100 YEARS AGO
Sunday, April 10, 1921
All Japan is breaking into cherry blossoms now
As each dawn breaks, thousands more of the cherry tree buds of Japan break into bloom to add to the pink clouds that are enfolding the Empire this month and that give to even the dingiest of Tokyo narrow streets the poetry of spring. Along the banks of the moat between the British Embassy and the Imperial Palace there is a tunnel of the pink blossoms mingled with willow leaves; lining the sweeping drives and on the plateau at Ueno Park hundreds of hana kenbutsunin — flower viewers — are strolling about or sipping the essential sake; on the upper stretches of the Sumidagawa the light tinted blossoms are reflected in the clear water that flows toward Tokyo Bay.
The city of Tokyo has nearly 90,000 cherry trees this year, many of which are already in bloom, while the rest are expected to be in full blossom before the week is gone. There are 16 “beautiful spots” in the city, the most famous of which are near the British Embassy and Hanzomon and at Ueno Park. Kudan, Hibiya Park, Mukojima, along the Edogawa and Shiba Park are some of the others.
75 YEARS AGO
Thursday, April 11, 1946
Women of Japan make first visit to polls
By Tsugi Shiraishi
Wednesday was a red-letter day for me. With a thrill and also a feeling of antipathy, I left home early to go to the polls. A little before 9 a.m. I arrived at the former military commissariat school at Meguro, Tokyo, where the third polling station of the second constituency was temporarily set up. Already men and women, old and young were seen going up and coming down the slope leading to the gate of the school. In front of the gate cherry blossoms were in full bloom.
I expected to find American soldiers at the gate as the stationing of American guards was previously announced in newspapers, but there was no sign of them — no guards, at all, Japanese or American.
Going through the gate, I found signs here and there giving directions on how to reach the polling place. The ground was clean and tidy, with nothing except delicate petals of cherry blossoms.
At the entrance of the polling place, I looked around for the names of candidates who are contesting seats in the second constituency, but being unable to find any I was afraid that some might make little mistakes resulting in the voiding their ballots.
As soon as I entered the polling place, I showed the man sitting nearest to the entrance, the entrance ticket bearing my name and number which I had received previously. The ticket was immediately checked against the file of voters’ names. There were six men sitting in a line, who were to check each voter. Then, I took the card to the next table where four men were sitting. There I was given a ballot in exchange for the entrance ticket.
Ready to vote, I looked around. In front of and behind me I saw many other voters including women carrying babies on their backs or leading little children by their hands.
The third polling place apparently did not set up a nursery as was suggested in the paper. There were also women wearing aprons or in mompei (Japanese slacks) but not a single well-dressed woman was visible. The time might have been too early for women of the leisured class. However, finding women who looked like wives of shopkeepers and wage earners, I thought that women absentees would not be so great as anticipated. Also students in uniforms, men in overalls and young couples were seen among the voters.
There were 15 individual booths in a line, each provided with a pencil and the last booth was set aside for Braille writing. Opening the ballot which was folded into three, I found three columns in which I should fill in three candidates’ names. After filling in the ballot, I folded and dropped it in a wooden box which was 4 feet high, 3 feet long and about 2 feet wide. In front of the box sat several supervisors who were to watch so that nothing illegal would occur. Sitting beside the supervisors there were one boy and one girl who evidently handled business matters or ran errands.
By the time I finished voting, there were more people coming in succession, men and women approximately in equal numbers. When I came out of the polling place, I saw many people going into the building which was marked “inquiry office.” I took a peek there and saw some of them complaining that they had not received the entrance tickets and others making apologies for having lost their tickets. The men at the office were very kind and polite, which is rather unusual in Japan for government offices, and were checking the file of voter’s names, speedily and thoroughly. When names were found in the file, they were given entrance tickets.
Both inside and outside of the polling place there was no chattering even among those who looked like acquaintances. Everybody looked serious and important evidently realizing that he was participating in an epoch-making election. It was a little before 10 a.m. when I left the place, and saw more voters coming in and going out.
50 YEARS AGO
Sunday, April 18, 1971
Aliens to be taught better Japanese
Foreign students were promised better education in the Japanese language to assist them in their studies here when Education Minister Michita Sakata spoke to some of them at a reception Saturday.
Sakata made the pledge at a friendship party he held for foreign students in Japan at the plush Chinzanso Garden Restaurant.
About 240 students studying at universities in and around Tokyo were present.
The minister stressed the importance of “fostering human assets” in an age of international cooperation and assured his guests that he would strive to develop cultural interchanges with developing countries.
Sakata said the 1970s was a decade of international cooperation in not only economic development but cultural interchanges.
According to a Ministry of Education survey, 4,100 students are studying in Japan, 80% of whom are from Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines and other developing nations in Southeast Asia. The Middle and Near East are also represented.
Twelve thousand such foreign students have studied at Japanese colleges since World War II.
25 YEARS AGO
Thursday, April 25, 1996
Aum leader Asahara refuses to enter plea
Aum Shinrikyo founder and leader Shoko Asahara refused to enter a plea Wednesday for a series of deadly crimes, including the Tokyo subway sarin attack, as the Tokyo District Court opened hearings on what has been dubbed the trial of the century.
The two-day court session, which concludes today, is focusing on the killing of Aum follower Kotaro Ochida in January 1994, illegal production of an anesthetic from late 1994 to early 1995, and the Tokyo sarin attack on March 20, 1995, that according to the indictment left 11 people confirmed dead and 3,796 injured. These three cases are among 17 for which he has been indicted. The remaining cases will be handled later.
Asahara, 41, told the court that all of his past and present actions were intended to “help bring perfect joy” and “remove pain” from his fellow people.
“I shared and praised the perfect freedom, perfect joy and happiness that appear in those who practice the supreme truth,” Asahara said, expressing his beliefs in a five-minute speech instead of entering a plea. “That is all I can say at the moment.”
The intense public interest in the trial drew more than 12,000 people hoping to win by lottery one of 48 gallery seats open to the public. Security was extremely tight.
Asahara is the last key Aum figure to go on trial, and many of his one-time disciples in their trials have branded him the mastermind of Aum’s alleged crimes.
He is being defended by a 12-member, court appointed team. A ruling could take 10 years or more, and if convicted he would most likely face the death penalty.
Because of the case’s complexity, it is being heard by a panel of four judges instead of the usual three for a criminal trial.
When asked to confirm his real name as Chizuo Matsumoto, Asahara responded, “I abandoned that name.”
Compiled by Tadasu Takahashi. In this feature, we delve into The Japan Times’ 125-year archive to present a selection of stories from the past. The Japan Times’ archive is now available in digital format. For more details, see jtimes.jp/de.
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