Today the Mainichi brought the first reaction to the surrender of Germany. “In the supposition that this report is true,” the paper writes the following analysis: “In the first place we want to remind our readers that the European war and the war of Greater East Asia are not one and the same thing. In their underlying causes they may have an extremely close resemblance. But they were by no means planned together…. Therefore the end of the European war will not mean the end of the war of Greater East Asia. The second question is what effect the surrender of Germany and Italy will have on our fighting strength. The answer has two parts. The first concerns the amount of support we are losing. Although we are not experts in military affairs, we can easily imagine whet amount and what kind of help we have been receiving from our allies far away in Europe. Consequently it cannot be said that we shall suffer any particular loss in this direction. The other point is this: what are America and Britain going to do with the surplus of fighting strength they have now obtained in Europe? It would be of no use to make any light conjectures. It is possible to imagine certain things…. However, at the present moment, it is better to refrain from doing so….”
Waiting for the tram at Miyanoshita, I came across an Italian acquaintance, a former naval officer, together with a Japanese girl and a Japanese man. The man bowed cordially to the Italian, when the tram finally came around the bend, wishing him a safe trip and a speedy return. He acted like a solicitous old friend. The girl did not say a word to either of the two; she appeared tovbe a complete stranger. She boarded the tram without a look behind her and stood quietly in a corner. Only those who knew them were aware of the fact that the girl was the Italian’s common-law wife, a former barmaid from Kobe. She had come up to the hotel for a short visit to her lover. But Japan was at war with the white man and, although she loved one, she must do so secretly, behind closed shutters. She was not pretty but she knew, as few Japanese girls do, how to wear European clothes. They made her look even lonelier in her corner of the tram, by the smudged window, out of which she was looking with a defiant misery. The man, neither of them knew. He was a military policeman who had conscientiously shadowed them during her entire stay.
The trip to Tokyo was interesting in itself. Yesterday morning 200 bombers and fighters raided Tachikawa, Hiratsuka, and Atsugi for about an hour. Hiratsuka is on the line from Odawara to Tokyo and when we neared it, we were ordered to pull down the blinds. Supervision was not very strict however and I caught a glimpse of the new landscape, flat and streaming under the dusty sun.
Amid rumors of Germany’s unconditional surrender, the board of information yesterday announced that on the 27th April the prime minister and the highest army and navy leaders exchanged “frank views” particularly on “the unification and manifestation of the fighting strength of the army and the navy”. A vernacular explains: “There had been rumors circulating among the people about a disagreement between the army and the navy. It is considered regrettable that such doubts should have arisen even in the slightest degree in this critical situation.” Not too sanguine about the solution of the perennial problem which has helped to ruin the other two war cabinets, the Asahi “wonders what concrete measures were decided upon. At present there are no means for curing details.”
The emperor was 44 years old today. Apparently there will be no elaborate celebration; the state banquet has been cancelled, as it has been every year of the war. The only public ceremony (outside of the rites at the three sanctuaries of the imperial palace today) was the visit which he paid yesterday to the Yasukuni shrine, where, “after graciously removing His cap” and going through the ritual of ablution, he offered a branch of the sacred tree to the spirits of the war dead.
With a new American attack under way in Okinawa, the spotlight has been turned again on the tokotai. Both the English papers today carry their quota of last-minute interviews with the suicide pilots.
A second sub-lieutenant remarks: “Fire is cool, as the Zen Buddhists say, to those who have attained an impersonal beatitude. “Even if our flying suits catch fire, we shall surely manage to hit our targets.”
A 31-year-old lieutenant with 2,000 flying hours to his credit, composes a farewell poem:
The golden chance has arrived.
Surely will I make the death attack,
Crashing my plane and all in the dive
Thunder-sinking a carrier as I smack.
A sub-lieutenant, member of the Shimbu unit, plans to crash-dive in the company of a snow-white rabbit. It is one of three presented to his unit by the boys in the national primary school near the base. The other two rabbits have already made suicide dives.
A sergeant, the only survivor of his squadron, intends to take along the ashes of a fallen comrade. “These are the remains of Sergeant Nakamura”, he explains. “Sergeant Nakamura, Sergeant Koyama, and myself were class-mates in aviation school. The three of us pledged to crash-dive together. Unfortunately Nakamura died before we could do so. In order to fulfill our promise, Koyama and I divided the ashes of our friend. Koyama has already fulfilled his mission. Now it is my turn.”
“In view of the increasing skill of the enemy,” the siren signals will be shortened. The alert (one continuous blast) will be cut from three minutes to one and the actual alarm (a series of blasts) will be blown for four seconds five times instead of 10, starting the 1st May.
It was announced today that Manchoukuo Premier Chang Ching-hui arrived in Tokyo last Monday, when the ambassadors’ conference was held, “to commemorate the Manchou emperor’s first visit to Japan 10 years ago. Chang promised to present 30,000 tons of soy beans and 2,300 tons of salt “as a token of Manchoukuo’s sympathy toward air-raid victims.”
Today is the 25th on the other side of the international date-line and the Japanese press is obsessed with the opening of the San Francisco conference. The tenor of the comment is uniform.
Distracted by the problems of voting procedure, the Polish governments, the discontent of the small nations, the conference “cannot possibly succeed”. But it is the first time that the U.S.S.R. has consented to sit at the same meeting as the allies against Japan and all the papers, keeping their collective fingers crossed, console themselves with the hope that the “basic rivalry” between the United States and the Soviet Union will develop into “a steady tug of war, if not an open clash”.
The spirits of 41,318 army and navy dead, including the late Fleet Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, were solemnly enshrined in Yasakuni last night. Describing the “spirit convocation ceremony” which started at 6 p.m., the Mainichi writes: “Despite repeated enemy air-raids the atmosphere of the Kudan precincts inspired men with awe and veneration unutterable. First the guard of honor, led by the Commander Akiyoshi, took their appointed places, following which admiral Zengo Yoshida, chairman of the enshrinement committee, and other representatives of the army, navy, government, and the public institutions arrived. Then the members of the committee from the army and the navy, as well as Chief Priest Suzuki assumed their respective seats. Priest Takahara made an offering to the spirits and Chief Priest Suzuki recited prayers while all are ___ bowed in perseverance. Chief Priest Suzuki again recited prayers and without the offerings. The military band resounded throughout the precincts and all torch-lights were put out, turning the ceremonial place into holy darkness. During this time the spirits of the 41,318 heroes were deified and enshrined in the secret precincts of the Yasukuni eternally. After that the torches were lit again and the offering of branches of the sacred tree was solemnly made by Admiral Yoshida, chairman of the committee, and others, bringing the spirit-convocation ceremony to a close shortly after 8 p.m.” This morning in the presence of an imperial messenger (Prince Hiroyoshi Ito), the spring special grand festival of Yasukuni shrine will be opened.
The civilians killed in the air-raids have had their enshrinement in a row of figures. Today the government made public its first announcement on the damage suffered from the 1st March to the 16th April. In Tokyo some 510,000 houses hove been burnt; in Osaka, some 130,000; in Nagoya, some 60,000; in Kobe, some 70,000 Air-raid sufferers numbered in Tokyo some 2,100,000; in Osaka, some 510,000; in Nagoya, some 270,000; in Kobe, some 260,000. Figures for Yokohama and Kawasaki are “under investigation”. No figures on casualties were given. Still the Suzuki cabinet seems to be trying to fulfill its pledge for greater frankness on the course of the war.
The ambassadors’ conference failed to divert the Japanese from the realities of the war. While looking forward “with the keenest concern and breathless interest” to “an eleventh-hour rally” by the Germans, the Mainichi concedes that from all appearances “death alone awaits the German nation.” For its part the Asahi, declaring that the fate of Berlin “is already more or less decided”, warns the Japanese people to be “profoundly prepared”.
After three days of the hasty and perfunctory preparation, the ambassadors’ conference of Greater East Asiatic nations was opened today, a pathetic little popgun aimed at the San Francisco conference on the 25th. The entire program was carefully prepared in advance to the smallest detail; the various addresses and motions in both the so-called secret and open sessions were assigned and rehearsed beforehand; even the trivial formality of exactly who would second the nomination of the Japanese foreign minister as chairman of the conference was fixed. No one was deceived by the elaborate mummery. Yet how easy it would have been for the Japanese sponsors of the conference to deceive history. A few spontaneous suggestions, an appearance of disagreement and debate, would have given the records of the meeting a liveliness that might afterward pass for life. How transparent in contrast was the docile unanimity in which the conference was frozen for the fixture.
What is it in the Japanese character that makes them so afraid of anything short of perfection? Every ship sunk is sunk “instantaneously”; every battle is a victory and every victory an “annihilation”; every meeting, by the same token, must needs end in “complete agreement” with every vote “unanimous”. Surely in this conference they could not seriously have feared that a more or less free discussion would have led to conclusions even vaguely hostile to their overwhelming power in East Asia. Would any of the grave puppets present have dared to jerk the strings out of the hands of the puppeteer? Yet the managers of the conference acted as if they were afraid of an uncontrollable burst of recrimination arid abuse. What a commentary on Japanese imperialism that even the face-saving tributes to freedom and equality must needs be paid in servile formulas. The Burmese ambassador, who has often flashed a subtle wit, summarized the whole business neatly in a speech at the closing dinner. “We have had a very successful conference,” he declared, speaking in the name of all the ambassadors. “This noon we had a good lunch and now we have been given a splendid dinner.”