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Sunday, Dec. 21, 2008

JAPAN TIMES GONE BY

Burning temples, busted black marketeers, golf boom and discriminatory bookshop


100 YEARS AGO

Ochi Kochi

Friday, Dec. 25, 1908

BUSINESS — In Nogotamura Toyotamagori fires have repeatedly occurred of late, the result being that many people of the district will often visit several temples of the neighbourhood to request the exemption of their property from fire. The police exerted their utmost to unravel the mysterious cause of the fires, and a few days ago caught a girl of about 16 years in the act of setting fire to a house in the place. On strict inquiry she was forced to confess that she was responsible for all the outbreaks in the neighbourhood but that she was acting upon the instruction of one named Kamesaburo Arai, a man in some way connected with the celebrated Fudo temple at Narita. Arai was arrested at once and confessed that since if fire frequently takes place the talismans issued from the temple would sell well and his commissions are correspondingly good, he thought of the capital idea of employing the girl to set fire to so much a night in order to increase his custom and income.

50 YEARS AGO

Two Brothers Nabbed for Black Market

Thursday, Dec. 18, 1958

Two Tokyo brothers who are reported to have reaped a fortune of ¥4 million in one year dealing in black-market whisky and cigarettes were arrested yesterday by Harajuku police [in Tokyo].

The brothers are Hajime and Moteji Tsumori of Sendagaya. Police confiscated 2,100 packs of foreign cigarettes, 140 bottles of foreign whisky and a large amount of coffee, chewing gum and chocolate of foreign make at their home.

The brothers opened a shop in front of Shinjuku Station last year and stocked it with cigarettes and whisky purchased from U.S. servicemen as well as the black market at Okachimachi.

They sold the black-market goods to about 50 high-class bars and cabarets in the Shinjuku area and reportedly made a profit of ¥1 million in one year.

25 YEARS AGO

Aoki Victory Boosts Japan Golf

Tuesday, Dec. 27, 1983

When Isao Aoki sank a miraculous 129-meter shot on the final hole to capture the Hawaiian Open earlier this year, millions of Japanese golf enthusiasts watched in rapturous disbelief. Aoki's spectacular pitch — one of the greatest shots in tournament history — made him the first Japanese man to win an event in the United States.

"It is the Japanese people's dream that I win in America," Aoki had said earlier. The dream had come true and it seemed at that moment the postwar boom of golf in Japan had reached its shining zenith.

Spurred on by a healthy economy and an increasing passion for leisure, Japanese interest in the game has never been keener. One estimate puts the numbers of golfers in Japan at 12 million, most of whom are male salaried workers. This means that approximately one out of every 10 Japanese golfs compared to one out of 75 in Great Britain where the game was invented.

It hardly seems possible. In a country smaller than California, where more than 80 percent of the land is mountainous, the Japanese have somehow found room for more than a thousand golf courses (vs. 12,000 in the U.S.).

The extent to which golf pervades daily life in Japan is astounding.

Every Sunday, for instance, golf devotees are bombarded with six or seven television programs, half of them instruction shows hosted by club professionals or popular touring pros.

In the print media, bookstores carry dozens of how-to manuals, three 200-page weekly magazines, as many as five monthlies and several more quarterly publications all dealing with the sport.

Not content to sit back and watch, Japanese amateurs work hard at their games. Would-be Aokis and Tom Watsons can be seen practicing clubless swings in streets outside their homes, in elevators and on train platforms.

For more realistic conditions they go to one of the more than 700 practice ranges around the country, easily spotted by the immense green nets that enclose the grounds.

The ultimate goal, of course, is getting on the golf links. However, because of the cost and travel time of 1 1/2 hours, salarymen are typically tsukiichi or once-a-month golfers.

Membership fees in Tokyo-area country clubs range from ¥500,000 to a staggering ¥8O million tag to enter the elite Koganei Country Club.

Golf first arrived in Japan during the Meiji Period around 1910 and as much as any Western import, the Japanese considered this refined, utterly civilized game a symbol of modernization.

By the beginning of World War II, 65 golf courses had sprung up across the country. The advent of war and the politics of fascism, however, brought an aversion to things Western and the military government duly denounced and banned the game.

In the two decades after the war golf more than recovered as it began to take a strong hold on the rapidly rising middle class.

As an overall model Japan naturally looked to the United States. Equipment and golf wear were almost exclusively imported from the U.S.

25 YEARS AGO

Kinokuniya Apologizes To Women

Thursday, Dec. 1, 1983

Kinokuniya Co., a major book dealer-publisher of Tokyo, has apologized for what is claimed to be discriminative labor policy in hiring women employees, it was learned Wednesday.

Kinokuniya, which operates a chain of more than 20 book stores across the country, circulated a confidential in-house document banning the hire of ill-looking ("busu"), small ("chibi"), bumpkins ("kappe") or bespectacled women.

In this feature, which appears in TIMEOUT on the third Sunday of each month along with our regular Week 3 stories, we delve into The Japan Times' 112-year archive to present a selection of stories from the past. Stories may be edited for brevity.


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