9th August 1945

As San Francisco announced that the second “atomic” bomb had been dropped on Nagasaki shortly before noon, the vernaculars started to open up a little on the subject. It seems that “the authorities of the various government departments concerned have dispatched officials to the scene of destruction.” “According to a survey made, the new-type bomb drops toward the ground with a parachute and issues a strong light when the bomb is about 500 to 600 meters above the ground and then explodes. Simultaneous with the explosion, a large detonation is heard and a strong blast and strong heat accompany it.”

“Full caution,” warns the Asahi, “is considered necessary but it is pointed out that in case or a new-type weapon, its effects are usually exaggerated. For instance, when the V-1 made its appearance, considerable confusion and disturbance were Witnessed in England before counter-measures were devised. Upon completion of the counter-measures, the composure of the people returned.”

What counter-measures were contemplated against this “new-type” bomb?The Asahi also published a statement of the air-defense headquarters giving directions as to the methods of defense against it:

“If attention is paid to the following points, damage will be restricted to a minimum. Since they are effective measures, all persons are called upon to obey them without fail:

“1. Don’t be off-guard even if the enemy aircraft happens to be only one plane. When a large-size enemy plane comes near, it is better to seek safety even if it is only one.

“2. In seeking safety, it will be effective to escape into air-defense shelters. It is taboo to be outside the house without purpose. Safety must be sought in shelters.

“3. In seeking safety in shelters, one should take care to choose a shelter which has a covering. In case it happens to be without a covering, one should protect one’s self with a blanket or a mattress.

“4. If one is outside the house or shelter, one is likely to suffer burns. Accordingly one should expose as little of the body as possible. A summer suit usually exposes much of the body  but in coping with the new type bomb the hands and legs must be given full protection.

“Fires occurred in many of the houses that collapsed and in seeking safety out of the house, one should not forget to extinguish fires in the kitchen or elsewhere.”

There is almost a touch of the sinister in this stupidity. Get into a trench and pull a blanket over your head — but don’t forget to put out the fire in the kitchen! It is impossible to believe that air defense headquarters really thinks a blanket and possibly a pair of gloves can ward off the gigantic flame that dissolves an entire city. It is more reasonable to see in these “directions” a deliberate attempt to assuage the alarm of the people; if that is all that is needed, then the new~type bomb is just a bigger incendiary which burns people as well as houses. There is authentic art in that artless reminder not to forget the kitchen fire.

How long will the Japanese continue to believe it? When they learn the horrible truth, will they rise at last to cry enough or will there be anyone left to rise?
And yet, what could the authorities have said? What defense is there against this new “atomic” bomb? Tonight we were discussing heatedly the relative protection afforded by a swimming pool and a deep cave. But what was there to say? We did not even know whether the bomb killed by heat, by concussion, by radioactive radiations, by gas, or by some other terrifying mystery of dissolution. A blanket over the head seemed just as good as anything else.

Then just before dinner some of the evacuated Japanese school-children in the village ran up to a Burmese cadet with whom they had made friends. They were laughing with excitement. There was a new war. The radio, they said, had announced at five that afternoon that Soviet Russia had declared war on Japan. We flicked on the short-wave radio. San Francisco confirmed it.

Somebody laughed. “We won’t have to worry about that new bomb anymore. It’s all finished.”


8th August 1945

The details of the new bomb are still “under investigation”. One feels that the authorities are just an puzzled and bewildered by the whole thing as anybody else; they are certainly withholding the extent of the damage but do they know any more than the average man about the nature of its cause? was it one bomb or several? Was it an incendiary bomb, an explosive, a combination of both?

The first accounts in the local press are cautious. The Asahi’s is typical. “Shortly after 8 o’clock in the morning of the 6th August,” it reads, “a small number of B-29’s invaded the city of Hiroshima and dropped a small number of bombs. Due to this action a considerable number of houses in the city collapsed and fires were caused at various places. In conducting the attack the enemy seems to have used new-type bombs. These bombs were dropped by parachute and exploded before reaching the ground, it is indicated. The force
of the new bombs is now under investigation but it appears that it cannot be made light of”.

“Because of the possibility that the enemy may again employ this type of bombs,” the Asahi continues after a paragraph on “inhuman cruelty”, “counter-measures against it will be shown by the authorities concerned without any loss of time. In the meantime an early dispersion of cities, an adjustment of the so-called side-cave anti-air-raid shelters, and other air-defense measures should be pushed. Judging from the latest enemy attack, it is dangerous to exceedingly despise an air-raid even though it is done by a small number of planes.”

The Americans have announced that leaflets have already been dropped warning the Japanese of the new bomb’s unprecedented destructive power and the Asahi ends its story by calling on the people “not to be misguided”. Perhaps in preparation for an official declaration on the bomb the Times today, which has not yet carried a story on Hiroshima, editorializes on “The incalculable Reserve”.

“The enemy attacks with a meticulous precision awesome to behold,” begins the Times. “He brings into effective play his slide-rule and compass, his charts and instruments. He apparently knows through photography and a vast and well-laid espionage network the locations and nature of the vital organs which are necessary to the conduct of this war. Even of the things that he does not know, he seems to have the technical craft and equipment with which to calculate the greater part of the same. There is only one thing which completely defies his diabolical calculations and that is the spiritual reserve of the Japanese people.

“Such a reserve has been noted elsewhere in the recent past. Surely Leningrad, Stalingrad, and Moscow could not have been held with guns alone. If material weight alone had been the final criterion in the conflict, Yiojima and Okinawa should have fallen weeks sooner at a far cheaper cost to the enemy. In the Japanese eye the special attack force is not a ‘suicide’ squad, as our materialistic enemy sees it; it is one of the incalculables in its most concrete expression…”

After contrasting Germany and Japan the Times continues: “The present war is likely to be regarded as a conflict between science and the spirit. Fundamentally the present move into Asia is an encroachment of Western science upon Oriental spirit. In this light the unfathomable reserve of the Japanese people takes on significance of a new hue. That spiritual strength becomes not merely the reserve; for Asia it becomes the very ultimate of the
war in the Pacific.

“To the factors of material, money, and men that go to make possible the prosecution of war, science and spirit must also be added. Just as science finds motivation from the brain, so spirit gets inspiration from the heart. As the movements of material and money must await the guiding hand of science, so the action of men must find its root in spirit. While there is the flash of genius in one, there is imperturbable resolution in the other. While one must necessarily have a limit, the other is limitless…”

And the Times concludes: “It is not wishful thinking but a statement of fact that while there remains the possibility that the stupendous weight of material the enemy possesses can be entirely consumed, the spiritual resolve of the Japanese people is not only incalculable but imperishable and inexhaustible.”

There is an exasperating emptiness to these eloquent and elegantly-balanced phrases. It is like listening to a professor belaboring a syllogism while the classroom burns. The man is splitting hairs when a bomb is splitting atoms. Perhaps a year of a hundred years from now philosophers and historians will have the perspective to weigh the relative values of Western science and Oriental spirit. Right now we are more interested in what will happen to us, whether it is safe to take the train to Tokyo tomorrow, whether the new bomb will poison water, whether peace will come.

I know I should be thinking of the implications of a bomb that can wipe out two-thirds of a great city at one fell stroke but somehow the mind refuses to pick up the problem and it lies at my feet ticking with a quiet insistence. The question of peace is the farthest that the mind will reach. Some say: “It’s over. The Japs will have to give up.” Others are not so sure. They mumble about exaggerated propaganda or they cry in despair that the Japanese are crazy; they will die rather than surrender. To them the measured cadences of the Times editorial today have the sinister sound of a man walking to the gallows.

Yes, the Japanese will stick it out, they say. They will burn in their cities, disappear in a sickening flash, and then the gaunt roasted survivors will dig in, in the caves and crevices of mountains, by a last lonely beach. The Yomiuri today quotes von Clausewitz on the requirements for successful guerrilla war-
fare and notes with satisfaction that all are present in Japan. Can the Americans split the Japanese atom? Or will Japanese “spirit” prove tougher than U-235?

Psychological speculation is scant comfort for those of us who are caught here between scientific murder and a suicide complex. Presently the tight groups, heatedly debating peace and war, break up; the mind, frightened by its own reflections, scurries away to its favorite corner and toys with the familiar com-
monplaces of the day’s paper. Let us see now….

The Japanese army in the southern regions has announced its “assent to the establishmnt in the middle of August of a preparatory commission for East Indian independence.”

The cigarette ration has again been cut from five to three per person per day. In case the production of cigarettes becomes impossible the equivalent amount of cut tobacco will be supplied.

A certain factory in Nagano prefecture has succeeded in producing a substitute for Manila hemp from dwarf bamboo creepers; it is cheaper by 20 yen a pound.

A group of scholars has called for donations of materials for an Okinawa museum and library in Tokyo.

Real summer has started, according to the papers. The rice is flowering about 20 days behind schedule but the rising temperature during the past week may save the situation.

(It is pleasant out here in the garden by the miniature waterfall, sparkling and laughing as it tumbles over, while the red, black, and golden fish wheel silently in the quiet pond.)

Let us see now… The classified ads are always good. Wanted to exchange: bicycle, foreign make, 22 inches, in good condition, for men’s shoes, size 10% men or larger size.

For sale: a set of sofa and three armchairs; easel, almost new, in perfect condition; gentleman’s white linen summer suits and also one white waistcoat; Nippon Gakki upright piano, 85 keys; Vacumatic Parker fountainpen, for immediate sale to highest bidder, also ivory mah-jong set.

Wanted to buy: baby’s perambulator, shoes for girl 5-8 years, linguaphone language series for Russian and others, English books on China, razors, sewing machines, accordions.

(The mind drowses contentedly. Whatever happened to that gentleman who was selling shirts, three white second-hand, two black perfectly new? I wonder what they will serve for lunch…)


7th August 1945

The San Francisco radio announced today that a new “atomic” bomb had been dropped on Hiroshima yesterday the 6th, wiping out 60 per cent of the city at one blow. Apparently the bomb is built on an entirely new principle, the splitting of the U-235 atom. From another viewpoint, the principle is as old as war, mass murder.

But if we do not know much about it, and do not know how much to believe of what we have heard, the ordinary Japanese knows  so little that he does not even seem to care. A brief communique from imperial general headquarters, issued at 3:30 p.m. today, reads in full:

“1. Due to the attack by a small number of B-29’s on the 6th August considerable damage was caused to the city of Hiroshima.

“2. In conducting the attack the enemy seems to have used new-type bombs. Details are now under investigation.”

The man in the street cannot be blamed if he sees nothing particularly alarming about that. “Considerable damage” is several notches above the usual “negligible”, “very slight”, and “slight” but it is still below the occasional “heavy”. “New-type bombs” is vaguely disquieting but the Japanese are still sufficiently naive, scientifically speaking, to take even the splitting of the atom for granted. It is a curious novelty, like an electric torch, but these things are always happening in the strange surprising world of modern times. What will these “new-type bombs” do? We are forbidden of course to discuss with the Japanese the information we receive by short-wave. But I could not resist asking the boy who mops out our bathroom the same question: what did he think these “new-type bombs” were like? He shrugged his shoulders. He had not thought too much about it. Then, head cocked to one side like a little bird, he said: “Well, maybe they kill a hundred people instead of 10 or maybe they burn concrete houses like wood. I don’t know.” He bowed and sidled out, leaving me to wonder if he cared at all.


6th August 1945

After leading off its Potsdam story two days ago with the observation that the Big Three “failed to produce anything that has direct bearing on the war in the Pacific”, the Times today front pages the British foreign office statement on the war against Japan, including the official comment that “it is impossible to draw the inference from the communique that Russia will not enter the war against Japan.” It is the first time I have seen it openly and directly admitted in the Japanese press; so far editorialists have talked obliquely of “chance of attitude”.


5th August 1945

The director of the Catholic school in Gora confessed to me that they were living on a day to day basis. What made things worse, he said, was that most of the members of his community were over 60 and received less rations than the ordinary man. He is not fooling himself; he has already bought a cemetery patch nearby.

The Japanese press itself has no illusions. Concluding a series of articles on the war the Yomiuri declares that “frankly speaking, the future of the food problem is very serious.” It makes the following recommendations:

An outright government monopoly of rice and wheat;

Redistribution of factories for the processing of starch (at present they are concentrated in areas like Chiba and Kagoshima);

Cessation of competition among the army, the navy, and the agriculture ministry (representing civilian consumers).

The Yomiuri also thinks it strange that mulberry trees should still cover enough land to grow six to seven million koku of sweet potatoes and wheat. “There can be no question of clothes at a time when there is about to be no food.”

“All in all,” the Yomiuri summarizes it up, “the food problem lies in the psychological attitude of each and everyone in the country. Some persons say that they cannot fight on an empty stomach. But they are the ones who would not be able to fight on a full stomach either.”

A lighter note: Futabayama, the sumo grand champion, is now employed by the state railways. Together with some 20 apprentices he will entertain railway employees with wrestling exhibitions. “We are also ready to carry heavy luggage,” says Futabayama


25th June 1945

The third fundamental policy in Japan’s new pre-invasion structure (following the wartime emergency authority and the division of the empire into eight regions) was announced today. Effective the 22nd, when imperial approval of the diet measure was granted, the volunteer military service law went into operation. Some additional details of the measure are: the term of service shall be one year; the volunteers, excluding those already in the armed forces and the physically unfit, shall be called into action by the competent ministers of state; they shall be organized by regions or by occupation. Thus “railway volunteer fighting headquarters” is expected whose main effect will be to subject railway workers to military discipline.

Our principal concern in Tokyo however was to see to it that our students are not caught between Japanese mobilization and American invasion. Already [illegible] small cities, no less than the crescendo of attacks on Kyushu, had radically changed the situation from that in spring when the students were evacuated from Tokyo “for their own safety”. As a matter of fact our students in Fukuoka had already lost their dormitory and personal belongings in a recent raid. It was to inquire after them and to explore the possibilities of a change of program that I called on Taketomi today. He assured me that his organization was doing its best for the boys in Fukuoka. Communications were badly disrupted and there was little baggage space available on the trains that were running South but he said “we are sending them shirts, shoes, mattresses, and whatever else we can through six of our men who will carry the supplies on their backs.” I offered the help of the embassy but he hesitated to accept anything because he did not want the Indonesians, Malays, and the other students in Fukuoka who have no diplomatic representatives in Tokyo to feel that they were being discriminated against.

With regard to the over-all program, he was equally apologetic. Yes, he said, the problem was being reconsidered but it took so long to get any sort of official action in Japan; there were so many authorities involved that endless conferences were necessary. The embassy, he did not have to emphasize, was not one of those authorities. What we still wanted, I informed him, was what we had asked from the beginning, that all the Filipino students be gathered in one place, preferably in Kyoto, which seemed to be safe from bombers [illegible] about Kyoto. The imperial university there, it seemed, was “prejudiced” against foreign students and from the very beginning had consented to receive only a quota which was now filled.

Our discussion was desultory and fruitless. Neither of us had any authority. I complained that the students in Gifu had been forbidden to go to church on Sundays. Ah, yes, he recalled. That was because the church there was one run by foreigners under police suspicion. I made several other requests and then, as I was leaving, I asked casually once more about our student in the north. This time, unexpectedly, Taketomi blurted out the truth. The boy had been arrested, he admitted mournfully. It was a distressing case. This “misguided” young man had somehow managed to cross to the island of Karafuto and had been caught only one town away from the Soviet border. He had been taken back to Hakodate and was now “safe” in custody. No, nobody could do anything about it. The kempei were in charge. I questioned him closely but he did not seem to be very well informed or more communicative. Apparently he did not know, or did know that I knew, that our student had made friends with a Japanese girl, bought the ticket for Karafuto through her, and almost made the border when the girl, in an access of patriotism, remorse, and curiosity, told her father who told the police.


24th June 1945

Reshaping the administrative structure of Japan to conform with the emergency and the new summary authority demanded by the emergency, Suzuki announced at the present session of the diet that the empire was being divided into eight practically autonomous and self-sufficient regional governments-general. The first conference of their new heads was held in Tokyo last week and today the Times takes the opportunity to summarize the significance of the system. The trend has always been toward larger administrative units, it notes. The 305 prefectures set up in 1871 to take the place of feudal fiefs had been reduced to 46 by 1906. War necessities however have shown that even these 46 are still too many and too small. In partial response to the need for greater coordination regional administrative councils were established in 1943 but the system did not prove successful because it was fundamentally a conference of [illegible]. Under the new system of Governors-general with ample centralized authority will take the place of the councils. They will have cabinet rank, be responsible directly to the cabinet, and will exercise authority in their districts on behalf of all the ministers. In other words, they will be one-man cabinets for their respective regions. The system seems to be similar to that of the commissioner for different regions in the Philippines, established in the closing days of the Laurel regime.


23rd June 1945

Today the wartime emergency measure law went into effect. It was about time, if not too late. The vernaculars were speaking of “gradually mounting losses” in the “death grapple” on Okinawa; more than 500-B-29’s had once again hidden the sun in dust and smoke over the naval base at Kure and the regions under the central army command. There was no exultation in the heart of the who held the unprecedented mandate of the empire; only an oppressive sense of obligation. In this at least the Premier Admiral Baron understood power better than his predecessors the Premiers Generals. On this day he addressed himself, not to the humble docile people who had surrendered power, but to the magnates and potentates who had seized it.

Power was responsibility, he reminded the cabinet in a special statement. The new law placed them above the law but it was an opportunity for service, not for tyranny. Henceforth they should rule their actions by “morality and reason” rather than by law and regulation. By the same token the convolutions of law and the red tape of regulation would henceforth cease to be valid excuses for inefficiency or inaction. Officials would judged strictly on their merits, policies strictly on their utility. Noting with approval that for once their “sermon” had been preached to the government anf not to the people, the Mainichi also doubted: “But how are the brains of the government officials? To what extent can they adjust their brains to the administration of ‘morality and reason’ instead of legal regulations?” The question remained to be answered.