides these, there are the latest orders received from Russia for 30 million yen worth of woollen cloth and 20 million yen worth of shoes and boots to be delivered by March next year. The total proceeds for this year from the sale and manufacturer of arms and ammunition, together with those from the sale of warships, will thus come up to as much as 175 million yen.
75 YEARS AGO
Monday, April 14, 1941
Japan, Soviet Union sign neutrality treaty
An event of the highest significance for the future peace of East Asia and the world took place yesterday afternoon at Moscow with the signing of a Neutrality Pact between Japan and the Soviet Union.
By the treaty, the two nations mutually agreed to observe strict neutrality in case either is subject to attack by one or more third powers. The treaty is to be continued for five years and on expiration of the period, it will automatically be extended 5 more years in case neither of the parties signify their intention of abrogating the agreement one year beforehand.
Another important highlight was the fact that immediately after the signing, the two nations issued a joint declaration whereby Japan agreed to respect the territorial integrity of Outer Mongolia, while the Soviet Union on their part agreed to respect the inviolability of the Manchoukuo Empire. It should be noted that this commitment is a virtual recognition of the state by the Soviets.
Representing Japan at the signing was Foreign Minister Yosuke Matsuoka, while the People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Viacheslav Molotov represented the Soviet Union.
The Soviet Union eventually declared war on Japan on Aug. 8, 1945 and invaded Manchoukuo, arguably in violation of the 1941 pact, which required the giving of one year’s notice for withdrawal.
50 YEARS AGO
Friday, April 1, 1966
Metric system goes into effect nationwide
Today the metric system will be enforced in all aspects of Japanese life.
The metric system was put into effect on Jan. 1, 1959, but a period of grace was provided for its enforcement in the areas of real estate and house building up to March 31 this year.
From 1959 on, the Japanese have been using the metric system for almost all other things. A housewife today buys rice by the kilogram and soy sauce by the liter.
Japan was first exposed to the metric system in 1891 when she acceded to the International Convention on the Metric System of 1875. As of that time, however, the metric system was made legal alongside the traditional weights and measures known as the shakkan system (shaku for length and kan for weight). With the introduction in 1909 of the British yard-pound system, weights and measures came to be expressed in three different systems in Japan, much to the complication of national life.
The coexistence of these systems had no serious consequence until World War I, when the Army found some shells made to British specifications did not fit their cannons, whose calibers were measured by the centimeter.
In 1921, the weights and measures law was revised to make the metric system the only official one. But implementation of the new system was postponed due to lack of adequate preparation in 1924 and 1934. In 1938 it was postponed again because it was seen as being “foreign and, therefore, to be rejected.”
Eventually, a 1951 law provided for implementation in 1959, with a period of grace till March 1966 for land and buildings because of Japan’s unique modular system of building. Here, every house is planned according to the modules of shaku, ken and tsubo. A ken, the very basis of all other modules, is the length of the Japanese tatami and all the sliding doors. When building a house, a carpenter buys lumber which is also measured to these standard sizes to minimize waste.
In spite of the law that goes into full force today, it seems unlikely that tatami makers will alter their ways. Without shaku as units, they feel, it would be impossible to make tatami.
25 YEARS AGO
Thursday, April 25, 1991
Public asked to accept ships’ gulf mission
Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu sought public support Wednesday for the government’s decision to send minesweepers to the Persian Gulf, saying they are going for “peaceful and humanitarian” purposes.
Kaifu said in a news conference that helping secure safe passage for ships in the gulf will contribute to postwar reconstruction efforts in nations hit by the gulf crisis. At the same time, he said, Japan depends heavily on the gulf for its crude oil needs, and cooperation in the minesweeping operation will be “vital” to maintain the present livelihood of its citizens.
Four minesweepers, the Yurishima, the Hikoshima, the Awashima and the Sakushima, will sail for the gulf on Friday.
In the news conference, Kaifu defended the deployment, saying the mission was possible under Article 99 of the SDF Law.
He also stressed that the step is aimed at helping secure safe passage for Japanese and other nations’ ships in the gulf and will not violate Article 9 of the Constitution, which bans the use or threat of force as a means of resolving conflicts.
In this feature, which appears on the first Sunday of each month, we delve into The Japan Times’ 119-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.
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5