Diary of Leon Ma. Guerrero

6th February 1945

The evacuation program is still meeting with difficulties. The Mainichi reports today that some of the evacuees are even re­turning to the cities, either because they could not get along with their new neighbors in the countryside or because they could ‘ find no work. Calling for better planning on the part of the govern­ment and a more patriotic attitude on the part of the evacuees, the Mainichi emphasises that “evacuation does not mean to take re­fuge but to take a new post in the fighting line.”

I had lunch today with the president of the local Indone­sian Union. The organization is unofficial and semi-secret because the Japanese have not made up their minds about Indonesian indepen­dence and meantime have tried to divide the Indonesians in Japan, for instance quartering the Java, Sumatra, Borneo, and Malaya stu­dents in. separate dormitories. However they manage to keep in touch with one another at religious festivals. The Japanese would be surprised to learn, the president of the union told me, that at least 15 of the Indonesians attending these Mohammedan festivals are Christians.

Later one of the Filipinos in Japan called to ask for advice. He had published a Tagalog-Nippongo grammar-dictionary and now his Japanese publisher was trying to cut down on his royalties by claiming that several hundred copies had been “spoiled” and that some sort of new tax was payable on the rest. A Nisei friend chimed in with the story that after he had gone through the Nazi blitz on London the Japanese consul there had asked him to write an article on his experiences for the instruction of Japanese school-teachers. The article had been duly written and published but he had never been paid what he had been promised for it.

The Nisei stayed late into the night. He was obviously lonely. I asked him about his family and his home. He answered bluntly that he was not happy there. “I can’t even trust my own sister,” he grinned mirthlessly. “I think the police have gotten her to spy on me.” She was brought up in Japan; he was born and reared in London and was in Japan only for a short visit when the war caught him.

The Niseis are not very happy in Japan. He claims he has suffered more from discrimination in Japan than he ever did in England. In a way it is not to be wondered at so much in his particular case. The first time I met him he could not even read the signs in the subway stations; we lost our way and he had to sleep in my hotel. His Nippongo has still a very pronounced British accent. His thoughts of course are British. It is not difficult to tell what he wants; he is quite frank about it; he wants to “go home” to London. In the meantime he reads and re-reads his collection of Reader’s Digests, listens for hours to American swing, and hangs around the Filipinos in Tokyo because he can share with them some of his nostalgia. He is very young, very short, and very friendly, with a sharp humorous face. In the daytime he works with an oil company; he was designing improvements for the wells in Balikpapan and would have been sent there eventually if the war had not taken & turn for the worse. Some nights he gets extra pay for sleeping in the office and acting as air-raid warden; his experience in London has made him quite an authority and he is contemptuous of the American fire-bombs. The Germans used really big ones, he said; once he was thrown out of his bed by an explosion in the next block.

Somehow, perhaps because he is English and not American, he is different from most of the other Niseis, many of whom are so terrorized by the police that they spy on one another, bending over backward to prove they are true Japanese. My friend is nice. He never thinks of himself as a Japanese; it just never occurs to him.

He uses “we” and “they” in the wrong places. “We” do it in this way and “they” are crazy. But he does not hate or despise the Japanese; perhaps an atavistic memory helps him to understand, to forgive, to sympathize; his defense is not bitter, quarrelsome, it is tolerant, humorous, that of a sympathetic stranger.