Diary of Leon Ma. Guerrero

12th March 1945

The situation in Indo-China was “clarified” by Koiso at the diet yesterday. It seems that “because the authorities of the government of French Indo-China came to take a passive attitude of non-cooperation with Japan, contrary to the terms of the joint-defense pact, the imperial government has taken minimum measures actually necessary for Japan’s independent defense of Indo-China.” In plain language the French have been caught in communication and conspiracy with the allies; Japan has taken over Indo-China as a consequence while for its part Annam, which comprises the greater part of Indo-China, has reaffirmed its independence, abrogating the old treaty by which it placed itself under French protection. This development, which would have been, startling and electrifying empire news before the war, failed to distract the diet or the press from Japan’s own troubles. “What the people wanted to hear most,” complained the Asahi, “was a report on the war situation and the political and military measures taken to cope with it. The Mainichi for its part said: “What the people would have liked to hear is that all measures have already been completed and that the situation is already such that we confidently face things to come with adequate preparation.”

But it will be a long time before the people hear that. The whole business of precautionary evacuation from the big cities is as much of a mess as ever. Our interpreter says that his brother who is mayor of a nearby town, keeps receiving orders from the central government to make arrangements for the accommodation of refugees from Tokyo but no help or advice on how to do it. It may be wondered of course why he waits for help or advice but the fact seems to be that the town is already strained beyond its resources. Another Japanese gave us a vivid instance of this recently. He said that his father had gone for a visit to a northern province which had formerly exported rice. He had had to send to Tokyo for his own rice this time; the government after taking away all the crop except just enough for the farmers’ own livelihood, had now dumped so many evacuees on the countryside that they had eaten up all the bare reserves.

Fortunately the diplomatic corps has been provided with its own evacuation centers which are tolerably well run. We had been assigned to the Fujiya hotel, possibly the best in Japan, in the heart of the beautiful mountain reservation around Fuji, and today I took Anita there for the duration. After the filth, the stench, the squalor and desolation of Tokyo, the silent green hills seemed like an enchanted refuge. The pretty villas of the rich slumbered cosily along the slick white winding road and even the farmers’ shacks were neat and peaceful. Red-cheeked children waived from the roadside. Only in one small village was there a hint of war. Apparently it contained a military hospital for we saw several wounded soldiers, bandaged, or hobbling on canes, but even they, in their customary white kimono, led by the hand by laughing admiring youngsters, seemed far away from war.

The Fujiya itself had not changed except for a new set of rules on the blackout. The lights in all rooms were switched off at 11 p.m. In case of air-raids only the small hooded lights at the dressing tables are allowed during the alert and none at all during actual attack. No foreign guest may leave the hotel once an actual alarm is sounded except with special police permission. It is difficult to imagine the Fujiya actually under air-attack; there is nothing to attack in this little village in the mountains; most of the guests therefore are more worried about the food than anything else. It seemed to us adequate and even more than adequate but the long-termers complained of the monotony of the menus and the fact that the hotel got the special rations of its diplomatic guests and spread it out among all. In fact diplomatic activity in the Fujiya seems to be confined to negotiating for one more butter ball with the bread.

The Japanese staff of course receives only the rations given all over Japan. We found this out shortly after we arrived, vie had brought alone a case of emergency provisions. Between the time it was taken from the car by the hotel porter and the time it was delivered to our room, two pounds of butter disappeared. Afterward we told an Italian diplomat what had happened. He laughed. “All of us have had the same experience,” he exclaimed. “We thought the Japanese were the most honest people on earth. Perhaps they were. But now we lock up all our extra provisions.” He thought for a moment and then added: “You can leave anything else lying around and no one will pick it up. Money, clothes, jewelry. But they are hungry.”