27th May 1945

The imperial palace was burnt down in the last raid. A communique issued by imperial general headquarters yesterday revealed that about 250 B-29’s from southern bases raided Tokyo for some two and a half hours from about 10:30 p.m. on the 25th May. “As a result of the raids the front palace and other structures in the imperial palace grounds and the Omiya palace were destroyed by fire.” For its part the office of the imperial household announced earlier in the day that “damage was suffered by the imperial palace and the Omiya palace. Their Majesties the Emperor, the Empress, and the Empress Dowager are safe. The Kashigodokoro, one of the three sanctuaries of the imperial palace, was unscathed.” The implication is that little else in the imperial compound escaped.

There is not much official news to be had. The Tokyo papers were forced to issue a common edition today. Among the buildings burned they listed the mansions of the emperor’s brothers, seven other princes, all the diplomatic establishments except the British embassy and our own, two universities (Kaio and Burika), the foreign office, the Daitoa office, the ministry of transportation, numerous hospitals and temples, and two newspaper offices.

The areas affected in the last two raids were listed as Ebara, Shinagawa and Omori wards (23rd-24th raid), and Kojimachi, Shibuya, Keishikawa, Hakare, ?, Shinagawa, and Akasaka wards (25th-26th raid). Damage was also suffered in some sections of Azabu, Yotsuya, Itabashi, Kyobashi, Setagava, and Arakawa wards, in Tokyo, and in parts of Yokohama and Kawasaki.

The papers also reported that at an extraordinary cabinet meeting held yesterday Suzuki “expressed regrets for the damage done to the imperial palace” and released the following statement: “The present air-raid was conducted on a comparatively large scale and,  as it was favored by a strong wind, the damage done must have been considerable. However we should be strictly on our guard against any inclination to magnify the damage just because we see it all around us. The extent of damage is quite natural in war. As for the cabinet, the government intends to petition the throne for pardon by fighting out the war….”

Underneath the official communiques and statements however a premonitory rumble of discontent can be heard against bureaucratic and militaristic inefficiency. The Japanese are shocked by the destruction of the imperial palace and they are more inclined to blame its official custodians than the Americans. They claim that no bombs hit the palace directly; it caught fire from adjoining structures and, due entirely to the panic of the officials of the imperial household, the fire was allowed to spread unchecked.

Our students had a personal experience of their own. When the fire spread to the vicinity of their dormitory the police shouted instructions to run away. The neighborhood association officials, for their part, stubbornly adhered to instructions and ordered all windows opened although originally these structures had been planned against the blast of explosive bombs. Open windows only let in the sparks in case of an incendiary raid. If the dormitory was saved at all, the only structure in the neighborhood that did so, it was entirely due to the efforts of the students themselves.

After the fire both official muddle-headedness and general demoralization combined to sharpen popular sufferinf. In one neighborhood the people lined up for an unexpected distribution of tinned fish, salvaged from the wreck of a warehouse. Everything went well until a group of army officers drove up in a truck and appropriated the food.

In another neighborhood the people were not so disciplined. When the emergency rice-ball rations were distributed they refused to line up and fought for the food. Most of it was spilled on the ground. Yet, though many were hungry, none would sacrifice pride so much as to pick up the balls and or two even kicked them away.

But there have been no serious riots so far. A Japanese explains it this way: “How can the people rise against the government? The government is their last hope for food.”

The trains were running out of Toyko only from Shinagawa station and when I boarded mine, I scarcely found room to wedge myself into a platform. By some coincidence I was next to a second-class coach; the press in third class was so great that presently grumbling and shouting broke out. Dishevelled men and women, reeking of sweat and smoke, and staggering under huge bundles, finally burst into the more expensive compartments. Some voices of protest were raised. But they were quickly silenced when a burly worker, his eyes flashing, shouted: “This is no time for distinctions! This is no time for second-class and third-class cars! We are all the same, all Japanese!”

 


25th-26th May 1945

Tokyo will always remember the night of the 25th May. It started out so quietly. The moon was still out. People told one another that Mr. B-29 would not come tonight, he would be resting from his labors, so it was safe to go for a little walk. It seemed such a pity to waste that moonlight and the playful teasing little wind. I went out to dinner in the suburbs. But we had not yet finished coffee when the alert was sounded; the actual alarm was almost an echo; I had no longer time to make the train home. “Why don’t you stay up with me until morning?” asked my host. He was rather worried and wanted company.

The fires and explosions were rather closer than they had been the last time but we could still sit in the garden edge of his Japanese house, counting the bombers as they came in, one by one. The wind had blown up into a gale by now. The trees about us were in a tumult. The anti-aircraft fire was active and fragments of shell and bomb came whistling overhead. Six or seven buried themselves in the ground about us. There was nothing to be done about them but still quietly and take our chances. The neighborhood was tense. The members of the neighborhood association were patroling their houses and their yards. Only one man was slightly hysterical; he shouted to us to put out our cigarettes although the sky all around us was already bright with fire.

It did not look like a heavier raid than usual. Still it was tiring to sit up through the night and I was more annoyed than disturbed when, after breakfast in the morning, I found I would have to walk back to the embassy, a matter of four or five hours, because the suburban railway line had been cut. But there no help for it. My host was kind enough to accompany me to show me the way it but it turned out that he need not have done it; there was such a steady crowd going to Tokyo that I need only have followed them. Afterward I was glad enough to have his company. The scene of desolation in the dawn of an air-raid had grown so familiar and monotonous that I thought it had lost its power to horrify me. I did not count on the effect of accumulation, horror stretched out  after familiar horror, until the total became a new monstrosity. All the way from Nishi-Ogikuboto Kudan, block after block was razed flat in that utter way that only Japanese blocks can be razed flat, for the closely-packed wood-and-paper houses leave scarcely a stone upon a stone. There was no trace or memory of beauty in this only featureless waste, gray, sultry, pitiless.

Only the overheard talk of the people as we passed by gave it meaning and nearness; without them it might have been a vista of the craters of the moon. They were only snatches of conversation as we went by but they told a story of the human heart. A young girl asked who had started the war. A shabby man with a bristle mumbled over and over to himself: “But this is cruel, too cruel!” and in his accents there was neither hate nor the desire for revenge but only an anguished surprise. Most of them however were concerned with petty tragedies of everyday life. They spoke of some prized possession burnt, of a little hoard of food accumulated at unspeakable sacrifices now gone up in smoke, of where they would spend the night. Once again there would be no light, no water, no gas for all of us, and for those who had been caught in the trap of ruin, there would be no place to sleep, no clothes to wear, no food to eat. We passed a ration center giving out small balls of cold brown rice; another center’s warehouse was burning and the people were snatching out handfuls of burnt beans. There was an incredible, brutal, greedy sense of waste; the beans ran in quick rustling streams into the gutters as the gaunt people snatched at the smoking bags, tore them, fighting over handfulls that spilled and were crushed under their hard scuffling wooden slippers.

Yet by themselves, how admirable and infinitely pathetic was their patience. They were already scouring the ruins of their homes for some pot that could be salvaged and their faces, drawn, streaming with sweat, seared and scarred by smoke, were yet clear of despair. Was it serenity or stupidity? An ox can be a hero.

but perhaps there was something in the Japanese soul that steeled them against catastrophe, some atavistic acceptance of sudden ruin in a land of earthquakes and famine. By the side of the road there were two blackened and twisted corpses, a large one clasping a smaller body. A scrap of bright red and orange cloth had somehow escaped the flames and it fluttered greasily from a charred crease of crusted flesh. I felt that if I had lived there I would not have stayed a moment longer; I would have fled in horror and despair. But what was there to run to? An old woman was hobbling along beside us, leading a howling child by the hand. “Never mind, never mind, darling,” she said, “we are still alive and that is most important.” What had the child lost? I wanted to stop and ask. A doll, a pet, a mother? Whatever it had been, it seemed to that child so infinitely more important than life.

It was hard to find my way home. All the familiar landmarks from Shinjuku to Yotsaya Mitsuke were gone and only the dusty road, cluttered with the wrecks of streetcars, remained in a strange and trackless desert. How many were there that morning, lost like myself in an unexpected wilderness! I turned the corner I had turned to many times and it was almost no surprise to find the house gone with the rest of the neighborhood. There was little trace of it left except for a half-burnt shirt near the air-raid shelter. I was overwhelmed by melancholy. This was a personal, an intimate, square of debris. I understood now why people poked about in the ruin of their homes. I myself felt the irresistible compulsion of their emotion and I kicked desultorily at the fallen tile and the charred sheets of tin, my eyes searching restlessly. What was I looking for? What did I expect to find? Nothing; my old razor, perhaps, which I had bought in a tunnel on Corregidor; or the old shoehorn that always hung at the entrance because shoes must be taken off when going into a Japanese house; anything that might identify this heap of rubble as the place I had known so well and made my own, a sight of recognition from the chaos of universal and anonymous desolation, a scrap of memory.

I felt the eyes of someone upon me and I looked up. The landlord’s daughter, our neighbor, was cooking her breakfast over the ruins of her house and she was watching me. Her eyes were bloodshot but she seemed endowed wuth the same tenacious patience which I had seen everywhere. My colleagues had gone to the embassy for refuge, she said. No, there was no one left here. Her family had gone off somewhere to look for lodging or buy a railway ticket. Abruptly she burst into tears, rose, and caught my hands. “There is nothing left here, nothing left. When shall we see each other again?”

I answered her as reassuringly as I could. Then I said I must go. The sun was out and it was uncomfortable to stumble through the debris, choking with smoke, cinders in my eyes, tired and sleepless. Turning into the main road a solitary car overtook me slowly. I stopped to look and inside I caught a glimpse of sad old man. I recognized the tired sagging face. It was Suzuki the premier. The people on the road did not seem to recognize him or, if they did, they did not seem to care. There were, for once, no armed escorts or guards. Apparently it was not thought necessary to take any precautions against a mob of malcontents or a chance fanatic; how well the Japanese leaders knew their own people. No one cheered as they would have cheered Churchill in London, fingers raised in the V sign; but also no one hooted or raised a clenched fist. The Japanese were too busy with their own troubles; only one or two stared curiously at the shiny automobile as it rolled smoothly past.

There had been no fires near the embassy; there was nothing left to burn. Some incendiaries had fallen into our compound but they had been put out with comparative ease and no visible damage. One incendiary had burst outside the window of the ambassador’s office and the heat outside had dried up the glue on the maps on the walls so that the maps had snapped off their rollers and were on the floor, but that was all. White chemical stains were scattered in the lawn and gravel walks. A few tiles had been bashed in on the roof. But considering everything, the embassy had been very lucky. Vargas, who was out of town, would find little harm done.

I found my colleague Sy-Changco disconsolate. He had placed most of his clothes in the air-raid shelter and covered them up with earth but somehow the fire had crept in and he had lost many of his clothes. The house had gone up in flames only in the closing hours of the fire. Several incendiaries had dropped into the garden but no damage had been done until the house in the corner opposite caught fire and the terrific wind scattered it throughout the neighborhood. Throughout the day refugees trooped into the embassy. We put all of them up for the night but it was difficult to feed them. As usual there was neither light nor water; the gas-range was dead; and all we had to eat was an unsavory mess of Japanese noodles and rice, half-cooked over a wooden fire, and eaten by candle-light.

Vargas was due to return that night and we were to pick him up at the Tokyo station. But we were told that the heart of Tokyo had been destroyed and that Tokyo station had been hit at last; the Imperial Hotel was in flames; there were stories that even the imperial palace had caught fire. We were too tired to go out and see during the day and the small car in the embassy had broken down with the cheap alcohol we were using as fuel. However Vargas had to be fetched and Sy-Changco and I took out the big car. The chauffeur was on leave in Hakone and we had to do the driving ourselves. The alcohol was so bad that the big Buick kept dying under us. It was a weird ride –Maranouchi and the Ginza were a ghostly graveyard with the skeletons of skyscrapers still flickering with flames at the windows. Tokyo station was in ruins and we went on to the next stop at Shinbashi. It was tense and strained work, driving in pitch darkness with dimmed headlights. The streetcars were dangerous with wreckage and heavy streetcar cables dangling overhead. At Shinbashi there was a light burning in the station-master’s office and when we asked about the train from Nara we were told that it would not go beyond the next station, Shinagawa. Off we went again on the main road to Yokohama. There were parties of refugees strung all along the road, some trudging patiently along with huge bundles on their backs; others, more fortunate, jammed into rattling open trucks that the army and the navy had put into an emergency bus line.

The Buick kept stalling and we had to ask the help of passers-by to get it started again as it was too heavy for one man to push while the other worked the gears and clutch. The atmosphere of common disaster made everyone helpful. Two trucks also stopped when we flagged them and took their turns pushing the car but it all came to nothing in the end and we had finally to give up the idea of getting to Shinagawa. Then one of our interpreters came riding by on a bicycle. Vargas had arrived and the interpreter had borrowed the station-master’s bicycle at Shinagawa to fetch the car. We told him what had happened and decided to let him go back to the embassy to see if the small car had been fixed up in the meantime –which as it turned out, it had.

The alert sounded again as we were on our way back to the embassy and somehow, moving through the graveyard that had once been Tokyo, it had the sound of wailing and lamentation, a thin and distant sound and, because most of the sirens had been destroyed, lonely and forlorn. It had a note of remembered sadness, pursuing the ghostly fugitives along the road.


23rd-24th May 1945

From the night of the 23rd to the morning of the 24th Tokyo underwent one of the heaviest raids of the war. The targets were far enough to be impersonal and we could enjoy with a certain detachment the weird spectacle of Tokyo in flames around us. At first the bombers were only throaty pulsing noises in the night. Then one by one they were caught in the searchlights and we saw them as bits and flashes of a more solid silver then the beams of light on they rose. By this time the incendiaries were starting to burn the horizon and the scene lighted up. The night took shape and color from the reddish mass of clouds reflecting the conflagration below while every once in a while the graceful spray of the incendiaries decorated the sky with childish fireworks. We actually saw seven planes hit –we could not be sure whether they were bombers or defense fighters. One of them, caught by a searchlight, was moving overhead with what seemed unbelievable serenity, indifferent to the bursts of anti-aircraft fire that followed or anticipated it when, suddenly, it burst into flames. Another one came into our line of vision already a dazzling cylinder of fire. It seemed incredible but men still lived inside it but it moved steadily on an even plane toward a bank of burning cloud; it didn’t make it. Before we knew it, it was dawn, a dawn of breath-taking beauty. The sky to our left was a pure and lovely blue but it took a long time to wash off the heavy smudges of smoke, clouds burned black, and all the dirty of destruction over Toyko.

How curious and unexpected is the perception of beauty! One can look with unconcern on a famous scene and pass unaffected by some subtle and intricate work of art. And then the glimpse of a child’s face laughing as she beats her open plams on a dirty pane of glass, or a twisted tree dyed bright orange by an incendiary chemical, can charm the eye and haunt the heart. All day today I was haunted by that queer vision of loveliness at dawn, the innocent blue breaking through the burning clouds. And tonight, by a strange coincidence, the more was never more beautiful. It was pleasant to walk in the silent streets. The white light can cool and soft and clean. I realized that somehow it had become my personal picture of peace, such a commonplace, but suddenly very new, enchanting, desirable.


22nd May 1945

On the anniversary of Emperor Meiji’s rescript on education, a new wartime education law was promulgated today which virtually turns the schools of Japan into factories and barracks. The spirit of the new ordinance is given in its first article; “The student should shoulder the national destiny with a loyal spirit, devote himself to work vitally necessary in wartime, and display fully the results of the education he has hitherto obtained as well as train his intellectual capacity.” The law merely recognizes and legalizes the existing situation. Instead of going to school Japanese students will, as heretofore, work in the farms and factories or on defense works. But it is now legally provided that for these activities those who die or are wounded in line of duty, who are mobilized or conscripted, or who concentrate on wartime studies will be graduated or receive similar treatment without attending school or undergoing examinations; thus one might call them graudates “laboris causa”. Furthermore a student corps shall be organized in each school and a federation of student corps shall be established in each region. These corps will absorb the Dai Nippon Youth Association which once numbered 15 million members.


21st May

“The decisive battle in the Okinawas has become all the more fierce,” warns the Asahi, “The battle on land has shifted to Maha and Shuri and the enemy is making a vigorous attack with all his available strength.” “The general enemy offensive has taken on an added intensity,” chimes in the Mainichi. “Eager to make penetrations, the enemy is gradually strengthening his pressure north of Shuri and Maha.”


20th May

“The new national volunteer corps,” explains the Times today, “has as its prime aim the reorganizing and propelling of the normal activities of the people in their given occupations, supplemented by necessary training to enable the members to go into active combat action if a situation calling for such a contingency should arise…. But the Dai Nippon Seijikai, a strictly political organization, and the Reservists Assocation, which is under the guidance of the armed forces, are expected naturally to remain, inasmuch as their character and fuctions are distinctly different from those of the volunteer corps. Furthermore since the same individuals may hold membership in all of these organizations at the same time, it will in fact mean that they will be able to cooperate closely to strengthen the nation’s power along all lines of endeavor to propel the war to a succesful conclusion.”


19th May 1945

The diplomatic corps in Japan has fallen on evil days. It was dull enough after all the allied representatives were exchanged. Then Italy surrendered and the royalists were thrown into internment camp where, according to the story, the wife of the ambassador had to wash her own clothes. One by one the Axis satellites followed and the Rumanians, the Bulgars, the Finns, went off on their anxious trek home across Soviet Siberia, loaded with dry meat, hard biscuits, and smoked fish. Tokyo started to burn and the neutrals –the Swiss, the Swedes, the Spaniards– fled to the northern mountains of Karuizawa. The Soviets holed up in Gora. Only in Miyanoshita a little of the sparkle survived unheated rooms, language barriers, and mushy noodles every other day.

Now even the Fujiya has fallen into a melancholy stupor.The bridge tables in the lounge are empty. People talk in whispers, looking over their shoulders, along the quaint winding corridors or by the rocky pool, flashing with red and golden carp. It started with the Vichy French after France was liberated; now the blight has fallen on the Nazis and the fascists. They have been instructed by the police to talk only to their own countrymen, French with French, Germans with Germans, Italians with Italians. The tall blond Hungarian countess has already fled, in all her distraught elegance, to her French husband in Maruizawa; there was no one she could talk to in the hotel. It is scarcely a hardship for the Germans and the Italians; their groups are so numerous that they do not lack company. They have other troubles. The German ambassador has been summoned to the foreign office to learn what measures will now be taken “against the German embassy.” The Italians are wringing their hands because their assets have been frozen. How shall they pay their hotel bill if no money is forthcoming from Rome or Tokyo? But they cling to their racial pride; never, never, not even the humblest able-bodied seaman among them, will they ever work for the Japanese, under a Japanese boss, with Japanese at their side.

However it is we who have suffered most from the interdiction on international intercourse. We are only two Filipinos in the hotel; the Chinese and Manchu do not speak English well, if at all; the Thai keep to themselves; the Burmans have been our closest friends but it is impossible to be with them every night. The colonel and his exotic wife are very kind and amusing. We like them immensely; they are the only ones we trust. Still, the colonel has already shown us his collection of ancient decorated Japanese sword-guards, hundreds of them, intricate with entwined cherry-blossoms or chastely romantic with a hooting owl flying across the face of a tiny moon. He is investing his money in them; they are unbreakable, sought after by collectors, better than paper yen. We have also listened to Violet’s (her Burmese name is Lala) experiences with Japanese maids: the one who suddenly ran away in Maruizawa so that she had to push her baby’s pram three miles up a rocky mountain road; the one who stole her husband’s shirts; the flirt who, cribbling lipstick, wandered about in the garden under the window of the room where the Burmese cadets were playing poker, singing inviting love-songs until well past midnight; the police-agent who always took an hour off after lunch to report to kempei headquarters; the lame idiot whom they had engaged precisely because the police could not possibly get anything out of her; the reedy one who started by asking for bread, then wanted butter on it, then jam. A day came when there was neither butter nor jam to be had so Violet gave her bread with Japanese bean paste. “Whoever heard of eating that?” the maid cried and quit.

We have esten so much of the colonel’s private Chinese food and his special stock of chocolate that we are heartily ashamed of ourselves. Tonight we talked to our sole alternative, the Polish couple. He is a a short fleshy man with a great predatory nose. He came out to the east when a white man could make a fortune overnight and he did. Now it is said that he pays the highest income-tax in Manchoukuo. But he had to flee the country shortly before the war. He had received to many anonymous threats of kidnapping. One night a group of masked marauders broke into his mansion in Harbin. A Chinese servant slipped out quietly and locked the bandits in while he went for the police his master was forced to open his private safe and hand over his valuables. Afterward the bandits tried to force the Pole to go with them. They had an eye on a fat ransom. But he managed to hold them off until the police arrived. Were they bandits or political agents? At any rate the tycoon learned his lesson. He sold a half-interest in his holdings to the Japanese and surrendered to them the management and active control of his factories. Then he moved out. He and his wife took the last Japanese ship out of Japan; they were only a day from Hawaii when Pearl Harbor was attacked. The ship turned around and ran for home. He has lived in Fujiya since then. He was here when the Americans and British diplomats waited for the exchange ship that was to take them home. He can even recall the days when that empty wall in the main lounge was covered by a huge map of Greater East Asia, bright with the victorious flags of the imperial forces. Now he mopes in the lobby the the whole day; he misses his great financial fief in Harbin; he cannot even concentrate enough to write another of his treatises in defense of capitalism or, rather, of the entrepreneur and the manager.

I suspect he is not very welcome as a conversationalist. His habits of command and unquestioned superiority, sharpened by an irritable boredom, make him argue when he should chat pleasantly. He is, in his own way, intensely unhappy. He is undoubtedly a brilliant and energetic man; he spent part of his youth in a Russian prison as a Polish nationalist; he made his mark in his early twenties when he was an obscure clerk in the Russian railways by submitting a masterly report on the reorganization of the transportation system; he is not the man to sit idly in an upholstered chair under a potted palm. Besides, hw has known so much wealth that he can no longer adapt himself to the rigors of war. Tonight he talked to me of a decoration he had received in recognition of his contributions to the development of Manchoukuo. The decoration, as wll as an invaluable portrait of the emperor, had originally been granted him in 1940. At the last moment however someone had remembered that he was a Pole, that Poland had ceased to exist, and that there might be complications with Germany and the U.S.S.R. if a Pole were honored as such. Consequently he was given quietly the kudos only recently after the resurrection of Poland and the disappearance of Nazi Germany. He had the in his room now; they were precious possessions. “But,” he laughed, and this time there was no bitterness in his eyes but only a genuinely amused twinkle of discovery, “you know, I cannot get a pound of butter for them.”


18th May 1945

After 100 B-29’s had pounded Nagoya yesterday, some 40 P-51’s machine-gunned airfields southwest of the capital this noon. This raids however have become so frequent that most people in Tokyo today are more concerned with the revisions made in the ration system and the dissolution of the Imperial Rule Assistance Association, for which the date has finally been set.

The new rationing system for Tokyo went into effect on the 15th. Persons from 15 to 50 years of age will continue to receive the standard ration of 350 grams of rice but those working “in jobs designated by the authorities” will get 400. Children will receive less in proportion to their age; those between the ages of three and five, for instance, will be supplied with 170 grams. The principal changes have been made with regard to the rations distributed to workers at their place of employment. Henceforth these rations will be made proportional to attendance and to the amount of work performed. A system of points has been worked out based on “the kind of service (50), the degree of importance (30), and the manner of work (20)” making a total of 100. Army and navy workers will get the full 30 points for “degree of importance” while government factory workers will get 20. Shipyard workers will get the full 20 points for “manner of work” while others, including aircraft factory workers, will get 10. On the basis of these points, workers will be classified into three categories. Workers in the first class will be given an additional 1.6 go of rice; in the second class, 1.2; in the third class, .9.

However shortages cannot be revised and most people in Japan spend more time scrounging for food than working for points. A sweet potato in hand is worth two in the booklet. You can see them on the streets of Tokyo from mid-morning, patiently reading a newspaper in the lengthening queue before the shops that will sell a bowl of gray Japanese noodles at noon. On every train into Tokyo, their muddy sagging knapsacks, knobby with potatoes or bloody and stinking with fish, dig into your back. I met one of these scavengers once in Tokyo station. We were both waiting for our train and he borrowed a light. He asked politely where I was going. “Odawara,” I answered and added: “Have you been there?” He made a moue of distaste. “Odawara? Why should I go there. Is there any more food there?”

If he read his newspaper this morning he must have folded under the long stories on the I.R.A.A. Was it going to get him any more food? But to foreigner the epitaphs on this curious Japanese experiment in totalitarian politics were as revealing as the revisions in the ration system. “It was on August 29, 1940,” recalled the Asahi, “That the I.R.A.A. was brought into being.” The China Affair had become “most acute”, the war of Greater East Asia was impending, and under Premier Prince Fumimaro Konoye the Japanese eagerly rallied to a “new structure” of government. Perhaps there was a touch of Prussian barracks in the architecture and a gay flash of Italian baroque but the “structure” was fundamentally as Japanese as a torii. The various political parties were not outlawed and hunted down; they dissolved themselves gracefully. There was hard driving corps of elite; “all the people are members”. For was there a Japanese who did not wish to serve the Imperial Rule or who pretended to assist it with greater right than his humblest fellow-subject? But the “structure” was so new that nobody knew exactly what it was. It was not a political party or a coalition of the old political parties; soon enough the government pronounced it a “public body”, an official organization. It received a subsidy from the government; its president was also the premier and he was president because he was premier, not premier because he was president. The I.R.A.A. was everything and nothing. “There was little indication of where the core of the body lay. It was natural that under such a system few activities could be undertaken.” So, this “new structure” that the Japanese with their passion for perfection and unanimity had made all-embracing, began to break up. An I.R.A. Political Association was developed. Then in Januuary 1942 the I.R.A. “Manhood Corps” gathered “the cream of comrades faithful to the work of imperial rule assistance.” They worked in the fields and aircraft factories and “their achievement will shine gloriously on the pages of the political history of the Showa era”. “But quite often the body exceeds the limits of its powers and its activities were restricted by the bureaucracy. Soon it became an obstacle to parliamentary control and it was made a target for attack in the diet.” The corps was flexing its muscles too publicly, it was taking on too much of the aspect of a real power-party. Nevertheless the process of reproduction by division continued. The original cell divided itself further into a Great Japan Women’s Assocation, a Great Japan Young Men’s Assocation, Associations for Service to the State through Commerce, through Agriculture, through Industries.

But in the inert accumulation of its featureless offsprings the I.R.A.A. was already dead. It only remained to throw the mess out of the window before it began to stink. With that fatal stubbornness, that suicidal pride, which will not admit error or defeat, the Japanese talked of a “new” association, one that would try to to be different by being the same, the only difference being that this one would succeed. The I.R.A.A. changed its name and became the Great Japan Political Association; it put a general at the head, instead of an admiral; still no politicians, no issue, no arguments; only an impressive and reassuring unanimity. Now the I.R.A.A. will change its name too; it will become the national volunteer corps; after the 10th June a new embalming fluid will be tried. Nobody expects it to succeed; nobody expects to understand it except for one significant ominous change. For the present it will continue to embrace “all the people”; it will continue to be vaguely everything and nothing; but when the time comes, the corps will become “a battle unit”. That is something that everyone can understand, and, terrible as it will be, it will come perhaps as a relief, the cold hard blow of a typhoon after the stifling silence of the night, a gush of blood from the inert corpse, an exciting immediate personal challenge, as personal as a bayonet at one’s throat.


17th May 1945

I had scarcely arrived at the embassy in Tokyo yesterday when the chauffeur ushered a Japanese marine into my office, He was a tall awkward fellow who, after many bows, informed me that I was wanted for questioning at a navy court-martial in connection with a Japanese I knew called Fujita. He had a little red notebook in his hand which he continually consulted. After I had assured him three times that I was the man he wanted, he wrote down meticulously the date and the hour of the appointment: 10 o’clock in the morning of the following day.

.As I was being driven to the ad dress the marine had left, I uneasily reviewed in my mind what I had heard about Fujita. He was a civilian employee of the navy, I knew. He had said he was working in a listening-post. Why had he been arrested? Had he circulated American news reports? Could it have been that frank discussion of the war situation which he had delivered at, of all places, a munitions factory?

I recalled with a twinge of apprehension that he and I had had many unreserved conversations in my apartment; he had even given me “confidential” maps from the navy files, maps which were as a matter of fact mere reproductions of those issued by the coast end geodetic survey of the Philippine government. He had also shown me copies or American short-wave newscasts. Had my apartment telephone been tapped? Was there, after all, a dictaphone around?

The appearance of the building which was my destination was somewhat reassuring. It was the house of a former baron, the chauffeur told me. It had not lost its air of decayed gentility; there was a square gravelled yard in front but it had an untidy fringe of weeds; the squat double staircase had once been painted cream, like the front of the house, but now the paint was flaking and discolored.

We had to wait a while before a porter finally answered the chauffeur’s calls. Me took me up the staircase to a small room in the back of the house, overlooking a tangled garden, cluttering up with bamboo poles, a heap of raw cement, a pile of rope. The corridors and anterooms through which we had passed had only increased the general impression of dingy squalor. One always associates the navy with a scrupulous and burnished cleanliness but here the floors were gritty with dust, the windows dark with grime.

I looed around the room where I was now asked to wait, together with the embassy chauffeur who, would act as interpreter.

It was a small bare room, almost completely filled by a long table at which were set 10 or 12 red plush chairs. The walls were covered with a pretentious pattern; on one side hung a blackboard on which some characters had been written. The chauffeur said they meant “secret” and “confidential”.

After about a quarter of an hour a friendly young naval officer came in, together with yesterday’s marine. In his rimmed glasses and neat uniform he looked life a university student. He spoke little English it turned out, and I did not speak enough Japanese. I suggested the services of the chauffeur. Unfortunately the business was “confidential” and, after dismissing him, the officer sent for a dictionary.

We stared at each other across a corner of the long table, each of us, I suppose, busy with our own thoughts, while the marine rummaged in the next room. Finally everything was ready; we ran our fingers tentatively over the pages of our dictionaries; the marine sat down at an appropriate distance with a pencil poised over his red notebook.

This was not a court, he began. He was not a judge or a prosecutor. He was Fujita’s defence counsel. Would I be willing to answer a few questions for his sake? Of course, he reminded me, as a diplomat I could claim immunity from any further connection with the proceeding.

I did not see how I could withdraw without arousing unpleasant suspicions, and a lively curiosity as well well as a desire to help the unfortunate Fujita who, it turned out, was confined in this very building, promoted me to waive immunity.

Thereupon he opened a thick and ragged dossier and unfolded a long list of what I presumed were the charges against Fujita.

“Is it true,” he asked, “that Fajita talked to you concerning military or naval matters?” His voice was fflat a rd expressionless. He seemed to be rather bored, wither like a clerk asking for the name and address of a taxpayer.

”I don’t remember,” I answered, “but I don’t think so. We talked mostly of Manila where we met.”

His expression did. not change and. he went on to particulars. Was it true that Fujita hat told me that the Japanese commander-in-chief in the Philippines ha fled to Taiwan? That the Japanese had suffered a disastrous defeat in the naval battle off the Philippines? that Japanese losses in Leyte totalled 70,000? That Aquino, the Republic’s Speaker of the Assembly, would betray the Japanese? That Japan intended to abandon the Philippines and withdraw from all the southern regions? That only one-fourth of the planes produced in Japan were serviceable? That, in case of the American landing on the mainland, the Japanese had no means of resistance available?  That   there had been ‘disturbances’ in Chosen? That there might be ‘disturbances’ in Japan? That he himself preferred to live under any foreign government rather than continue under any Japanese regime?

All throughout the use of that curious construction: was it true etc.; was it true that Fujia had told me, etc. As I returned a steady stream of “No’s” and “I don’t remember’s” to this series of leading questions, he grew increasingly puzzled.

“Okashi, ne,” he murmured hunder his breath. “Strange, very strange.”

I began to feel slightly apprehensive. My answers, I knew, would have run false in the ears of any experienced examiner, especially if the true had been mixed with the false among those leading questions. But I had no means of knowing how much the police had discovered or Fujita had confessed, and I decided to continue taking my chances on his obvious inexperience and distaste for this work. At long last we were finished. He thanked me formally. “You were very kind,” he said, “I hope we shall be able to do something for Fujita. He is a good man.” “But,” he added, “he likes to talk.”

He folded the list of charges. “I cannot understand the military police. They claim Fujita told you all these things. You are sure…?” I hastened to reassure him. It was plain he did not like the military police. He told me that the kempei had arrested Fujita and proposed to try him but the navy had stepped in to protect its employee. As a result Fujita would be tried by a naval court of inquiry. The officer had a typical solution for this vexing problem of the military police. “Soon,” he told me confidentially, “we shall have our own military police.”

I rose. “Could you,” he stopped me, with the air of having just remembered, “sign this paper please?”

“But this paper is blank,” I protested.

“I know,” he said ruefully. “I am sorry. This man,” and he pointed to the marine, who was grinning shamefacedly over his red notebook, ” should have taken down your answers during the examination. But he does not understand English.” I laughed and said that I could not possibly sign a blank sheet of paper. If he could send a summary of my statement later to the embassy, I should be glad to sign. He let it go at that. We bowed to each other once more and then I asked him what streetcar to take to get back to Kudan hill, as the embassy car was gone. He went down with me to the gate and gave me the necessary directions. When I went away I saw him studying me behind his glasses, still a little puzzled and uncertain.