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


15th May 1945

About 400 B-29’s raided Nagoya yesterday, “for the first time dropping incendiaries on a large scale in the daytime”, while 300 carrier-borne planes were raking Kyushu, following up a larger raid the day before by 900 planes. In Okinawa, reports the Asahi, “a confused battle is raging, with indications that the fighting line has been shifted nearer to Shuri and Naha. Evidently the enemy has come out to launch a general offensive both on land and sea.” In view of this, orders the Asahi, “is the enemy inordinately intending to win the war at one stroke?”

And the paper complains: “We have the favor of heaven, the harmony of men, and the advantage of locale. What we lack, it is regrettable to say, is materials.” Heaven favors the longest assembly-line.

Premier Suzuki knows it. At a conference of prefectural governors yesterday he reminded his hearers that the empire was now fighting along, “that it could not fight without an increase in production, and that there could be no increase “without the people’s trust”.

It is probably the chief disadvantage of a bureaucratic government that it must be taught this basic technique of the politician. Certainly it is startling for one who has lived under other forms of government to hear such elementary instructions as the premier felt compelled to give the governors:

“It is necessary that you should live and work in concert with the people…. With modesty and with the attitude of reflecting on your conduct daily, you are called to recognize straightforwardly the prevailing situation, give consideration to the spirit of the people at work, listen to their enthusiastic will, and respond thereto. The result will be that you will be kinder in your leadership….

“Show a good example to the people and take proper and timely measures as necessity arises, without being influenced by the ups and downs of the war situation. In the course of the performance of your duties you will find obstacles in time-honored customs and complicated regulations, but it is hoped that you will judge the situation on the basis of your responsibility…. and act with dispatch and courage.”

The Premier did not forget to give the governors a certain reassurance. As I often say,” he reminded them, “world war history shows that it is not always the big country that wins and the small country that is defeated. The country that fight it out under a moral order gets the ultimate victory.”

Which is no truer than it is to say that right makes might.


14th May 1945

The Japanese mother-in-law of a Filipino in Tokyo is trying to let her house and sell her furniture — too late. The peak of the prices has passed; everyone is trying to get out of Tokyo now and to get rid of household possessions. Only kitchen utensils and bedclothes continue to rise in value, when they can be found at all. But she keeps waiting, delaying, postponing the date of her family’s evacuation from the capital. She believes firmly that if only she waits, delays, and postpones long enough someone will pay her a fabulous price for her old piano.

She should be told that food, particularly sugar, is the only commodity that bring fortunes in the black market these days. Vargas told me today that he had been approached recently by one of our interpreters with a strange proposition. There were some 100 sacks of black-market sugar to be had somewhere and a group of rich Japanese were eager to buy the lot. But due to government restrictions they could not withdraw the required amount from their banks. The proposition was that Vargas should advance the sum (more than half a million) to be repaid within a few days, presumably after sugar had been disposed of in small lots. What he was supposed to get out of it, Vargas did not bother to find out.

At any rate, he remarked, the Japanese tycoons were going to almost any lengths to get their frozen assets out of the banks. Some, he had heard, applied for permission to withdraw heavy sums on the excuse that the money would be spent on constructing or expanding plants needed for the war effort. Once permission was granted however, the money was hoarded. “There’s a lot of fooling around,” Vargas concluded. “But they are only fooling themselves.”


13th May 1945

Signs of the times: the fourth and fifth sections of the bureau of political affairs of the foreign office are moving out of Tokyo to the provinces. They deal with European and American affairs.

My informant, a Japanese diplomat, said also there was no question of surrender for Japan. “It would be foolish to give up now,” he said. “We have little left to bargain with.” Was he hoping for a clash between the Anglo-Americans and the Soviets? No, he was not so stupid as that. What was the way out then? He shrugged his shoulders. His face was haggard. They would just have to keep on fighting till there was nothing left in Japan. He was too honest to speak about Japan’s allies in Asia; Japan, he knew, was not fighting at the head of Asia; she was facing Asia, as well as the rest of the world.

Listening to him I remembered the cadets at the Japanese military academy from various countries in Greater East Asia. These boys might be taken for Japanese; they were popular Japanese uniforms and receive the salutes of all Japanese soldiers lower in rank. They get the same rations; lodging; supplies, and equipment as Japanese cadets. As a matter of fact the academy authorities have bent over backwards in some cases to keep them happy. In response to a half-joking complaint of the Indian cadets, who asked that everyone stand at attention when the name of Subhas Chandra Bose was mentioned just as they were required to do when the emperor was named, instructors and students now stiffened up at the names of all the Daitoa heads of state. For the rest of it, they were not too unhappy; they were young enough to like the discipline and special privileges of the army. They were being rushed through military training; they had run through a year’s course in a few months; the academy, they had been told, was above all “the school where men where taught how to die.” Thus tank-busting reduced itself, they were taught, to hurling one’s self upon the armored vehicle, explosive in hand. It was surer that way, and cheaper.

But already they were too old to believe in Japan and Daitoa. They had seen to many things in their native countries. They exhibited the curious recurrent phenomenon of all Japanese attempts at indoctrinating the youth of Asia: at the academy all the other Asians would gang up against the Japanese. This, I thought, was all that remained of Japan’s intoxicating dream of leading the “one billion Asian” to the conquest of the world. How many were they in all? Not more than a hundred boys, running irreverently on the edge of contempt, suspicion, and insubordination, while he who would have been master bowed ingratiatingly at the names of his creatures. All those phantom armies of fanatics, irresistible, innumerable, had dwindled down to this poor raw handful of cynical youngsters who must be coddled lest they sulk in their barracks. Now in this desperate pass Japan was reaping the harvest of arrogance, distrust, tyranny and wanton cruelty. It was no longer mere foreboding. Samson had pulled the temple down over his head and the deadly avalanche had broken all over Asia.

Returning to Miyanoshita in the evening I saw the Burmese military attache for the first time in many weeks. He was feverish with excitement. The secret plans he had confined in me so often had matured. The Burmese national army had gone over to the British. He was in an anguish of impatience and regret. He had been one of the founders of that army. He had trained with it in secret hideouts off the coast of China even before the war. He had marched with it into Burma at the heels of the British. He had shared its disillusionment, its rage, its plane for revenge on the Japanese. Now, at the crucial moment, he was sitting in an hotel room at the foot of Fuji. He was my best friend in Japan. He had shared many secrets and I had always thought I knew all there was to know about him. But now, as he laughed his curious laugh and strode and stamped about the room, he seemed to me for the first time to be a symbol for all of Asia. He had suffered much at the hands of the white man, whom he had hated. Thrown into prison at 19, his career in medicine ruined at the very start, his private life thenceforth harried and hurt by police, he had spent 10 years agitating for the independence of his people. He had believed in Japan as the liberator of Asia and he had been betrayed. Liberation had become a mockery. The liberator, a clumsy and hateful tyrant. And now, if he still hated Britain, he hated Japan even more. Asia had found a new master and a new enemy.


12th May 1945

The spy scare continues to mount. Japan is alone against the world and all foreigners are suspect. Chatting with other Filipinos in the lobby of the Dai-Ichi hotel I was approached by a well-dressed Japanese. He came up with a smile and for a moment I thought I had met him somewhere. But he himself said afterward that he had made mistake; he apologized and then calmly joined our group and asked questions. Who were we? What nationality? What were we waiting for? Where did we live?

Later in the day Anita arrived from Miyanoshita. She had come down together with an Italian acquaintance. He was blonde, red-faced, obviously a foreigner and she looked like a Japanese to the policeman at the streetcar stop near the embassy. It was some time before he was convinced that he had not bagged a brace of spies.

Afterward, explaining and aplogizing for the incident, one or our Japanese interpreter told me two stories of real espionage. An admiral in full uniform had been stopped by the military police while driving in a secret factory district. The admiral was furious but the suspicions of the kempei had been aroused by the fact that his car was not a navy car. They proved to be justified. The man turned out to be an impostor and a spy. In another factory district a man in the uniform of an army lieutenant had asked to board at a farmhouse, explaining that he was assigned for duty in one of the plants nearby. He won the confidence of the old couple on the farm with the story that he was an orphan. Eventually he was even adopted and married to the daughter of the family. He asked many casual questions and they were answered. One day the factory was wiped out by a raid. The daughter, who was working there, was killed. The man never came back.

From another source I heard why the American raids are so accurate. The military police had long puzzled over the fact that the B-29’s were consistently hitting the right targets in a certain factory. They were not fooled, it seemed, by the most ingenious camouflage and the most convincing dummies. They were at a loss until one of the townspeople remarked to a friend that it was funny that his neighbor, the wife of the factory’s technical director, should always be at her sewing-machine, pedaling furiously whenever there was an air-raid. The police were intrigued. One day, at the height of a raid, they surrounded the house. Inside they caught the director transmitting information through a secret radio set while his wife worked at the sewing machine to muffle the noise. The man and his entire family were shot. He was a skilled technician who had come back to Japan on an exchange boat.

Whether these stories are true or not, they form the staple of conversation in diplomatic circles, together with the rations and black-market connections. The wife of one Italian diplomat said she has a stiff leg recently and called masseur. A man showed up and started off by asking questions. Where had she sprained her leg? Why? With whom? Finally he thanked her and left, promising to send a real masseur. At least, she consoles herself now, the police agent did not actually start massaging her leg.

A Portuguese was recently called in by the military police. What had she been talking about on a certain day when she had walked to Roppongi in a black dress and a green hat? She could not remember. It was two years ago.

The Fujiya hotel has a swimming pool and a group of Axis diplomats were sunning themselves around in one morning. In a short while a Japanese strolled up. Calmly he took off his shoes and coat and made himself comfortable in a lounge chair. He was obviously listening to the conversation and the diplomats turned to the innocuous topic of Chinese food. Most of them had been in China and now they reminisced hungrily of Peking duck, sweet and sour sauce, pickled eggs, and thick asparagus soup with chicken. The police agent was obviously puzzled. What was there to report in this series of culinary memoirs? Finally he could stand it no longer. He raised himself, turned, and asked: “Excuse, please. You talk about Chinese cooking, no?

“Yes,” answered one Italian cautiously. “Anything wrong?”

“No, nothing wrong. You like Chinese cooking?”

“Well, yes, we like Chinese cooking and,” he added discreetly, “also Japanese cooking.”

“What kind Chinese cooking?” the policeman suddenly demanded with the air of a hunter who has cornered his prey.

“What kind? You mean, north or south Chinese?”

“No, no. Please answer. What kind Chinese cooking you like? Nanking or Chunking?”

But the Japanese are the worst victims of their own spy-scare. A Japanese in Miyanoshita, who is married to a German lady he met during his studies in Berlin, does not dare walk in the streets of the village with his wife anymore. The same German woman, met the son and daughter of a Japanese marquis on the train from Tokyo the other day. They were old friends and they chatted amiably. As soon as they got off, however, the two Japanese were taken in to kempei headquarters. Why, they were asked, had they been talking to the foreign woman? What had they talked about?

But the boy was too quick-witted for them. “Is there anything to prohibit us from talking to a Japanese subject?” he asked.

“No,” the police agreed. “But this woman….”

This woman is married to a Japanese and therefore she herself is a Japanese subject.”

They were released. But they, like very other Japanese in the vicinity, have now let it be known to their foreign friends that they will have to be excused if they no longer exchange words or even salutes.

The life of a Burmese diplomat, for one, understands perfectly. To amuse herself one day she painted the fingernails of her favorite maid a vivid red. In the afternoon she decided to take a short trip and sent the maid to the railway to buy a ticket.

In a few minutes she was back, weeping copiously and pleading for some polish remover. The station-master had refused to sell a ticket to a Japanese girl with painted fingernails “like the hairy devils”.