1st April 1945

Shopping idly in the luxury curio shops in Miyanoshita I was surprised to see that all the silver and tortoise-shell cigarette cases were gone. I wondered who could possibly have bought them at the fantastic prices set for them (plus an 80 per cent luxury tax). The shop-keeper explained that rich Japanese, who did not know what to do with their paper money, had not hesitated to buy them. Japanese are forbidden to buy or possess silver and the transactions were done through foreign friends.

In Tokyo the headlines went to the “new deal” for the Koreans and Formosans. An imperial rescript was promulgated today while the premier and the home minister issued lengthy statements.

No Korean was heard from. No Formosan was heard from. There were none to be heard. Possibly that is a better commentary on Japanese colonial policy than any rescript. For the rest of it, it is necessary only to recall that ever since Japan announced its program of granting independence to the various peoples of Greater East Asia, the Koreans and Formosans have felt they were neither fish nor fowl nor anything else. They were one of the peoples of Greater East Asia but they had no independence promised or delivered. They were being drafted for the Japanese armed forces and for labor service in Japan but they had no Japanese citizenship. I asked a Japanese diplomat last year what solution was contemplated for this anomaly. He answered that nothing definite had been decided. Korea was too important a bastion in Japanese defense to be abandoned; it would be given independence, if ever, only in the event of a complete victory which would eliminate all possible threats against the homeland. As for full citizenship rights, he was as solicitous about “readiness” or “fitness” for self-government as the India Office. The present compromise possibly indicates a trend toward imperial absorption as against “liberation” and federation. Or is it only a tacit admission that “complete victory” is farther away than ever?


31st March 1945

A French countess, sitting beside me in the elegant foyer of the Fujiya, apologized for the paper package beside her. “It doesn’t smell so nice,” she said with a moue. “But it’s meat.”

In Tokyo the new government party was formally inaugurated yesterday. Its name: the Great Japan Political Association, replacing the Imperial Rule Assistance Political Association. Its president: General Minami, as reported. Its purpose: to bring the people back into the war after the old party had screened them off. The I.R.A.R.A. was invented to free the government from the diet. The result was that the government lost all contact with the people. In his inaugural address General Minami said frankly: “The new organization should serve as the instrument of national unity, securing the closest possible cooperation between the government, the fighting services, and the people. The national unity of the customary type is no longer adequate to meet the situation. There must be confidence in and respect for the government and the fighting services.” But so far the reaction has been weak. No one seems to be very enthusiastic about a “people’s party” headed by an old fire-eater like Minami. What is the difference between an admiral and a General?

The ordinary man in the street is probably more interested in the awards for the best motion picture and phonograph records of 1944, which have just been announced by the ministry of education:

Motion pictures — “Kato Hayabusa Fighter Unit”, first prize of 7,000 yen; “Gochin” (based on submarine operations in the Indian ocean), second prize of 6,000 yen; “Shoot Down That Flag” (based on the Bataan campaign), third prize of 5,000 yen. A scientific film on detonations and shell fragments was given the fourth prize of 3,000 yen.

Among the prize-winning disks were recordings of songs like “You join the air-force and I’ll join the navy”, “The young cryptomeria tree on the mountain”, and “Until the day of victory”.


30th March 1945

“The fighting spirit of the people is not unlimited,” warns the Mainichi today. After enumerating Japan’s successive reverses in the recent past, the paper asks: “How can the people help feeling that the outlook of the war is dark? Even the conviction of sure victory requires something real to keep it burning…”


29th March 1945

The foreign office has asked for the return of all diplomatic travel permits. They are to be curtailed.

Waiting for a train connection I sat between a soldier and an aged Japanese couple, farmers from the look of them. It was getting late end the three unpacked their meals for the evening. The farmers had an elaborate dinner of fried fish cutlets. The soldier had three balls of cold rice.


28th March 1945

After treating the American operations in the so-called southwest islands as a passing raid, imperial headquarters has now announced an actual landing on the Okinawa group, three days after it was actually made. Meantime, with all preparations for the new political party near completion, it has been announced that General Jiro Minami, member of the privy council and former governor-general of Chosen, will be its head. It will mean a change from the navy to the army. The president of the old party was Admiral Kobayashi who got the job, according to some quarters, because no politician was wanted, the army already had the premiership, and he himself was the senior retired admiral. The futility of the whole business can be gauged from that one fact: politicians are not wanted in this political party.


27th March 1945

The forcible “spacing” of houses has now extended to the vicinity of my colleagues’ house in Yotsuya. Their place was saved from condemnation and destruction only by the fact that it is occupied by embassy personnel. The houses all around it are to be pulled down, including the Catholic chapel nearby, to protect the great concrete school-building across the street.

The program has yielded an unexpected by-product. It may now be easier to get a telephone by transfer from one of the condemned buildings. It was never easy to get a telephone in Tokyo; even before the war the installation itself cost a thousand yen. Since the war it has been next to impossible to get one at any cost. Now however my colleagues have been offered a telephone in the “black market” for three thousand yen.


26th March 1945

While the Asahi revealed that an American fleet had bombarded the Ryukyu islands on the 23rd and launched heavy raids on Okinawa in particular on the 24th, the Mainichi worried “that there may be some who are so weak-willed that the are unable to place any reliance on the mere expression of determination by the government.” It was probably in answer to similar “weak-willed” fears and gossip that the minister of agriculture and commerce was forced to make still another assurance on the rice ration at the diet yesterday. It will be maintained, he insisted. “A considerable amount of foodstuff was lost in the latest enemy raids but few of the places where large amounts of food were stored have been affected by the raids.”

At least as far as Tokyo is concerned the food problem is being relieved by the quickening tempo of evacuation. Only four millions of the pre-war seven now remain in the capital, according to official estimates. So many household goods are being shipped out that the railway has stopped accepting them temporarily to give preference to those whose houses have been torn down in the compulsory clearing of fire-breaks. Hearing that these unfortunates were hastily selling what they could not take along, we went sidewalk shopping in Shibuya, one of the districts affected just now. Every condemned house was marked with chalk but its lot was envious enough from the pile of odds and ends in front of it. They were all for sale to the passerby although there were few who seemed inclined to add to their burden of possessions.

Old women mostly were in charge of these impromptu junkshops. None seemed to be particularly depressed; on the contrary they seemed happy enough to be able to escape with notice instead of being force to flee in the middle of some cold and stormy night. One particular heap of bottles, vases, lamps, and other household debris was in the charge of a group of children who were obviously enjoying; themselves playing shop with real goods and real money, for keeps. They were doing a particularly brisk trade in bottles; everyone in Tokyo needs empty bottles because it is impossible to get shoyu rations, or beer and sake issues, without bringing one’s own bottle. And even mouthwash, perfume, anything liquid, cannot be bought without an empty bottle to be filled or to be exchanged.

Walking past the drab untidy heaps, I understood why it was that only the very old and the very young were out there selling these scraps of home. The children had no memories and the old had learned to despise and distrust them. But for the rest, the in-betweens, it must have been too painful to hand over to a stranger, or even to show to a stranger, a casual passer-by, unknown, slightly contemptuous, coldly scrutinizing, to show and hand over to a haggling stranger that stained silver picture frame without the old familiar face, or that teapot with the spout slightly dented where the baby dropped it, or that elegant new fan that had never been used because the war had come so suddenly.

I met only one of these shy hidden possessors. Anita wanted a nail file and we went into a beauty parlor that was being torn down. The shop was empty when we entered, almost bare except for a mirror on the wall and a litter of colored bottles on the floor. We called out and a woman came, her hair wrapped up in a handkerchief, a broom in her hand. When we told her what we wanted, she asked us to wait a moment and disappeared in the back. She returned with an envelope full of cardboard nail files. We said she was very kind and made as if to pay her but she shook her head. No, she insisted with a little twisted smile, she did not need them anymore and we could have them free.


25th March 1945

Returning to Tokyo we passed household after household on the move, aboard trucks, ox-carts, bicycle trailers. One truck provided a typical Japanese note: on top of a load of packing cases, a brawny laborer sat with a spray of early spring plum blossom in his grimy clutch.


24th March 1945

Let no one say afterward that the Japanese did not know what was coming. After Saipan, Yiojima; after Yiojima, Okinawa; at least that is the popular expectation following the imperial headquarters announcement yesterday that an American task force had pounded Kyushu from the 18th to the 21st March. The communique made the usual extravagant claims but Admiral Sankichi Takahashi, a former commander-in-chief of the combined fleet, in boasting of the “war results” off Kyushu, committed what would appear to be an unforgivable indiscretion. “Our combined fleet,” he declared, “exists in the air and under the sea”.

I went to Mass for my birthday at the St. Joseph’s College chapel in Gora, up the mountain from Miyanoshita. There had been some talk of difficulties with police guards stationed there because most of the brothers are French and thus technically under internment. But we were not stopped; there was no one to stop us or even to take down our names as had happened to others the Sunday before. It seems the gendarmerie have taken to “union hours” and show up only at nine in the morning to quit at five. The brothers who run the school are mostly patriarchs with long white beards. They have grown old preaching the Gospel in Japan. “But there was not one Japanese at Mass.