I did too when I saw it in one of the old Nippon Times newspapers I was recently given by my bud Vinnie.
Dated Thursday, October 20, 1955 in the bottom right corner of the front page of the newspaper is an article that shocked me - shocked me because I had previously thought that Japan's environmental record was basically a whole lotta hot smoke.
I'm re-presenting some of the old news within Japan just to give you all a bit of flavor of why Japan is the way it is today. I hope you enjoy it. This story does contain a huge error in the second paragraph... I'll present the correct version in (brackets).
But what the hell is with making black smoke illegal? Let's find out. I have only glanced at the first couple of paragraphs myself. I knew I had to present this article after I read about the swans:
Black Smoke Made Illegal
Only Grey Shades OKTokyo is due for some smoke relief.
Beginning December 1 antismoke regulations set up by the Metropolitan Government and approved last week by the Metropolitan Government and approved last week by the Metropolitan Assembly are to be enforced. (Beginning December 1, anti-smoke regulations set up by the Metropolitan Government and approved last week by the Metropolitan Assembly are to be enforced.)
This will be in time, the city officials hope, to forestall the usual wintertime clouds emitted by heating equipment, which in the past have been dark enough to turn the white swans in the Palace moat to grey.
City health authorities are also hopeful that the new regulations will have a salutory effect on the health of the citizens. They have long been pushing for action to cut the dirt and grime content of the air.
Under the regulations, the city is to be divided into two sections, A and B. Commercial centers and residential areas of Chiyoda, Chuo and Minato wards are in A section, where the minimum allowable smoke will be lower than in B section, which takes the rest of the city.
The standards are expressed according to what is known as the Lingerman smoke concentration formula. There are six degrees in this 'smoke ruler," which are defined like this:
5--Black, as seen from a distance of 130 to 200 meters, and completely opaque.
4--Black, but admitting 20 per cent light.
3--Grey-black, admitting 40 per cent light.
2--Grey, admitting 60 per cent light.
1--Light grey, admitting 80 per cent light.
0--White, admitting 100 per cent light.
The new regulations will allow nothing blacker than second degree smoke in section A of the city and third degree smoke in section B.
The Health Bureau sampled smoke from 450 buildings between January and March this year, and found some 360 of them would violate the new law.
The regulations empower the governor to order violators to repair or replace smoke-making equipment. A maximum fine of ¥100,000 is provided.
The city officials plan to see how the regulations work for a year and then perhaps extend their application to smokey trains and vessels.
How cool. I will, of course assume that the Imperial palace where the poor white swans are turning grey is in less-polluted section A. Unless these swans were the darker Russian swans...but no... back in 1955, these USSR swans were a shade of communist red.
130-200 meters = (426.5-656.2 feet).
As for the photo above. I wonder if it could be the Cardinals have a hate-on for the swans. You know... when the Cardinals have to choose a new pope following the swan song of the late pope. Yes... I did an intended double entendre there.
As for how much a ¥100,000 fine was in 1955 relative to US dollars... I couldn't quite come up with it.
But... as of January 1, 1960, ¥100,000 would equal $277.78.
It doesn't sound like much, does it? But, taking into account inflation, what is the 1960 equivalent in 2013?
Well, that fine would be a whopping US$2,190.00 give or take. As of August 15, 2013, that US dollar penalty is equal to ¥213,852.60.
Now... the Lingerman smoke concentration formula? I couldn't find anything on that. However... I did indeed discover a Professor Maximilian Ringelmann smoke chart of 1955.
Geez... did they do that typical Japanese alphabet thing and transpose a few 'R' and 'L' letters in the poor bastard's name? It sure seems so, because I found that chart to be a match concept-wise to what was described in the newspaper article! Don't believe me? Google: Ringelmann smoke formula, and check out the PDF document presented on the stacks.cdc.gov website. It should be the first available site found.
Oh! The things I research for you readers!
While indeed a small slap on the wrist for polluters, it did at least show some initial baby steps in trying to clean up the capital city of Tokyo.
And... despite the huge amount of cars I saw on the Tokyo streets 20 years ago, I never had any smoke or breathing issues, as the air was quite breathable, indeed.