Japan Yesterday

Commodore Matthew C. Perry visits Shuri Castle
JAPAN YESTERDAY

The story of Commodore Matthew C. Perry’s trip to Shuri Castle in 1853

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At 1:30 p.m. on Nov. 24, 1852, 58-year-old Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry, aboard the coal-powered steam warship Mississippi, began his journey to Japan. With Perry were 382 other men, most of whom were experienced sailors able to endure a roughly  12,000-kilometer (8,000-mile) trip starting in Norfolk, Virginia. Other men —… Read

JAPAN YESTERDAY

Muhammad Ali fights Antonio Inoki at the Nippon Budokan in 1976

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On June 26, 1976, the 14,500 ticket holders seated in the Nippon Budokan arena in Tokyo were about to become profoundly disappointed. For those who’d bought ringside seats for ¥300,000 at the time (about U.S.$1,000—or $4,500 in today’s dollars) and those in the nosebleed sections who’d forked over $17 to… Read

JAPAN YESTERDAY

Eleanor Roosevelt visits a burakumin village and Emperor Hirohito in 1953

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If you walked the streets of Tokyo in June 1953, you would have witnessed a city being pulled in three different directions. It had been a little less than eight years since the Japanese surrendered, ending World War II, and the physical and emotional scars were still visible. Despite the… Read

JAPAN YESTERDAY

Charles and Anne Lindbergh fly 7,000 miles to Japan in 1931

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The first time that famed aviator Charles Lindbergh (1902-1974) ever sat inside an airplane was April 1922. Five years later—after countless hours in the cockpit as a stunt pilot, daredevil and airman for the United States Postal Service—Lindbergh made history, becoming the first man to complete a transatlantic flight between… Read

JAPAN YESTERDAY

A young Douglas MacArthur visits Japan in 1905

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In mid-1945, General Douglas A MacArthur (1880-1964) stood with a briefing officer near a large map of Japan. Described by biographer William Manchester as a “planning conference for the invasion of Honshu,” the two men were debating the conditions of various beaches around the island. The briefing officer had been… Read

JAPAN YESTERDAY

Frank Lloyd Wright designs Japan’s Imperial Hotel during a mid-life crisis

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If Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959) were to have constructed a building that symbolized his life, it would have most likely been haunted by the women he had loved. First, there was Anna, his mother. When Wright’s parents divorced when he was 17, he had by then been pulled toward Anna’s… Read

JAPAN YESTERDAY

Alexander Graham Bell falls asleep meeting Emperor Meiji

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On Aug. 28, 1898, Alexander Graham Bell sat down at a hotel in Boston to write to his father. It was two weeks before he, his hearing-impaired wife Mabel, their two daughters and their chauffeur, an African American named Charles F. Thompson, would begin making their way to Japan. Pre-Wright… Read

JAPAN YESTERDAY

J Robert Oppenheimer, father of the atomic bomb, visits postwar Japan

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At a press conference in Tokyo on Sept 5, 1960, physicist and former Manhattan Project director J. Robert Oppenheimer was surrounded by a group of reporters from Japanese newspapers. Blinding camera lights and popping noises from photographers nearly ended the interview before it started. “This country is famous for its… Read

JAPAN YESTERDAY

Russia’s Nicholas II is scarred for life in 1891 Japan

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It all started on April 27, 1891, when Tsesarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich II — heir to the Russian throne then held by his father, Alexander III — stepped onto the docks at Nagasaki Bay. The mustachioed 22-year-old prince wanted to take in Japanese culture before heading to Vladivostok to acknowledge the… Read

JAPAN YESTERDAY

John Hersey visits the ruins of Hiroshima in 1946

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On May 21, 1946, 31-year-old journalist John Hersey received security clearance to travel from Shanghai to Hiroshima. It had been eight and a half months since the U.S. dropped the world's first atomic bomb used in warfare over the city, immediately killing an estimated 66,000 people. After the American military… Read

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