The Japan Times, 1966


The above map is from Page 1 of The Japan Times of May 5, 1966. (Click it to enlarge it.) The lead headline that day: "Ramos Predicts End/To Indonesia-Malaysia/Confrontation Issue". Other top headlines: "Japan Ready/To Mediate/Malaysia/Dispute" and "Ho Chi Minh Trail/Hit Again by B52s".

The two photos below are from The Japan Times Monogatari, which was published shortly after the newspaper moved from "Shimbun Alley", behind the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo, to its new, purpose-built premises near Tamachi Station. The top photo shows the editorial department, with the copy editors' desk in the foreground. The bottom photo shows the linotype operators, who were on the same floor.

Copy editors on the day shift in 1966 were, from left:

TREVOR LORING (partly obscured), who moved to The Daily Yomiuri in 1972. He came to Japan from New Zealand, where he had lived for the stipulated two years after immigrating from England under the "assisted passage" scheme. (I went the other way, leaving Japan in 1972 for an editing job at the Manawatu Standard in Palmerston North.) Trevor is still living in Japan.

"SEKI" SEKIGUCHI. I don't think I was ever aware of his first name, as he was known to everyone as "Seki". He later distinguished himself by walking out, within seconds of being told that someone else would be taking over his job as editor of the business news pages. A request that he reconsider his stunning snap decision was brushed aside. He cleared his desk, and was gone. An interesting character. I used to call him "Mr Ah So De Gozaimasu", because he was always excessively polite.

"MASA" MORIOKA. I'm not sure what "Masa" was short for, though I could hazard a few guesses. Masa was a nisei from Maui, who had served in the US Air Force. I recall that he was very keen on motorbikes.

JOHN YAMANAKA, sitting in "the slot" — the position of the news editor. John was born and educated in England, and came to Japan in 1941. His wartime "career" in the Imperial Navy took him to Singapore, where he was a radio operator. He was, I believe, the first person in Singapore to hear that Japan had accepted the Potsdam Declaration, and that the war was over. "Since no one knew what I was listening to, when I had my earphones on, I used to listen to the British comedy show Itma," he told me. It was during one of these shows that listeners were repeatedly advised to "stand by for an important announcement". And then, after what must have been an agonizing delay, the momentous news came through. I once suggested he write a book about his wartime experiences, which were unique. His reply: "I'm not going to dredge up all that." He died in Tokyo in September 2011.

GEORGE HARADA (half in the picture). George was a quiet, enigmatic character. He had grown up in the States, but almost never mentioned his past. He acted as news editor when John was away.


The non-editor: Kazushige Hirasawa


I call Hirasawa a "non-editor" because he never did anything that even remotely resembled editing. In fact, he almost never came to the editorial office. I recall seeing him only once — when he went from desk to desk, early one January, to wish everyone a happy new year. He had, I believe, been Japanese consul in New York before the outbreak of war. And after his exacting stint as "editor" of The Japan Times, he became a personal aide to former prime minister Takeo Miki. He was typical of those Japanese "executives" who use their notional job, for which they are highly paid, as a platform on which to posture, as they seek opportunities to pursue other ambitions.

Hirasawa, who had nothing intelligent to say about anything, was nevertheless in demand as a speaker at international conferences, where the appetite for right-wing rhetoric is apparently insatiable. Here is a sample of his inane waffle at the 20th Annual Conference of the World Affairs Council of Northern California on May 7, 1966 (as reported in The Japan Times of May 11, 1966): "The criticism is that the U.S. involvement in the Vietnam war overtaxes American capabilities. This criticism seems to be based on the feeling that Asia will after all go its own way. This may be my misgivings that have no justification. I hope I am wrong. But whether this is the case or not can be determined by the outcome of the U.S. policy in Vietnam. For this reason, I hope that the U.S. will not fail in its policy toward Vietnam. It's got to succeed."

A few paragraphs later, he says: "I believe that a comparatively few Japanese understand that one of the important purposes for which the U.S. is fighting in Vietnam is, besides her living up to her commitments, to prevent world war III."

Well, the Vietnam war, which was based on lies and distortions, cost 58,000 American lives, an estimated 3 million Vietnamese lives, and left much of Vietnam poisoned by dioxins. The Americans eventually lost, and the sky didn't collapse. There was no world war III.