National / History | JAPAN TIMES GONE BY

Residents want park where 47 ronin buried; man passes bar exam after 17 failures; birth rate drops due to superstition; USS Independence arrives

by Elliott Samuels

Staff Writer

Friday, Sept. 29, 1916

Residents want park where 47 ‘ronin’ buried

Residents in Shiba are negotiating with the city authorities for the establishment of a park around Sengakuji, where the remains of the 47 ronin (masterless samurai) are buried. It is reported that the city is willing to support the plan, but the priest of the temple has not yet agreed to sell the temple and compound to the city.

Sengakuji is one of the most famous spots in Tokyo, and thousands of people from the country as well as foreign lands visit the temple, but the temple itself and the century-old tombs of the 47 ronin have begun to suffer from the effects of rain and wind, and the scanty revenue of the temple is not sufficient to keep the temple and tombs in proper repair.

It is the intention of the residents to establish a large park, with the temple in the center. The leading men in Shiba believe that if the temple is left in its present condition, it will be ruined in a few years, and immediate repairs are necessary to preserve the temple and tombs against the ravages of time.

Thursday, Sept. 25, 1941

Man passes bar exams after multiple failures

Among the persons who passed the 1941 bar examinations as announced by the Justice Ministry on Sunday was Hideo Watanabe, 44-year-old guard of the Fuji Film Co., Kyobashi Ward. Lawyer Watanabe won the crown after 17 consecutive failures.

His hair turned gray, deep lines appeared in his forehead and his eyesight weakened greatly because of constant reading of difficult law books during the past 18 years since 1923 when he first sat in the bar examinations here. But nothing could stop him.

“I have to pass the examinations. Yes, I must,” he said to himself when he came up to Tokyo from his hometown in Chiba Prefecture early this year. He knew that he could never become a lawyer if he should fail the examinations this year, for this was the last year he could take examinations under the Special Lawyer’s Qualifications Examination System that was instituted in Japan in 1923 in order to give chances to those who have no regular schooling like Mr. Watanabe.

He did not intend to become a lawyer at first, however. In 1915, Mr. Watanabe entered the Army Preparatory School at Nagoya, but had to leave the school on account of a protracted illness several months before his graduation. He turned to helping his father run a sardine cannery in Hanomachi his hometown.

The ambition to become a learned man, which never died out in him even after his departure from the Army Preparatory School, burned up again when his father Kinzaemon, who was once an unlicensed lawyer in the first years of the Meiji Era, advised him to take special qualifying examinations for lawyer in 1923.

Firmly resolved to pass the examinations by all means, he again came up to Tokyo from Chiba Prefecture early this year and while working as guard in the Fuji Film Co., studied law books 24 hours a day.

“I refrained from drinking and smoking. I quit playing go and Japanese chess steel myself for the examinations. I am happy that I have achieved my purpose at last.”

Friday, Sept. 16, 1966

Birth rate plummets due to superstition

The birth rate in Japan went down by as much as 27 percent this year because of the superstition that girls born this year are “undesirable.”

This was revealed by a survey completed recently by the Health and Welfare Ministry on the birth rate for the first six months of this year.

The year 1966 in Japan is a year of hinoeuma, according to the sexagenary cycle. Hinoe means “the elder brother of fire” (hinoto is the younger version) and uma is the horse in the zodiacal cycle.

About 200 years ago, the popular belief developed that a woman born in this year is of a “fiery character” and that she “devours her husband.”

When a hinoeuma year came around last — in 1906 — a drop in birth rate was noted. But this year, it is likely to far surpass 1906’s. In 1906, altogether 1,394,295 births were reported, which meant a drop of 58,475 from the preceding year.

During the first six months of 1966, altogether 658,456 births were registered, as compared with 955,974 of the same period of last year. This means a decrease 247,518 or by 27 percent compared with the same period last year.

It is estimated that the total births in 1966 may be fewer than last year by from 500,000 to 600,000.

One question may be whether the hinoeuma superstition will be found still very much alive when the hinoeuma year comes around next time in the year 2026.

Thursday, Sept. 12, 1991

USS Independence arrives in Yokosuka

The USS Independence arrived at Yokosuka, its new homeport, Wednesday morning.

The aircraft carrier will replace the USS Midway, which will shortly be decommissioned. Citizens’ groups opposed to the deployment of the Independence staged rallies and protests from boats in the harbor.

The 80,643-ton ship commissioned in 1959 and is able to carry more aircraft than the Midway.

The 67,000-ton Midway left Yokosuka in early August after 18 years of service in Japan.

The Independence, which now becomes the only U.S. carrier based outside of the United States, participated in the Vietnam War and was deployed to the Persian Gulf during the gulf crisis.

Because the carrier, like the Midway, is capable of carrying nuclear weapons, the question of whether it is actually so armed has already been raised.

In this feature, which appears on the first Sunday of each month, we delve into The Japan Times’ 118-year archive to present a selection of stories from the past. This month’s edition was collated with the assistance of Andrew Field. The Japan Times’ entire archive is now available to purchase in digital format. For more details, see

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