As the Asahi puts it, with typical bombast, “the American troops have at last set their dirty shoes on the soil of Luzon.” the paper thereupon goes to great length to call for “powerful politics” enforced at any cost. But nowhere in the lengthy article does the paper get more definite than the following; “There may be questions pertaining to raw materials, labor, transportation, in addition to other bottlenecks and impediments which, with the progress of the war, are likely to become further accentuated.” The nearest one gets to actual facts is the rather pitiful story that even scouting and training planes in the Philippines have had bombs hooked onto them for suicide dives.
Not all the Japanese are unaware of how things are going. Today a Japanese admitted to me that the situation looked “hopeless”. The Americans, he said, were betting huge sums and Japan had no chips left. We were playing poker, which explains his choice of metaphor.
No, he said, the Japanese did not mind their sons and husbands being marooned and doomed on Luzon as on the other bloody islands of the south; that was a sacred duty cheerfully fulfilled. All the same, what was the use? He had already forgotten those sanguine expectations he had told me about one year ago, expectations of Chiang’s surrender after the victories in central China, expectations of “annihilating” the Americans once they came within range of the tokotai. This was no longer a 50-50 affair lacking only the mediation of Stalin for a negotiated peace. It was now 30-70, he judged, and it was, more than ever, time for peace. But no, not surrender. He could not bring himself to say it.
Afterward I had another chat with a Japanese newspaperman, To him too the situation appeared irretrievable and the future unpredictable. The young people were deeply Asian in outlook, he thought; they hated the America and England for whom their fathers and grandfathers still, in their hearts, had a haunting fear and respect. (Yvonne tells us that the little boy who lives next door to her sticks out his tongue every time they meet and calls her “dirty foreigner”). But nobody knew what time would bring. Would the youngsters hold out to the end, hurling the empire with them into national suicide? Or would the old men smother this fierce frenzy with their knowing pessimism, the instinct of age to save what there was left to save, to compromise, to fix, to bargain, to keep a penny rather than to risk and loose it all?
Eddie Vargas called up today by long-distance from Taiwan; he is stranded there. All civilian air travel to the Philippines has been suspended. We are now definitely cut off from home; no more couriers, no more letters, even telegrams will be difficult unless they are official and urgent.
As the situation deteriorates, the press is allowed to say more and more, are they learning to let the people down slowly? Or are the authorities trying to frighten the people of Tokyo out of the threatened capital? Now the vernaculars are saying, that the Americans have more ships in the Philippines than the Japanese have planes. So much for the “one ship, one plane” strategy.
The Asahi also carries a “special” today from Manila bemoaning the fact that the Japanese could have “annihilated” the American convoy off Mindoro on the 15th December if they had had enough planes. It was, the paper said, “a serious mortification”.
But the people of Tokyo are still looking at the war as something fantastic and far-away. They are now amusing themselves with the report that the Americans are having to fall back on “artificial earthquake” plans to destroy Japan’s main cities. And when there was a full-scale air alarm this noon, there was no one in the basement, which is supposed to be the apartment air-raid shelter.
Instead our French neighbor, Yvonne, who ran away from Paris to escape the war, came rushing in, wringing her hands. She had come back from her apartment to find the gas sealed. She looked terribly thin and anxious; she brought us a present of four eggs and asked for the loan of our gas stove. “Life is so complicated,” she wailed in the way she has of repeating her English lover’s clichés. “They only do it because I’m French.” But in some respect it is her own fault. She had been warned about the limitations on the consumption of gas but she had kept her stove burning practically the whole day for days on end “to heat the apartment” and “because I drink a lot of tea”.
Of course about 70 sen worth of gas (the official limit for one person for one month) is not much but they will probably cut off her gas for the time equivalent to her excess consumption.
Poor Yvonne, life will be so much more complicated without tea.
Another proof that the Tokyo evacuation program is not getting along is the fact that we have been looking in vain for a house since September. Nobody‘s moving out and there is a long line waiting to move in. We have long wanted to move from our present apartment but so far we have been within talking distance of only two landlords. One wanted only neutrals. The other, whom we saw today, wanted to stay on in the house, share our diplomatic rations, and be employed as cook-butler together with his wife at a salary which would have doubled the rent.
Waiting for the big fire-raids, the Tokyo authorities have thought up three more ways to speed up evacuation. Strangely enough in a land supposed to combine the brutalities of feudalism and totalitarianism, nobody has yet thought of chasing excess population out at the point of a bayonet.
Instead reluctant city folk who hesitate to inflict themselves on country relatives and who have heard stories of ruthless profiteering in evacuation centers, are being bribed with special rations of soap, butter, etc. Thrifty holdouts may be moved by the promise that their houses will be let, thus providing the additional bribe of rent. Finally worriers are being assured that the members of their families who stay behind will be lodged in special boarding houses with special rations.
Our former landlady would probably constitute a typical example. Her eldest daughter went off to the country together with all the children in her neighborhood school. But she herself is staying behind with her baby, her husband, and her mother-in-law. She wants to be a good wife, a good Japanese wife, and take care of her lord and master. It is this Confucian virtue that makes the greatest bottleneck in the evacuation program together with a total incomprehension of how near and dread is their danger.
Overcome Mounting Taxation Increase Through Temperance;
Let’s Refrain from Drinking and Making Unnecessary Trips
Thus the Asahi headlines a new increase in taxes, the ninth since the start of the China Affair. The increase has been made in the classified income tax and the luxury taxes on alcoholic drinks, theater entertainment and travel.
An eyewitness story of life in Germany today, published by the Yomiuri, is a muffled protest against this pious preaching of “temperance” in starvation. It gives us one of three reasons why the Germans are holding out the claim that “the Germans have the best music in the world.” The Germans, says the account, don’t have to listen to “sermons” every time they turn on the radio; instead, they get music, good music, and in the same way the Nazis give the Germans circuses as well as bread to make them forget their troubles.
I asked a Japanese once why the Japanese government had forbidden fun; why it had locked up the bars, conscripted the geisha, starved the theaters, rationed the films, arrested anyone who dared to dance; why it had allowed, nay pushed, scolded, and driven the people into a joyless squalor unimaginable in the past. Would it not have been wiser to make it possible for them to forget their troubles once in a while?
No, he answered me, Japanese psychology was different. The Japanese did not want to drown their sorrows; they liked to pick at their wounds and scars. If they were at war, they were at war all the time. They took war seriously; “that is why we win”. Besides how could any true Japanese have fun when the man of the tokotai were riding on bombs and hurling themselves into annihilation?
But the Japanese mentality is not so “different”. Men line up for blocks in this searing cold to get a glass of beer; they will trade their food for rice wine and get drunk on one unaccustomed swallow, to lurch and stumble, shout and bluster, gambol and weep, home to their lousy hovels. The women stuff every train carriage put to the country with their babies and their bundles, they spend stifling hours in the coarse intimacies of packed suffocating subways and streetcars, to visit and gossip with relatives and friends, trying desperately to find one unrationed scrap of happiness to share with one another.
Koiso‘s statement at the initial cabinet meeting this year is full of those circumlocutions and euphemisms that the Japanese love. “I wish to make this year a year of war victory,” he began, “but the war situation is very acute. We have won unprecedented victories in the battles off Taiwan and the Philippines but our navy has suffered losses and consumption which were not necessarily small. Subsequently both the army and the navy have been blocking the advance of the enemy through the activities of the special attack corps but the war situation on Leyte Island is not necessarily favorable to us.” The balance of “buts” is delightful. The Japanese have been told with delicate and classic subtlety that they are winning all the battles but losing the war — or rather, not necessarily winning it.
The chancery was deserted today. All the Japanese employees have disappeared; nobody expects them back until the 6th or even Monday the 8th. The official slogan is.”No New Year holidays” but it is hard for the Japanese to get used to the idea that they cannot take the traditional five days off.
It seems that the New Year will also bring new American techniques in the bombing of Japan. Commenting on the heavy raid on the Nagoya, Osaka, and Hamamatsu areas yesterday afternoon, the Asahi warns that, judging from the tactics used there, “the enemy will not merely bomb the important factory establishments with explosives but will also carry out blind bombings of cities, chiefly with incendiary shells. It is therefore necessary,” exhorts the Asahi, “to be prepared to limit damage to a minimum by perfecting all preparations especially for the extinction of fires.”
But it will take an honest-to-goodness raid to wake Tokyo up. The sidewalk ditch-shelters in our vicinity are still uncovered although some neighborhood associations are Starting to shovel out the garbage that has accumulated in them, most of the women and some men carry or wear fire-fighting quilted hoods but it is more to protect themselves against the cold than anything else. As for fire-fighting equipment, our apartment building is supposed to be equipped with long hooks and rope-flailed staves but all we have seen are a dozen pails stacked up in the basement.
Eddie Vargas enplaned for Manila this morning, his baggage mostly medicines for his family, parcels for home from the students, a letter or two from each of the rest of us.
The Nippon Times carries an article by General Homma. in a reassuring review of the present Philippine campaign he states: “We need not be unduly apprehensive as even if oil will no longer be forthcoming from the southern regions, we can fly our planes with alcohol produced from pine resin.”