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The Forgotten Grief of Okinawa

Japanese WWII Pilot Ready for Take Off

CNN has extensive coverage of the D-Day landings of World War II today. I deeply respect the people who fought for freedom on French beaches and all the way to Germany. What those young men accomplished is incredible and does not need to be exaggerated.

Unfortunately, CNN is repeatedly describing the D-Day landings as the largest in history. This however is incorrect. Although D-Day was enormous, it was exceeded by the invasion of Okinawa on April 1, 1945.

Some 1,300 ships, among which 40 carriers, participated. On the first day, 183,000 troops landed, growing to a final tally of 548,000. In comparison, on D-Day the allies landed 150,000 troops. If you count beyond the first day, though, D-Day does loom larger. Some 1 million Allied men landed on the Normandy beaches from June 6 to July 4, 1944.

I wrote an article about the Battle of Okinawa back in 2005, which brings the epic battle in perspective:

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• Saturday June 6, 2009 • Add Comment

Keio's Man Ahead of his Time

40904-0081 - Yukichi Fukuzawa

Next time you come by a ¥10,000 bill, take a look at the face of Yukichi Fukuzawa (1835-1901) that appears on the front, for he was a most remarkable man.

In October 1858, Fukuzawa, then a 23-year-old samurai, opened a small school of Western science (known as “Dutch studies,” because the textbooks were from Holland) in Edo, present-day Tokyo. In 1868, the year of the Meiji Restoration, when the Emperor was made head of state after the overthrow of the feudal Tokugawa Shogunate, the school was named Keio Gijuku after the name Keio then given to that era. In 1918 it became Keio University, the first private university in Japan.

To mark its 150th anniversary, the school is now holding an exhibition focused on the ideas and achievements of Fukuzawa, one of the iconic intellectuals of modern Japan.

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The Japan Times • Saturday February 21, 2009 • Add Comment

Turkish Salvage Team Starts Operations in Wakayama

Ertugrul salvage divers

A Turkish salvage team has begun the second round of extensive salvage of the Turkish frigate Ertuğrul. The warship was shipwrecked in 1890 off the coast of Wakayama Prefecture, resulting in the loss of 533 sailors. The tragic event turned into the foundation of Japanese-Turkish friendship. Turkey will hold an exhibition of the recovered items as part of Japan Year events planned for 2010, the 120th anniversary of the disastrous shipwreck.

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• Friday January 30, 2009 • Add Comment

Osaka 1909 • Great Kita Fire

Great Kita Fire

This year it is 100 years ago that Osaka was devastated by a fire that raged through the Northern part of the city for a full 24 hours. At 4:20 in the morning on July 31, 1909 (Meiji 42) a fire broke out at a knit-wear factory in Osaka’s Kita-ku. In late Meiji (1868-1912), there were only two fire engines—powered by steam—for the whole city, and most of the buildings in Osaka were made of wood. This proved disastrous. As a strong north-eastern wind drove the fire from one bamboo gutter to the next, it soon went wild. Within hours, a huge area south of Osaka station was engulfed in flames.

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• Sunday January 25, 2009 • Add Comment

Ainu Fishermen

Ainu Fishermen

Four Ainu fishermen stand in log boats, two of them holding spears as if ready to catch fish. Fish was, together with venison and other game, a very important part of the Ainu diet. It was actually so important that in the many Ainu tales recalling famines, the cause is usually the absence of fish. The very Ainu word for fish, chep, is a contraction of chi-ep, which means food. “Coming from Japan,” one 19th century European observer wrote, “the first thing that strikes a traveller in the Ainu country is the odour of dried fish, which one can smell everywhere.” The primary catch was trout in summer, and salmon in autumn. Salmon was often called kamui chep, or divine fish. Other fish, like itou (イトウ, Japanese huchen) and ugui (ウグイ, Japanese dace), were also caught.

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• Tuesday December 30, 2008 • Add Comment

Yokohama 1890s • Nectarine No. 9 Brothel

Yokohama 1890s • Nectarine No. 9 Brothel

Gorgeously dressed prostitutes are standing in the windows of the Nectarine brothel in Yokohama, a world-famous house of prostitution also known as No.9 or Jimpuro (occasionally romanized as Jinpuro or Shinpuro). Until the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, Jimpuro was one of the top brothels of the city. It was originally opened in 1872 (Meiji 5) in Yokohama’s Takashima-cho. In 1882 (Meiji 15), Jimpuro moved to the less visible area of Eiraku-cho. A branch specifically for foreigners was opened at the red-light district of Kanagawa’s Nanaken-machi. The brothel was called No. 9, because this was Jimpuro’s original address in Takashima-cho. (Source: Old Photos of Japan)

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• Tuesday November 11, 2008 • Add Comment