31st March 1945

A French countess, sitting beside me in the elegant foyer of the Fujiya, apologized for the paper package beside her. “It doesn’t smell so nice,” she said with a moue. “But it’s meat.”

In Tokyo the new government party was formally inaugurated yesterday. Its name: the Great Japan Political Association, replacing the Imperial Rule Assistance Political Association. Its president: General Minami, as reported. Its purpose: to bring the people back into the war after the old party had screened them off. The I.R.A.R.A. was invented to free the government from the diet. The result was that the government lost all contact with the people. In his inaugural address General Minami said frankly: “The new organization should serve as the instrument of national unity, securing the closest possible cooperation between the government, the fighting services, and the people. The national unity of the customary type is no longer adequate to meet the situation. There must be confidence in and respect for the government and the fighting services.” But so far the reaction has been weak. No one seems to be very enthusiastic about a “people’s party” headed by an old fire-eater like Minami. What is the difference between an admiral and a General?

The ordinary man in the street is probably more interested in the awards for the best motion picture and phonograph records of 1944, which have just been announced by the ministry of education:

Motion pictures — “Kato Hayabusa Fighter Unit”, first prize of 7,000 yen; “Gochin” (based on submarine operations in the Indian ocean), second prize of 6,000 yen; “Shoot Down That Flag” (based on the Bataan campaign), third prize of 5,000 yen. A scientific film on detonations and shell fragments was given the fourth prize of 3,000 yen.

Among the prize-winning disks were recordings of songs like “You join the air-force and I’ll join the navy”, “The young cryptomeria tree on the mountain”, and “Until the day of victory”.


9th March 1945

This morning I saw the girls who work in the army offices and hotels on Kudan hill lined up in front of the Yasukuni gates. Across the street from them a group of officers were delivering a lecture, apparently on fire-fighting because there were three or four paper screens set up along the sidewalk and, as I passed by, a soldier was opening a tin cylinder smelling strongly of gasoline. I was tempted to stop and watch but I received so many inquiring glances that I moved on.

The vernaculars carried a photograph of the wife and daughter of the Japanese commander on Yiojima. They were praying in the snow outside the inner shrine of the Yasukuni and the caption said that they had prayed that some of the snow on the streets of Tokyo might find its way to the arid caves of Japan’s newest volcanic battlefield.

But it will take more than prayers to reassure the people. The outspoken Yomiuri lashed out today with an editorial teetering dangerously oh the rim of discontent. “The situation at Yiojima is growing ever more pressing. It is no longer the time to talk of favorable or divine opportunities. Frankly speaking, we have been driven into a corner in spite of the valiant fighting of the men at the front and all our efforts at home. Where should we look for the reason of all this? Certainly it is not merely accidental. It is no longer permissible to use the material resources of the enemy as an excuse. The production capacity of America was known from the outset and it has not shown any surprising increase of late…. All our information and preparation concerning this point must be supposed to have been completed from the time of the imperial, rescript declaring war…” The paper then goes on; “It is being said that even though the enemy may land on these shores, we can surely win if we encounter him with the fierce determination of each one of us killing one enemy soldier… But can we rely safely on that determination alone? That is what the people are sincerely feeling…. We must reflect on the past and present and thoroughly probe the reasons why things have come to this pass. Without finding and eradicating the reasons, we cannot face the enemy landing and turn the divine opportunity into reality.”

Meantime even official circles are beginning to think that the Yomiuri’s unspoken “reason” is that the people are not united behind the war. Yesterday Premier Koiso invited Admiral Seizo Kobayashi, president of the Imperial Rule Assistance Political Association (the government party), and some 300 others engaged in organizing a new political party, to his official residence. Admiral Kobayashi struck his breast penitently and confessed: “The political association heretofore in existence aimed chiefly at the management of the diet and was lacking in its efforts to connect the people directly to war politics. Now is the time for us to give up the old ways and set up a sure-victory no-defeat structure at once. Herein lies the reason for our proposal for the creation of a great political association…. What is badly needed today is that the whole people should become subjects of the imperial land in a thorough-going sense, irrespective of vocations, and offer their lives for the sake of the state. Our forefathers at every national crisis forgot their small differences and worked for their great objectives, overcoming difficulties in a firm blood league. We are confident that when the people understand our objective, they will gladly join this great political association.”

To a people accustomed to reading between the lines, like the Japanese, the implications are ominous, not only in the admiral’s confiteor but also in the Yomiuri’s quo-vadimus. The impression one gathers from it all is that the Japanese, fantastic as it sounds, are indifferent to the war, divided by petty quarrels, bewildered, by the disaster that is overwhelming them; they have lost touch with the government and lost faith; they are content to stand apart from a tragic adventure which they cannot understand and in which they have no hand, absorbed in the intimate problem of the next meal, the next incomprehensible air-raid, while the vast wave of ruin looms darkly over their bent unseeing heads.

Even the generals are no exception. General Kuroda, the former Japanese commander in the Philippines, had dinner with Vargas last night. Flushed with drink, this bibulous garrulous old man, who spent his term in the Philippines on the golf course and in bars, complained bitterly about being relieved by Yamashita. “I know the Filipinos better than Yamashita.” “Yamashita talks too much.” “We were classmates and he was not so bright.”

When Vargas brought out a bottle of pre-war American whiskey, Kuroda chuckled gratefully and then leaned over. “You know,” he giggled, “we two are in the best place after all. You could have been president but they did not want you. I should have been commander-in-chief but they did not want me. Who’s sorry now, eh? Eh?”

When Kuroda staggered home, he was still clutching the bottle.


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”.