3rd February 1945

With the Americans at the gates of Manila the official Imperial Rule Assistance Association called a “Victory in the Philippines” rally at the Hibiya public hall today. It was piercingly cold even in mid-afternoon and the steep backstairs were slippery with crusted ice. Backstage distinguished visitors were shown into a shabby clingy waiting-room and served the usual tea. Japanese officers and dignitaries arrived in succession, glum and blue with cold, and with a strange and awkward air, half-defiant and half-apologetic. Nobody talked about the war but it was obvious that for the Japanese the news was bad.

Presently the distinguished guests filed out to the stage. Overcoats were taken off and hurriedly put on again. Only the officers with ostentatious asceticism remained coatless, sitting with an easy arrogance, their hands clasped over their sword-hilts. When the curtain went up, it was seen that the pit was full but there was only a handful of people in the galleries; not until an hour or so later were they to be comfortably packed with officials and members of the association as well as “invited” representatives of firms and other organizations with interests in the Philippines.

The stage itself was decorated with huge Japanese and Filipino flags, as well as patriotic slogans. All the speakers bowed deeply before each of the two flags before addressing the audience. The whole thing started of course with a general obeisance in the direction of the imperial palace and a silent prayer for the imperial forces.

The first speaker was General Matsui, grandfather of all Pan-Asian, precursor of the empire-dreamers and the empire-builders, apostle of Greater East Asia. He was a pathetic figure as he read from a classic scroll that tumbled and twisted, as it fell from the rostrum to his polished boots. His voice was quavering and his head shook and jerked in nervous spasms, the spasms of senility, cold, or profound embarrassment. He was not going over; there was only perfunctory applause at the end of those high-pitched periods for which the old man must have dreamt the deep roar of exultant victorious armies imposing dominion over Japan’s Asia. In the end, amid a silence that was almost poignant, the old general slowly and with deliberate dignity, touched with dreamy pride, rolled up his scroll again, turn after turn, until it was all neatly wrapped around its wooden core. Then he tied it up carefully with a broad red ribbon and walked unsteadily back to his seat. They were bungling his grand design, he seemed to be thinking, these younger men were bungling it all. Well, that was the way it went: a man had a great idea, an idea to shake the world, and others would laugh at it at first, and then they would get into trouble and snatch at it and steal it away from its owner, and then they would bungle it. Look at the way they were bungling Daitoa. And they would not let him do anything but take trips where he was bundled off very courteously from one airport to another or else make speeches before clerks and crooks and stenographers and shopkeepers who stared stupidly and slouched in their seats and smoked their stinking cigarettes. The general sat down.

Now a short stocky young man bounded up from his seat. As he bowed to the flags, one could feel the nervous eagerness in him, impatient and barely restrained for these formalities. Then he strode to the rostrum and grasped its sides tightly with his sinewy hands. This man could speak. Even to those who could not understand a word he was saying, he conveyed all his meaning with his fine vigorous voice, his impassioned gestures, even his shrill grimaces which in English would have been utterly ridiculous. He leaned over to every man in the audience, hungrily, commandingly, until it seemed he would knock the rostrum over and fall over the footlights. He shook his fists in the air, he stamped his feet, ranged and prowled from one end of the stage to the other. He was an angry man. A member of the diet, he had incurred the displeasure of the warlords, been called to the colors as a buck private, and packed off to Yiojima. Now he was back in Tokyo; a friendly commander had commissioned him to bring back the ashes of his fallen comrades and the mounting American bombings had cut off all communications with his post. He was back, and he was angry. His anger flamed and flared and shrivelled up the husk of language; he was angry at the stupidity, the complacency, the selfishness, the blind pride and paralyzing prejudice, the consecrated incompetence and gold-braided stripetrousered folly that were ruining his country and his people. He did not say a word about the Philippines but he said every word that could be said about Japan and Japan’s tragedy. He had been scheduled to speak for five minutes; he spoke for almost an hour. The befuddled chairman frowned, rapped on his little table, sent him indignant scrawled notes, and finally, unable to stand it any longer and trembling in his frayed gaitered trousers, rose and whispered to him insistently. But the audience, this picked and packed and guaranteed and certified audience of lingers-on and joiners, petition-signers, parade-marchers, pay-roll ciphers, even these had caught something of his anger and they shouted him on and shouted the chairman down, they called him back, when he made as if to go to his seat, they cheered, they chorused, they stamped and whistled and cheered again. The generals and secretaries on the stage frowned and gaped and, catching themselves leaning forward, pulled themselves up and frowned again. But they did not count any longer, only they did not know it as the old general knew it, grasping his scroll with a distant and melancholy smile.


21st January 1945

In preparation for the opening of the imperial diet today the government has announced the distribution of one bale of charcoal per family, the release of fresh stocks of fish and vegetables for winter consumption, and a gift of sugar from Nanking to Tokyo which will come down to some 20 momme per head.

For the past few days the government has also started raising its voice on its plans and programs for the future. The first heavy raid on the key Osaka-Kobe district, carried out yesterday afternoon by 80 B-29s, underlined the “new” air-defense measures taken up by the cabinet the day before. As a matter of fact there seems to be nothing really new in the proposed program outside of the fact that while “hitherto the various air-defense measures have been left to private initiative… henceforth the government will take positive measures.” An appropriation of two billion yen has already been laid out for the purpose. Otherwise the government is still talking about evacuating oldsters, children and nursing mothers, while retaining war-essential personnel; tearing down inflammable houses to make room for safety belts and water tanks; increasing fire-fighting equipment (one-pump for every neighborhood association instead of one for every two); more preparations for monetary and medical relief to raid sufferers.

The cabinet has also formed a wartime price council to fight inflation. The Asahi has damning praise for it in saying: “What is noteworthy is the fact that some 10 persons of knowledge and experience will be taken from among civilians to join the committee.” The paper also recalls that “at present the price administration in connection with munitions materials is in n the hands of the war, navy, and munitions ministries; that of civilian consumption materials, in the forestry and commerce ministry; that of transportation charges, in the transportation and communications ministry; and that of wages, in the munitions and welfare ministries In addition the finance ministry plays the principal part in measures affecting currency.” The Mainichi for its part comments; “The low price policy… has become a thing merely in name, not in reality.

Meantime the “31st investigation meeting for national mobilization” was held at the premiers residence yesterday. It adopted the draft of a labor mobilization law which will supersede and combine the five existing ordinances on the subject. From the provisions it is apparent that so far Japanese munitions industries have lacked the power to draft labor, hold it, lend and borrow it, replace it, register it, or even ask the government to aid it in getting it without going through a complicated routine of requests, certifications, and other formalities. This tight and rigid empire, which seemingly awes the world with its reputation for disciplined totalitarianism, is just learning about total war. It is, to anyone who can see it at close range, still fighting with the rudimentary techniques of the first world war. It has learned nothing from German post-war inflation. American wartime organization, or even Nazi totalitarian efficiency.

But a vague discontent and uneasy apprehension are growing; people do not know exactly what is wrong but they do know that things are out of control, breaking down, rotting; they do not know exactly what should be done — for they have been trained to feel that that is not their business, it is the business of their masters — but they are bewildered, frightened, slowly angering, while “waiting for orders from above”.

The members of the diet are only by courtesy and polite fiction the representatives of the people but they too have grown restive. Most of them are members of the single government party, the “Imperial Rule Assistance Political Association”, and now they are calling for its dissolution as well as that of its allied organizations, the Imperial Rule Assistance Association and the I.R.A. Manhood Corps. The Manhood Corps is the core of the opposition to dissolution but most people are indifferent to it. The reformers only want a “new” national party but it will still be national and, as one editorialist puts it, they are “still within the same old shell”.