National / History | JAPAN TIMES GONE BY

Steamer missing; Japan declares war on U.S., British Empire; woman wins court case for equality of sexes; anger grows over bullet train noise

by Elliott Samuels

Staff Writer

100 YEARS AGO
Wednesday, Dec. 13, 1916

Steamer goes missing en route to Calcutta

It is feared that the steamer Kaiho Maru, which left Kobe on Nov. 3 for Calcutta with a cargo of 3,500 tons consisting mainly of matches and cotton goods, has met with disaster, as while she was expected to reach Calcutta on Nov. 29, no news has been heard of her.

The fear is expressed in some quarters that she might have been sunk by a German submarine, but it is improbable that enemy submarines are in Indian or Oriental waters, and the Nippon Yusen Kaisha officials are led to believe that she met with disaster due to other causes.


75 YEARS AGO
Tuesday, Dec. 8, 1941

Japan declares war on U.S., British Empire

We hereby declare War on the United States of America and the British Empire. The men and officers of Our Army and Navy shall do their utmost in prosecuting the war. Our public servants of various departments shall perform faithfully and diligently their respective duties; the entire nation with a united will shall mobilize their total strength so that nothing will miscarry in the attainment of Our war aims.

To ensure the stability of East Asia and to contribute to world peace is the far-sighted policy which was formulated by Our Great Illustrious Imperial Grandsire [Emperor Meiji] and Our Great Imperial Sire succeeding Him [Emperor Taisho], and which We lay constantly to heart. To cultivate friendship among nations and to enjoy prosperity in common with all nations, has always been the guiding principle of Our Empire’s foreign policy. It has been truly unavoidable and far from Our wishes that Our Empire has been brought to cross swords with America and Britain. More than four years have passed since China, failing to comprehend the true intentions of Our Empire, and recklessly courting trouble, disturbed the peace of East Asia and compelled Our Empire to take up arms. Although there has been reestablished the National Government of China, with which Japan had effected neighborly intercourse and cooperation, the regime which has survived in Chungking, relying upon American and British protection, still continues its fratricidal opposition. Eager for the realization of their inordinate ambition to dominate the Orient, both America and Britain, giving support to the Chungking regime, have aggravated the disturbances in East Asia. Moreover these two Powers, inducing other countries to follow suit, increased military preparations on all sides of Our Empire to challenge Us. They have obstructed by every means Our peaceful commerce and finally resorted to a direct severance of economic relations, menacing gravely the existence of Our Empire. Patiently have We waited and long have We endured, in the hope that Our government might retrieve the situation in peace. But Our adversaries, showing not the least spirit of conciliation, have unduly delayed a settlement; and in the meantime they have intensified the economic and political pressure to compel thereby Our Empire to submission. This trend of affairs, would, if left unchecked, not only nullify Our Empire’s efforts of many years for the sake of the stabilization of East Asia, but also endanger the very existence of Our nation. The situation being such as it is, Our Empire, for its existence and self-defense has no other recourse but to appeal to arms and to crush every obstacle in its path.

The hallowed spirits of Our Imperial Ancestors guarding Us from above, We rely upon the loyalty and courage of Our subjects in Our confident expectation that the task bequeathed by Our forefathers will be carried forward and that the sources of evil will be speedily eradicated and an enduring peace immutably established in East Asia, preserving thereby the glory of Our Empire.

This declaration was released by the Board of Information on Dec. 8, 1941.


50 YEARS AGO
Wednesday, Dec. 21, 1966

Woman wins court case for equality of sexes

A 26-year-old woman Tuesday won a two-year-nine-month legal battle at the Tokyo District Court against Sumitomo Cement Co. of Tokyo to annul as unconstitutional her mandatory dismissal by the company in 1963 under its internal regulations that all its female workers must quit if they get married.

This was the first time in Japan that a law court verdict invalidated such a business rule as incompatible with the Japanese constitutional guarantee of equality of sexes. The company was ordered to pay Setsuko Suzuki of Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, ¥732,000 in unpaid wages since her dismissal and also to start paying her ¥22,875 in monthly wages by reinstating her to her former job as an office clerk at one of the company’s factories.


25 YEARS AGO
Tuesday, Dec. 17, 1991

Nagoya citizens angry over bullet train noise

Last night, Yusuke Nakano, 61, couldn’t sleep until after 11:44, when the last shinkansen train passed his house. This morning, the first bullet train woke him at 6:23.

Nakano has been losing sleep since 1964, when the shinkansen line was built by his house. He lives 18 meters from the elevated line, 6 km east of Nagoya Station. At peak times, the trains pass every two minutes, traveling at maximum speeds of 220 kph.

Passing trains cause noise levels inside Nakano’s house to reach 78 phons. At 65 decibels, the house begins to shake. A noise level of 78 phons is equivalent to being inside a subway train at its noisiest.

In 1974, Nagoya-based Shinkansen Pollution Justice Group sued Japan Railways for compensation from noise pollution and vibration caused by the bullet trains. In 1986, the group won their case against JR and was awarded ¥480 million.

During the last 10 years of the trial, JR spent an estimated ¥10 million to sound-proof 7 km of shinkansen track in Nagoya. The carrier was forced to do this by a 1976 government directive that set bullet train noise levels at 70 phons for urban areas and 74 phons for rural areas.

“We are only asking one thing of JR — that it abides by the government directive,” Nakano says. “As soon as they do that, there will be no reason for our group to exist.”

In this feature, which appears on the first Sunday of each month, we delve into The Japan Times’ archive to present a selection of stories from the past. This month’s edition was collated with the assistance of Sierra Vaughn. The archive is available in digital format. For more details, see jtimes.jp/de.