On Oct. 26, 1918, just over two weeks before the end of World War I, readers of The Japan Advertiser, as The Japan Times was named at the time, woke up to the headline "Thousands Dying From Influenza Throughout the World," and an accompanying article detailing the havoc it was wreaking in Japan.

"There is hardly a school in Tokyo but from which dozens or scores of students and teachers are absent, and it is spreading to offices and factories. The disease has become known as the 'Spanish influenza,'" the report, a small article on page four, said.

That time period marked the arrival in Japan of a global pandemic that would claim the lives of 20 million to 50 million people worldwide between 1918 and 1920. The figures vary wildly due to poor or incomplete records, but the lower one nearly equals modern estimates of the number of people who perished in World War I, which began in 1914.