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Sunday, June 19, 2011

JAPAN TIMES GONE BY

The national sport; State to take over electric power firms; flooding kills 235; concerns over Chernobyl accident


100 YEARS AGO
Saturday, June 19, 1911

The national sport

Today the summer wrestling season opens at the Kokugikan in Ryogoku, Tokyo. For 10 days, the capital will have the delight of seeing the national sport exhibited at its best by the country's greatest champions.

We call sumo the national sport for none other is so peculiar and native to this country. But it is more. It is a venerable sport. Though its origin is in immemorial antiquity, it has come down to us little changed in form and procedure since the 48 "hands" — rules of attack and defense — were adopted nearly 13 centuries ago in the reign of Emperor Shomu. What is more, it is a sport that brings out physical manhood in its highest grandeur, ever fresh and ennobling to the eyes.

Strangers are not infrequently inclined to find sumo insufficiently lively, and this the more so the greater the renown of the combatants. This may be perfectly natural to those who feel no thrill of excitement till they see a nose smashed, an eye blackened, lips bleeding, or the whole man knocked down senseless. But the very beauty of our sumo is the entire absence of brutality and bull-doggedness, while it nonetheless brings into full play the majesty of man's strength with delicate application of art.

If liveliness is the only object, one will have any amount of it by looking at fourth-, fifth- or tenth-rate young wrestlers going into bouts — those scampering, tearing and tumbling Jacks. But one does not expect to see that kind of exhibition involving those stately massive giants who, when they close, look like a pair of elephants in mortal combat. Every muscle of their iron bodies stands out a veritable compression of power.

We entirely agree with Count Taisuke Itagaki in thinking every encouragement should be extended to the wrestling fraternity so their noble national sport may be preserved to the delight of future generations.

75 YEARS AGO
Thursday, June 11, 1936

State set to take over electric power firms

Communications Minister Keikichi Tanomogi will propose a plan for complete State control of the electric power generating and transmitting industry, and for the establishment of a ¥1,500 million semi-governmental electric power supply company to a Cabinet meeting next month, it is held probable.

The ministry's Electric Power Industry Investigation Commission is drafting a concrete plan for State control of the industry that is expected to be presented to a Cabinet meeting on July 1.

It is believed the plan's main points are: 1. Since electric power is a daily necessity to the people and constitutes the basic motive power of all the nation's industries, the State shall control the electric power industry with a view to supplying power in abundance and at a cheap cost. 2. The State shall own and operate the electric power generating and transmitting businesses. All the facilities necessary to this business shall be constructed or offered by a special semi-governmental corporation, in which the electric power companies shall invest in kind (offering their generating and transmitting facilities). 3. In this manner, the government shall manage the power generating and transmitting business in accordance with the will of the State, while putting private capital in operation in a proper manner.

50 YEARS AGO
Friday, June 30, 1961

235 die due to rains

Some 235 persons have been reported killed, 174 are missing and 265 were injured due to the heavy rains continuing since last weekend in central and eastern Japan. In addition, 1,000 homes were destroyed and 900 were damaged. There has been a large increase from the number of casualties initially reported in Shizuoka, Kanagawa, Chiba and Ibraki prefectures after they were hit by strong rainfall yesterday. In Kanagawa Prefecture, 52 people were reported killed, six are unaccounted for and 47 were injured. Most of those people were victims of landslides.

25 YEARS AGO
Wednesday, June 4, 1986

Chernobyl rekindles nuclear skepticism

More questions than answers are cropping up in the wake of the Chernobyl nuclear accident. In the weeks since the accident on April 26, skepticism over the so-called inherent safety features of nuclear plants has abounded — and rightfully so.

The statement, in congressional testimony by a member of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, that an accident with similar consequences could occur in America within the next two decades gives reason to question the safety of reactors in Japan, which are based on General Electric's boiling-water reactor and Westinghouse's pressurized-water reactor — the same types as those in use in the United States.

But more troubling than faulty technology is the flawed human element in nuclear problems, as the Soviet powers-that-be displayed in detail in their greatly delayed notification to neighbors about the disaster. Might the needless delays shed light on priorities within the socialist system — priorities of the regime's secrecy rather than on protection of human life?

Despite the now-proven fatal flaw in the Chernobyl-type reactor design, the Soviets have indicated that they have no plans to alter the design. What does this tell us about their society's approach to the discipline of failure analysis?

While the death toll of the Chernobyl accident continues to rise, we should send our condolences to the Soviets. The Soviet government has stated that it will press ahead with plans to boost the nation's nuclear capacity, while investigating safety issues. We fear that the eagerness with which they appear to want to proceed along a similar course as the one leading to Chernobyl may lead to additional tragedies.

In this feature, which appears in Timeout on the third Sunday of each month, we delve into The Japan Times' 115-year-old archive to present a selection of stories from the past. Stories may be edited for brevity. This month's feature was compiled with the assistance of Reimi Dasdeb.


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