Diary of Leon Ma. Guerrero

6th April 1945

Admiral Baron Kantaro Suzuki is the new premier. The Mainichi, in reporting how he “received the imperial command” to form a new cabinet, gave an interesting peek into Japanese government. “When Premier Koiso submitted the resignation of the cabinet to the throne yesterday, His Majesty the Emperor summoned to the imperial palace Marquis Koichi Kido, Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal, and commanded him to recommend the successor. In view of the seriousness of the situation both at home and abroad, Marquis Kido desired the opinions of the senior statesmen and asked them to assemble at the imperial palace. Accordingly, Baron Reijiro Wakatsuki, Admiral Keisuke Okada, Koki Hirota, Prince Fuminaro Konoye, Baron Kiichiro Hiranuma, and General Hideki Tozyo, all former prime ministers, and Admiral Kantaro Suzuki, president of the privy council, presented themselves at the imperial palace. They sat in conference at 6 p.m. and deliberated in earnest on the selection of the head of the succeeding cabinet until 8:40 p.m. Marquis Kido reported to the throne on the results of the deliberation. Admiral Kantaro Suzuki, who remained at the palace after the conference, was received in audience by His Majesty the Emperor (at 10 p.m.) and was commanded to organize the succeeding cabinet.” According to the Asahi, Admiral Suzuki, overawed by the imperial favor, asked for time and retired. The premier designate will now establish his “cabinet-formation headquarters”. Pressmen and politicians will watch who calls and is called and will make up their dope-lists of probable cabinet members. When the cabinet is completed, Suzuki will present the list to the throne and an imperial investiture will quickly follow.

There are several points about Suzuki that have immediately been brought up. He is known as an “emperor’s man” because he was grand chamberlain for many years. He is of course a navy men and his chief aide in lining up a cabinet seems to be another navy man and elder statesman, Admiral Okada. He is considered a “liberal” as liberals go in Japan; both he and Okada were on the “wanted” list of the young officers’ revolt in 1936; he was wounded while Okada was saved when the conspirators killed his brother-in-law by mistake. Most significant of all, Suzuki is old, only one year short of 80, old enough to be a hero of the first Chinese and Russian wars, old enough to commit political or actual harakiri by making peace. Long before this everyone agreed that an old premier meant defeat and peace. Certainly if the goal were still the active and unrelenting prosecution of the war, a younger man would have been chosen, possibly a prince of the blood royal as was expected after Tozyo. The Filipinos in Tokyo have a word for it; the new premier is not Suzuki but Susuku (which is Tagalog for “will surrender”).

There is of course no open talk of peace. In resigning, the Koiso cabinet expressed the hope for a stronger government, presumably stronger for and in the war. For their part the vernaculars all call for one grim united effort to avert invasion and conquest. They assign many causes for the downfall of Koiso. Koiso’s policies were not “coordinated”. He failed to rally the people. He lost their confidence. He was purely a transition premier from one “strong man” to another. Most of the vernaculars hint at the insoluble problem of “coordinating” the administration and the high command”. But no one has mentioned Yiojima or Okinawa or the great Tokyo raids or the fact that Soviet Russia has given notice of its desire to abrogate the neutrality or non-aggression pact. These causes, and peace, were just as decisive. The people were tired of the army and they have turned to the navy; they were tired of the younger officers and they have turned to the elder statesmen; they were tired of defeat, ruin, hunger, homeless insecurity, and they have turned to — what? They do not say because they do not know. They shuffle in their long weary queues, bundle up their frayed and scorched belongings, and hide their faces. Koiso has been jerked out of the stage as suddenly, noiselessly, and simply as Tozyo. It is not hard to see that it makes little difference to the puppet show. But the profound weariness and melancholy of the people cannot be healed by a change in the cast. It is convenient to give them someone to blame and hiss and boo and throw out. It may assure them for a time. But their mood is too deep to be lifted by anything short of glorious victory or at least the surcease of peace. Now if they cannot take it out on the cabinet, they take it out on what they can lay their hands on.

Going to the chancery we sniffed something of this reckless desperate spirit. A volunteer wrecking squad was tearing down the houses in our neighborhood to clear a fire-break. They seemed possessed by a lust for destruction. A laughing student hurled down a window to the street and it crashed amid a shower of broken glass. Another student was furiously at work with a heavy hammer, smashing down, the plaster partitions. A heavy rope was coiled along the street. Later the squad would noisily pull down the light framework, splitting and rending irreplaceable timber in a roar of dust, splintered tile, shattered glass, and that strange satisfying exaltation of blind destruction. And then they would sit on their haunches, their mirthless laughter slowly dying; they would stare at the ruins, breathing heavily, and their faces would grow sad and empty. We had seen many of these squads at work and passing them today we felt once more a twinge of uneasy apprehension.