As we look back, the world held so much promise in the year 2000 – at least once we realized Y2K was a bunch of malarkey. Less than 7% of the world was using the internet. It was the first year DVD sales outpaced VHS, and the Nokia 3310 was the record-selling mobile phone. Meanwhile Coldplay released their debut album and Beyonce was still a member of Destiny’s Child. But what was happening in Tokyo at the turn of the 21st century? We take a look back at some of the top stories shared in Tokyo Weekender 20 years ago.
Ghosn but not Forgotten
None other than former Nissan CEO turned international fugitive Carlos Ghosn was already making headlines one year after taking over the Yokohama-based car company that was facing bankruptcy in 1999. Before the native Brazilian was named one of the 10 most powerful people in business for turning Nissan around and before he was arrested at Haneda Airport for allegedly underreporting earnings, Ghosn spoke at the Tokyo Press Club in December 2000.
“Ghosn came in and he grabbed Nissan by the balls,” writes TW’s Henry Scott-Stokes. “All of a sudden it is making a profit, something few had imagined. But Ghosn, a stocky, beetle-browed chap, warned the other night that his company has taken just ‘a first step’ back towards prosperity. There is work to be done to restore its glory to a company that he hailed as quite ‘brilliant’ in terms of its quality. So Nissan can be a world-beater again? I believe so, with this Pele in charge.”
Tokyo Weekender Celebrates 30th Anniversary 20 Years Ago
As Tokyo Weekender prepares to celebrate its 50th anniversary this year, in 2000 TW co-founder Corky Alexander reminisced about 30 years of labor – which he approximates produced about 1,500 editions of “our plucky little tabloid.” He gave mention to the number of contributors over the years, including society editor Bill Hersey, who started in 1972 with a column called Shopping Bag in which he shared the greatest bargains of the week at Tokyo’s boutiques. There was movie writer Jim Bailey, who wrote for TW for a quarter-century, sports editor Wayne Graczyk, columnist Bob Collins who wrote the fictional serial Max Danger and co-founder Sue Scully, who shared duties with Alexander for four years before leaving for more lucrative endeavors. “Eccentrics are verily an important, though fading, segment of our profession,” writes Alexander. “We’ve had our fair share, for sure.”
‘Outback: great new addition to Tokyo’s restaurant scene’
Native Texan Alexander raved about the steakhouse chain opening its inaugural location in Japan in the basesemnt of Takanawa Keikyu Hotel. “I and other ink-stained wretches were served samplings of [appetizers] – and lots of Foster’s,” writes Alexander. “Maybe it’s my Texas outback upbringing, but each of the dishes truly hits the spot.” Bloomin’ onions and kookaburra wings were of course on the menu, but based on the mouthwatering treats listed by Alexander, most of the menu has changed in the past 20 years. What hasn’t changed, surprisingly, are the prices. In fact, the 20-ounce Porterhouse cost ¥3,980 – more expensive than any of the signature steaks currently listed on Outback’s dinner menu.
Allied Prisoners of War Sue Japan for Compensation
After a lawsuit forced German companies found to have supported Nazis during World War II to pay a $5.2 billion settlement, lawyers turned their eyes on Japan. In late 1999, American and Filipino survivors of the Bataan Death March filed a joint suit against Japanese industrial giants Mitsui, Mitsubishi Corp. and Nippon Steel Corp. for slave labor. In February 2000, nearly 3,000 Australian former prisoners of war joined a lawsuit against Japanese mining, construction and manufacturing companies for the same offense.
According to the article, one Father Hildebrand Yaiser, a Benedictine monk who was allowed to tour POW camps in Yokohama, reported that the prisoners were “emaciated, dirty and neglected.” Upon speaking to a British brigadier, Yaiser writes, “He told me his men were dying en masse, like flies.” The death rate for POWs in Japan ranged between 32 and 34 percent. In comparison, American POWs in Germany had a death rate of 4 percent. However, according to the Japanese, American and British governments, their position was that reparations claims against Japan were waived in the San Francisco Treaty.
The Best Movies of 2000
Alexander writes that Gladiator is an “action-filled, high-tech production that unquestionably cost a whole lot of money,” and that Russell Crowe is “the man of the movie future.” He also calls Mission: Impossible II a money-making machine, and as long as you can go along with the ridiculous plotting you’ll have a wonderful time at the movies. In Reindeer Games, he calls a young Ben Affleck likable but too Ivy League and immature to play a crook.
With clearly thing for action movies, Corky praises Jet Li for his kung fu performance in Romeo Must Die, calling tragically deceased Aaliyah a delight in her break-through role. Finally delving into a dramatic feature, Alexander says American Beauty restores his faith in award shows. He calls the film “a fantastic motion picture experience, highly recommended by me despite the vaguely pedophilic aura.”