Our neighbor the factory owner was down in the mouth today. His downtown office was burned down in the last raid. Three caretakers were supposed to be on the premises that day, which was Sunday, but on Saturday night all three had decided to go home and spend the night with their respective wives. The snowstorm and the early alarm prevented them from returning to their posts the next morning so that when the fire-bombs fell there was no one around to put but the conflagration. The men are now facing investigation, trial, and punishment. He said that one of his factories had also been raided. Many schoolgirls on voluntary labor service were killed by strafing carrier-borne planes because they had refused to take shelter to show their patriotic spirit.
Having slept through several alerts and alarms we woke up to find the apartment and the neighborhood without water, electricity or gas. Our own apartment was somewhat luckier than the rest. For some mysterious reason one of the two gas burners in the kitchen range was working although with scarcely a centimeter or two of visible flame. But our neighbors could use neither gas range nor electric stove and they had to go down to the basement for a pail or two of water since the pipes had frozen and the pressure was down.
We did not have the heart to complain after going through the hit areas. The snow was two feet deep in the streets but early risers, going sightseeing like ourselves or off to work, had tramped down lanes where it was comparatively easy to walk. No streetcars were running but the town seemed to be out on the streets. There were no grimier or gloomier faces than usual even when we got to the bombed areas four or five blocks away. Everyone seemed to be taking it stoically although the damage had been considerable. The fire had spread irregularly but there were corners from where the ruins seemed to stretch as far as the eye could reach. The elevated railway was unharmed and its rails ran uninterruptedly overhead. All the bigger reenforced concrete buildings were also still standing, smudged, solitary, forlorn in the wastes of Kanda. It was easy to see that the new fires had started almost at the very edge of the old ones; there was a checkerboard pattern of snow-covered ruins and fresh ones, still black, dirty, like unbandaged wounds.
Those who had congratulated themselves on being spared the fate of their next-door neighbors were now themselves poking about the debris of their own homes. Still they comported themselves admirably. Those who had sheltered their neighbors only a week before now moved in on their neighbors. One family, evidently more foresighted, had pitched a green canvas tent on the sidewalk in front of the ruins of their home. Others had put up amid packing cases under the elevated railway causeways. Still others were crouched among their belongings in the public toilets. Possibly all these people were still numb and dazed by disaster. At any rate no one wept except a child of two or three on the back of its mother. She was busy, absorbed in counting some glass beads she had salvaged and carefully knotting the frayed and burnt thread that held them together. But all of a future of wretchedness and misery could be seen in the gay Japanese quilts scattered about on the snow or left on top of last night’s air-raid shelters, half-burnt, still smouldering. Without bedclothes these people would spend many terrible nights although perhaps only the very old and the very young would die.
Already one family was having recourse to a pathetic source of heat; they were huddled together around a blazing timber from their own house. Others were more energetic; they dug up chairs that had been hastily thrown out of the window and now lay buried in the snow. Or they salvaged what they could or dared from the smoking ruins: a brazier, cracked and dented, a blackened ladle, a stray cup astonishingly whole. There were many of these people, mostly bedraggled woman, carrying their load of odds and ends in a pail, a handcart, a wet and muddy kerchief.
Where were they going next? We were puzzled by the problem until we met one of the Filipinos who had had personal experience of the solution the night before. A bomb had fallen through the roof of the house next-door to his but had fortunately failed to explode. In the expectation however that it would go off sooner or later, all the neighbors had been ordered out of doors and into the shelters. Then they had been moved to a nearby schoolhouse where their name’s were taken and where they were asked to spend the night. Our man found himself in a small room with 10 or 12 women, their babies, and one small charcoal brazier. For supper the neighborhood association served rice and bean-paste soup; the same for breakfast in the morning. It is to these schooolhouses, most of them closed down for the duration and now made available to neighborhood associations, that air-raid victims are sent pending more permanent arrangements.
Later in the day we asked a Japanese doctor how long he thought the people would stand it. He answered us by giving some samples of the horror propaganda spread to stiffen the Japanese will to resist. One is that the Americans plan to castrate all the male Japanese and turn the women over to Negroes, thus destroying the Yamato race. Another is that Japan will be turned over to the Chinese who will be permitted to pay back in kind all Japanese excesses in China. Prospects for peace do not seem so bad when men have to be told such monstruous lies in order to get them to kill one another — unitl one sees how easily men may be made to believe them.
We were just leaving the apartment to go to Mass when the alert sounded. We decided to risk it but we had not even arrived at the street-car stop, three minutes away, when the full alarm followed fast. We turned back because we did not relish the thought of being ordered into a sidewalk trench and it was just as well we did because shortly afterward it started to snow. It was quite a heavy steady fall and now that the alarms had been sounded and half-forgotten, with the menacing sky hidden, empty, silent, there was a feeling of seductive peace. But shortly after lunch there was a series of loud explosions and I brought Anita down to the basement which, this time, was crowded to capacity. All the lights were out and it was pitch-dark. The radio had also been silenced so that we had no means of knowing what had happened. I went up to find out what I could. The electric current was still an across the bridge a hundred meters away and we sent off the apartment messenger-boy to listen to the bulletins. It was only early afternoon but quickly the skies darkened so that it seemed to be sundown. It gave us all who were watching a queer eerie feeling, a vague uneasy sensation of catastrophe. Heavy black smoke was billowing up from the direction of the imperial palace. We could see the flames clearly. Someone said that the military police headquarters just around the corner had been hit.
Then there was a new alarm. The bells and gongs started clanging hollowly around us, warning that planes were believed to be directly overhead. Almost immediately we saw a constellation of fire-bombs fall softly and silently, almost, it seemed, in the next block. There were several maids watching from the apartment foyer and when the fire-bombs fell into sight they gave little cries of fear and astonishment but others giggled and squealed. The men did not like it. The head of the district association shouted hoarsely that all the women should make ready to fight fires. They pattered off submissively. Everyone calmed down when nothing else happened. A boy of ten with a heavy knapsack full of tinned goods came up to me with a smile and said he studied in the school opposite the embassy. A Thai naval officer, who is working in a local factory, asked me whether I thought he could go up now and go to bed. They were really working in his factory, he explained. Nobody ever went home anymore.
The snow was getting heavier although it was grey with soot. The streetcars had stopped running and the slope of Kudan Hill lay white and silent beneath us.
“Once,” the Thai said reminiscently, “I was coming home late. It was almost midnight and it had snowed. There were some people skiing down the slope.”
There was a touch of mockery in the thought of those midnight skiiers flying soundlessly down this hillside in the heart of the capital. The snow was getting dirty now and ever and again a sudden flare in the distance would send a purple shadow skimming along the street before us.
“The fighting situation is becoming ever more fierce,” warns the Tokyo Shimbun today. “The enemy has landed on Yiojimu, which may be said to be Just in front of the gate of our mainland…. By now it has become evident that the enemy is intending to strike directly against our mainland and his fighting will cannot be splighted.” The paper then goes on to warn the people against “propaganda tricks” tending to divide them from the military or to persuade them that surrender will not mean slavery. These labored arguments are possibly an indication of what the Japanese people are beginning to think. Another is the following story that is going the rounds of the capital. A B-29 is shot down and one of the pilots bails out. He lands in the midst of a crowd. They all stare at him and cry out: “Wonderful, wonderful!”
“What is it?” asks a late-comer. “What’s so wonderful?”
“Look there,” he is told. “What wonderful shoes he has on!”
One of our interpreters, excusing himself for a day’s absence, said that the heavy snowfall had tied up the local line at his neighborhood for five hours. A switch between two stations had frozen tight and, as he explained it, the repairmen from both stations had spent an hour walking to the scene, another hour discussing what should be done, two more hours going back for the necessary equipment and returning with it, and the fifth hour fixing up the switch. “I give up Japan,” he exclaimed. “We try to do everything with manpower her. Very funny, no?”
After all the build-up of Hirose as chief secretary of the Koiso cabinet, he has now been shuffled out. Yesterday the government underwent another reorganization with the finance minister Ishiwata taking Hirose’s place, and a new finance minister appointed, Juichi Tsushima, president of the North China Development Company. This time press comments have been neither more cautious. Tsushima, says the Asahi, “is a man of versatile disposition and he has the tact and ability to get on well with anyone. On the other hand he is too absorbed in routine and has the defect of being lacking in power. “Several times, “recounts the Asahi, “he has been mentioned as a candidate for the portfolio of finance but each time the honor passed to his juniors, such as Kaya, Aoki, and Ishiwata.” His first job, the paper concludes, will be to get rid of his “Tsushima complex”.
There was an unusually heavy snowfall today, lasting throughout the day. Our dinner guest, a Finnish diplomat, arrived late, explaining that an automobile from the provinces had fallen into a repair ditch at a streetcar crossing, blocking the rails for an hour. Characteristically the Japanese stared at the obstruction and exchanged exclamations of dismay for 30 minutes before a streetcar was finally hitched to the automobile to pull it off the tracks, incidentally wrenching it out of shape.
Now that Finland had made peace, he was going home soon, within two weeks, our guest told us. But what was there to go home to? One and a half years ago his girl had wired saying she had grown tired of waiting and breaking off their engagement. His ancestral home had been burnt down, rebuilt, burnt down once again in the course of the two Russian wars and now he could not rebuild it a second time because Viborg, his native city, was now Soviet territory. He would never go back there now; of the half million Finns who had lived in the territories ceded to the Soviets, only three had elected to remain under the rule of Finnland’s ancient enemy. At least, so he said. Finland had reason to be familiar with total war. Every man, woman, and child had been mobilized; the streets were silent and deserted throughout the Finnish land.
But here in Tokyo, he had often told his Japanese friends, there were still thousands upon thousands of able-bodied men jostling one another in the streets. “You could get together one division on any streetcorner of the Ginza,” he exclaimed. But he was bitter only about the Axis which had ruined Finland. All the cooperation between Germany and Japan, he said, “you could put in a small handbag.” “So now we have lost everything,” he mumbled half to himself. He had been in Japan four years. He learned his English, which is surprisingly fluent, in Tokyo — in order to learn Japanese. Now he knew more English than Japanese. I shall remember him as a charming bibulous vigorous man with outbursts of fantastic nonsense. He it was who said that the Russians were “bluffing” in their summer offensive that took them to the shores of the Baltic and just before leaving he said quite seriously that the English had thught the Japanese that Pearl Harbor trick for the war with Russia.
One of the Filipinos in Tokyo, who has been whiling away his spare time working out a Tagalog translation of Kathleen Norris’ “Mother”, was questioned this morning by officials of his neighborhood association. They wanted to know who was typing what in his house every night.
The following story sounds a little fantastic but anyway it seems that when a Tokyo streetcar passed in front of the imperial palace and the conductor called for the customary reverence, one of the passengers clasped his hands and cried out:
“O Tenno, save your people, have mercy on your people!” Half of the passengers in the crowded tram snickered or laughed out loud. The others didn’t dare.
Our apartment, neighbor brought our bread and cigarette rations himself today. The apartment employees in charge of our rations have threatened to quit if they have to continue delivering the stuff to every individual apartment. From now on a representative of every floor will call at the downstairs office and distribute the rations to his neighbors. Still it will be more convenient than lining up for every item at the neighborhood distribution centers. On behalf of his German friends, our neighbor was also trying to work up an organized protest against the present light controls in the apartment house. Every time even a precautionary alarm is sounded the apartment management pulls the main switch and plunges everyone into total darkness. Apart from the fact that it makes both work and entertainment impossible, sometimes for hours on end, it is exasperating because it seems so unnecessary. No other building in Tokyo does it; the usual shaded lights and leak-proof black curtains are sufficient for the purposes of the law. But the neighborhood association officials in the apartment house have proved obdurate against all reason; no amount of promises that the most rigid, precautions against leakage would be taken have been able to move them. And so we will continue to grope in total darkness or go to bed everytime even one plane approaches Tokyo. Behind it all is panic; the apartment house is a landmark on Kudan hill and the military offices nearby feel extremely uneasy. Also, a certain amount of class prejudice has entered the picture: the neighbors have a grudge against the “aristocrats” in the luxury apartments that tower above their houses.
Before he left our neighbor told some entertaining stories about his boys. Both tend to disappear during air-raids. One day he found them on the exposed roof, calmly drawing a bead on a B-29 with their toy machinegun.
The task force around Tokyo has definitely “sought refuge” in parts unknown, according to the vernaculars, and the Japanese staff finally showed up today at the embassy. One of our interpreters said that many of his neighbors had been killed or wounded in the two-day raid; they were workers in nearby factories.
All the vernaculars also featured the peace term for Japan proposed by the Institute of Pacific Relations at its recent conference in Hot Springs, Virginia. “This document,” said one paper, “reveals the enemy’s insolent ambitions in outrageous proposals.” As was to be expected, the greatest indignation was felt at the “sacrilegious” proposal to tamper with the imperial institution. “But it was plain that what caused the greatest uneasiness was the announcement (also emphasized by pamphlets dropped during the past raid) that the Americans had no quarrel with the Japanese people but wished only to punish the militarists and industrialists behind the war. To this the press could only reply that the Americans must hate all the Japanese since they called for the occupation of Japan by Chinese troops. Immediately after bridling at this “indignity”, and unaware apparently of any inconsistency, the press went back to Asianism and called the proposal another instance of the policy of “divide and rule” in Asia.