16th August 1945

The first impression of calm is wearing off. Underneath all this outward placidity Tokyo is seething with rumour, plot, and counter-plot. It appears new that the average Japanese is saying nothing, not only because he is dazed, knocked silly by a blow on the head, carried through the routine of every-day wartime life by that curious momentum that animates a chicken with its head cut off, but also because he is afraid; he does not know what is the correct thing to do or say because he has not yet been told; he hesitates to rejoice openly, for instance, because the war may suddenly start all over again and he will look foolish, unpatriotic, marked for suspicion.

The emperor’s rescript is being challenged by some sections of the army and navy; the old cry is being raised that the emperor was “misled” by corrupt and cowardly advisers. Navy planes dropped handbills yesterday over Tokyo, saying that the fight would go on. The special attack corps is said to have refused to surrender; they are standing by their planes; they long ago made up their minds to die and they will not be cheated of their glory. The rumour persists that the tokotai took off against orders and attacked Okinawa after the rescript had been promulgated.

The cabinet resignd yesterday afternoon, imediately after Suzuki had gone off the air. The war minister General Korechika Anami killed himself at his official residence the night before the rescript was radiocast “to express his sincere regret to His Majesty the Emperor for not having been able to fulfill his duties in assisting His Majesty.” Tozyo and Araki are also said to have committed suicide in protest against the surrender. other Japanese are reportedly killing themselves before the Imperial Palace. Already the miltary police has taken over Tokyo.

Meantime the sequence of events leading immediately up to the surrender has been made public. On the 9th a supreme war council was held in the imperial palace from 10:30 a.m. till 1:30 p.m. and from 2:30 p.m. till 5:30 p.m. This was followed by an extraordinary cabinet meeting at the official residence of the prime minister from 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. As a result of these meetings a conference “in the imperial presence” was held in the palace from 11:55 p.m.
till 3 a.m. on the following day. The conference was attended by the emperor, the prime minister, the president of the privy council, the war minister and chief of the army general staff, the navy minister and chief of the navy general staff, and the foreign minister. At this council the decision was reached to accept the Potsdam ultimatum.

Another extraordinary cabinet meeting was thereupon called at the premier’s official residence from 3:10 a.m. till 4 a.m. of the 10th. A conference of senior statesmen (former premiers) was opened at 1 p.m. an then at 2 p.m. the cabinet deliberated on the manner of making the decision known to the people.

On the 11th at 7 a.m. notification of the acceptance of the Potsdam terms was sent through the Swiss government. The war minister then issued his proclamation that “for the maintenance of the divine state” the army would “definitely and resolutely fight”. The president of the board of information in turn issued the preparatory  statement: “The worst condition has now come.” Both these official announcements hewed close to the line of the condition attached to surrender, namely, the maintenance of the imperial institution, “the national polity”.

On the 12th Suzuki appeared at the imperial palace at 2:08 p.m., carrying the American reply. He stayed till 2:44 p.m. He then called an extraordinary cabinet meeting at 3 p.m. and discussed the new terms with the ministers till 5:30 p.m. Simultaneously a conference of the imperial princes was taking place at the palace.

At 8 a.m. on the 13th the formal text of the Allied reply was received and the supreme war council met to consider it from 8:50 a.m. till 3 p.m. The fundamental question of “safeguarding the basic character of the empire” was discussed. During a recess in the morning the chiefs of the army and navy general staffs had also reported to the imperial palace. Apparently the American demand that the emperor be subject to the authority of the Allied Supreme Commander and that the freely expressed will of the Japanese people would determine the future form of government sharply divided the leaders. A cabinet meeting was called from 4 p.m. till 7 p.m but no “complete agreement” was reached.

On the 14th Suzuki proceeded to the palace twice and was told “the imperial wish” to call a conference in the presence of the emperor. At 10 a.m. the field marshals and fleet admirals of the empire met at the imperial palace. At 10:45 a.m. they gave way to the full cabinet, the military and naval command, and the president  of the privy council. It was at this “unprecedented” conference, held in the presence of the emperor who was attended by his chief aide-de-camp, that the final decision was taken. The Times account reads:

“When all these officers took their seats the conference began. Opinions were expressed by them as to the decision on the final attitude of Japan toward the reply sent by the allied nations. It is said with awe and trepidation that His Imperial Majesty calmly listened to the opinions expressed by his officers out of their truest sincerity of loyalty and mind to save the empire. It is reported that His Imperial Majesty was gracious enough to say the following at the conference:

“‘As a result of carefully pondering over the general trends of the world as well as Japan’s situation, We should like to carry on the policy that has been already fixed, by enduring the unendurable and suffering what is insufferable, to atone Ourselves before the hallowed spirits of our Imperial Ancestors and to save the millions of Our subjects. You may have opinions of your own but the answer of the Allied Nations, We believe, recognizes the sovereignty of the Emperor and all of you should understand this as We believe. Whatever may happen to Us, We cannot hear to see the nation suffer from further hardships.‘

“All those in attendence,” concludes the Times, “upon hearing these benevolent imperial words, burst into tears in spite of the august presence. This historic conference came to an end at noon.”

The cabinet met thrice more, from 1 p.m. till 3:20 p.m., from 7:20 p.m. till 8:30 p.m. and from 9 p.m. till ll p.m. All the necessary procedures were completed and the imperial rescript was thereupon promulgated, with the imperial seal and sign manual, on the night of the 14th.

So far the official account in the Times. Rumour and the actual experience of friends, however, add an ominous postscript. When the rescript was signed shortly after 11 p.m. on the 14th, several officers from the general staff, believing that the emperor had been “misled” and determined to intercept the rescript before it could be promulgated, broke into the imperial compound.
When the lieutenant-general in command of the imperial guard refused to cooperate with them, they shot him dead, locked up his staff officer, forged divisional orders, and called out the imperial guard to surround the palace. It was about 1 a.m. in the morning of the 15th.

The officers then searched the palace for the rescript. They imprisoned the chief aide-de-camp to the emperor but they could not find either the minister of the imperial household or the lord privy seal. Balked there, some of the conspirators rushed to Radio Tokyo. The rescript was scheduled to be promulgated in the morning and the studio announcers and technicians were staying up all night rushing translations, technical arrangements, and other preparations. But if they could not seize the rescript  itself, the rioters were determined that it should never be heard by the nation. All the radio employees were confident to the man studio (Studio No.1) and kept under guard by sentries with drawn bayonets. The station was also put off the the air.

In the meantime however a loyal officer of the imperial guards had managed to slip through the cordon around the palace. He notified the eastern army commander who was in charge of the area around the capital. He was a former supreme commander in the Philippines, ailing old Tanaka of the flowing moustache who had been shipped back to Japan so gravely ill that he had been given his full generalship almost as a posthumous promotion. But in those tense hours before dawn of the 15th Tanaka won his yellow flag beyond all cavil. Armed only with a revolver and accompanied only by one aide, the old man rushed to the palace, overawed the rebels, roundly upbraided them, shamed them so that the ring-leaders then and there committed suicide.

The mlitary police then took over the survivors and liberated Radio Tokyo.

None of these breathless events were known to the people of Tokyo when the 15th dawned. Extraordinary preparations had been made for the imperial broadcast. Special lines had been laid out to the devastated areas and loudspeakers provided. Long before the scheduled hour the crowd began to gather in front of the radio station until the broad avenue was filled to the edge of the park.

Inside the station, in the same studio where the radio employees had been so recently confined, the audience was also gathering, government officials mostly, headed by the navy minister and the president of the board of information. Whether as a result of the riot the night before or in accordance with the program, the emperor would not broadcast directly.

Instead the people in Studio No.1. saw only at the end of the spacious hall a golden screen with the imperial chrysanthemum. Behind it waited an announcer and a technician to operate the special turntable carrying the recording of the imperial voice. Thus was the illusion kept of a divine disembodied presence bestowing upon the empire and the world the benisons of peace.

when the rescript had been read, there was a reverential pause. Then through their tears, the crowd gave three banzais: ten thousand years, ten thousand years, ten thousand years to His Imperial Majesty. Suzuki’s address was prose to this elaborate poetry. Reviewing the course of the war he said that the imperial forces had “endured difficulties and privations beyond imagining”; they had made up for the deficient arms with “unequalled spirit”. But since Saipan the tide of war had turned definitely against Japan; a “powerful” American airforce had wrought “damage” on the factories and communications on the mainland; an atomic bomb had been discovered and employed, so destructive that it had wiped out “the greater part of one city and several thousands of the city’s residents were either killed or wounded”. To have continued the conflict would have endangered the very foundations of the empire and the very existence of the Japanese race. Not a word did Suzuki say about the U.S.S.R.

Now that the end had come, he continued, it would undoubtedly be painful. The fighting spirit of the forces was “still high” and the people were also “resolved to die”. But the emperor in his benevolence had decided. His subjects had no choice but to apologize and to obey. Certainly it was the duty of every subject to “foster the eternal prosperity and glory of the imperial family” whether that duty called for death or for surrender.

The end of the war, he warned, would not “lessen the burden and suffering of the people. The empire would lose “much of its territory”; “the glorious army” would disappear. But “we must develop the permanent racial life of Japan, transcending all past feelings and forgetting all selfish thoughts. There is up other way for us but to foster the new spirit of self-rule, creation, and labor in order to build a new Japan, and devote ourselves to the development of technique and science, the lack of which was found to be our greatest fault in the present war. we must build up a civilization that will contribute to the civilization of humanity. This,” concluded Suzuki, “is the only way to reply to the
unlimited benevolence of His Majesty the Emperor“.

At 3:20 that afternoon the old man who had after all proved to be old enough to commit political suicide by sponsoring the surrender, tendered the resignations of his cabinet. This morning his successor was appointed, the imperial prince who had been expected to lead the Japanese in the last charge and who will instead lead them now on the long road back. Contrary to popular expectation however the prince was not one of the emperor’s brothers but Neruhiko Higashi-kuni, once commander-in-chief in China, whose influence
on the army may now be needed to compel surrender.

That may not be such an easy task. If it is amazing that a nation could turn so meekly from war to peace, from the attitude of defiance to the death to that of humble submission, without warning or preparation, all in those few minutes that it took the emperor to promulgate his will, it is perhaps equally amazing that in this defeated, thoroughly crushed nation, there is danger of revolution, not for peace, but against peace.

Nor is it only the hotheads and the hotbloods, the scowling samurai of the naked sword, who howl for war. Today I heard only two civilian Japanese express their thoughts on the peace and both of them opposed it. One was a Japanese professor, brought up and educated in the U.S.A., one of the most intelligent and tolerant Japanese I have met. He talked earnestly and in all seriousness of an atomic bomb that Japan too was perfecting. At any rate, atomic bomb or not, he thought Japan should have fought to the end.

The other Japanese was at the other end of the scale, intellectually, socially, economically. She was our own maid, Kubota-san. She had two sons in the imperial forces and they were both alive. Was she not happy, I asked her. Soon they would be coming home.

“Happy?” she echoed. “I don’t know. I would have been happier if they had died for the emperor. when they come back to me now, how shall I face the mothers of those who died, the mothers of the men from the tokotai? It would have been better if they had died.”

What can one say to her? In the gaunt groves of the Yasukuni, before the shrines of the war-dead, the mothers and the widows kneel today. They say that already many of these women have committed suicide. They do not want to survive their loves and their defeat.


15th August 1945

The war is over. At noon today the emperor personally broadcast his rescript proclaiming peace. The Times, which ran the complete text under a modest three-column head (His Majesty Issues Rescript to Restore Peace), was held until the broadcast was over and we did not get the English translation until late in the afternoon. Dated “the 14th day of the 8th month of the 20th year of Radiant Peace”, it read:

“To our good and loyal subjects:

“After pondering deeply the general trends of the world and the actual conditions obtaining in Our Empire today, We have decided to effect a settlement of the present situation by resorting to an extraordinary measure.

“We have ordered Our Government to communicate to the governments of the United States, Great Britain, China, and the Soviet Union, that Our Empire accepts the provisions of their Joint Declaration.

“To strive for the common prosperity and happiness of all nations as well as the security and well-being of Our subjects is the solemn obligation which has been handed down by Our Imperial Ancestors and which We lay close to heart. Indeed We declared war on America and Britain out of Our sincere desire to ensure Japan’s self-preservation and the stabilization of East Asia, it being far
from Our thought either to infringe upon the sovereignty of other nations or to embark upon territorial aggrandizement. But now the war has lasted for nearly four years. Despite the best that has been done by everyone — the gallant fighting of military and naval forces, the diligence and assiduity of Our servants of the State, and the devoted service of Our one hundred million people, the war situation has developed not necessarily to Japan’s advantage, while the general trends of the world have all turned against her interest. Moreover the enemy has begun to employ a new and most cruel bomb, the power of which to do damage is indeed incalculable, taking the toll of many innocent lives. Should we continue to fight, it would not only result in an ultimate collapse and obliteration of the Japanese nation but would also lead to the total extinction of human civilization. Such being the case, how are We to save the millions of Our subjects or to atone Ourselves before the hallowed spirits of Our Imperial Ancestors? This is the reason why we have ordered the acceptance of the provisions of the Joint Declaration of the Powers.

“We cannot but express the deepest sense of regret to our Allied nations of East Asia, who have consistently cooperated with the Empire toward the emancipation of East Asia. The thought of those officers and men as well as others who have fallen on the fields of battle, those who died at their posts of duty, or those who met with untimely death, and all their bereaved families, pains Our heart night and day. The welfare of the wounded and the war-sufferers and those who have lost their home and livelihood are the objects of Our profound solicitude. The hardships and sufferings to which Our nation is to be subjected hereafter will be certainly great. We are keenly aware of the inmost feelings of all ye, Our subjects. However it is according to the dictate of time and fate that We have resolved to pave the way for a grand peace for
all the generations to come by enduring the unendurable and suffering the insufferable.

“Having been able to safeguard and maintain the structure of the Imperial State, We are always with ye, Our good and loyal subjects, relying upon your sincerity and integrity. Beware most strictly of any outbursts of emotion which may engender needless complications, or any fraternal contention or strife which may create confusion, lead ye astray, and cause ye to lose the confidence of the world. Let the entire nation continue as one family from generation to generation, ever firm in its faith in the imperishableness of its divine land, and mindful of its heavy burden of responsibilities and the long road before it. Unite your total strength to be devoted to the construction for the future. Cultivate the ways of rectitude, foster nobility of spirit, and work with resolution so that ye may enhance the innate glory of the Imperial State and keep pace with the progress of the world.”

It was difficult to tell today from any other day. There were more people than usual in the tea lounge but they talked of every-day things. The maids and the waitresses shuffled along the corridors with unhurried pace. Their faces were drained of emotion and they averted their eyes. Somehow one did not feel like intruding into their thoughts.

The hotel radio was kept in the bird-room, behind the cashier’s little enclosure. Originally it had been a powerful American set encased in an ornate wooden cabinet. But sometime during the war the machine had been torn out, possibly to prevent anyone from listening to the forbidden shortwave, and now it rested, a tangle of tubes and wires, on a coffee table next to the disembowelled cabinet. It was now a very bad radio, connected by a complicated and clumsy network to a cheap round amplifier, but it was the only one in the hotel.

Around it now, in the neat little room with its three birdcages overlooking the ornamental fish-pond, the Japanese began to gather. The Germans, the Italians, the Thai, the Chinese, and the Burmans, kept to themselves in whispering groups along the corridor outside or, just beyond hearing distance, in the tea lounge and the lobby. But the Japanese crowded around the radio. The local chief of the military police was one of the first to arrive, a crop-haired, gold-toothed man with a Hitler moustache. He was not smiling now. The representative of the foreign office came next, tall, thin, and rabbit-faced. He did not speak to the kempei, although they were standing side by side at the foot of the stairs leading to the hotel theater.

Then, as noon drew near, the maids and the boy-sans and the waitresses, the cashier and her assistant, the reception clerks and the cooks, the embassy stenographers and interpreters, took their places around the wretched little mess of dull glass and steel which would soon enshrine the voice of the God-Emperor. In their stiff shy way they crowded upon each other; almost it seemed that they were huddling together for comfort, for some measure of assurance in the face of destiny.

There was complete silence as the clocks ticked toward noon. It was stifling. The windows had been closed to keep out the noise of the children playing by the pond outside. The waiting was oppressive and we watched the plump gleaming fish sliding smoothly against one another as they crowded obediently around the large black rock where the children stood, feeding them crumbs.

A Japanese woman married to an Italian tiptoed in. She was leading her two-year-old son by the hand. He was inclined to be difficult and to amuse him she showed him how to play with the song-birds caged beside the window. There was a smell elevator attached to the side of the cage and one placed a tender leaf or a pinch of golden seed in the straw basket at the end of the string.
Then the birds would hop to a tiny platform, thrust their delicate beaks through the bamboo bars, and pull the basket up.

A nine-year-old Italian boy sidled in, a tough bright youngster. A few days ago his mother had quarreled with the wife of another Italian, a New Yorker. The New Yorker’s husband had promptly smashed the other husband in the face, sending him to bed for a week. I wondered vaguely how the boy felt about his father now.

The radio was crackling and in sympathy there was a shuffling of slippers, a rustle of silk. A high-frequency note pierced through the furry undertones of static, held itself tinnily, faded, and then rose to the precise point of the exact time. Set your watches, ladies and gentlemen; mark the time, all ye good and loyal subjects, ye wrinkled horny-handed farmers with your foreheads on the straw mats, ye pale and bloated maidens in the baggy trousers, all ye stalwarts with the merry blossom on your backs, ye flea-bitten sore-scratching children playing with the empty shell case, ye tear-less widows by the wooden boxes from the far frontiers of war, ye scowling, weeping, breast beating warlords and sealords, mark the time; mark the time and wake, all ye miserable and wretched, ye bristly red-eyed welders, sleeping on each other’s shoulders; ye wan distracted mothers, bent with the equalling babies on your backs, dozing in the ration lines; mark the time, all ye good, loyal, bullied, cheated, gagged and handcuffed, starved, ragged, grateful subjects, mark the time. It is midnight at noon.

The Kimigayo stole in after the whispered awe of the announcer; it had never sounded so significant and fitting. It  was a band playing and the words were not sung:

Thousands of years of happy reign be thine;

Rule on, my lord, till what are pebbles now

By age united to mighty rocks shall grow

Whose venerable sides the moss doth line.

But the music might have been written for this hour of defeat; some dark foreboding in the heart of the ancient and forgotten troubadour who, a thousand years ago, had sung it for a German band-master to adapt, had haunted the simple melody with plaintive lamentation, with a grave and solemn anguish over the vanquished dead.

It was a perfect prelude to the voice of the emperor which came through now without an introduction. It was a calm and deliberate voice, a little distant, with a trace of weariness. As the intricate cadences of the courtly phrases drifted through the room into the sunlit garden outside, I looked around me covertly. It
was the first time that the Japanese had heard their “Manifest god”. All were expressionless as they stood, stiffly upright, their hands at their sides with the palms turned backward, head and shoulders bent low with reverence. Not a sound came from them. Perhaps it was blasphemy to weep.

When the rescript had been read, a younger more vigorous voice came through. It was the old Premier Admiral Baron, explaining the circumstances that had led to the surrender, the long wreck-strewn burning road that had led to the ruin of the empire. Then it was, and only then, that the Japanese wept. But they wept quietly, the sobs of the women were muffled in their sleeves, and
the tears of the men ran undried along their pale cheeks. Somehow it was painful even for a stranger, painful even to hear the Italians and the Germans outside in the corridors, debating heatedly whether the rescript had proclaimed peace or resistance to the death.

The broadcast was finished at a quarter to one. The Japanese went away silently, moving with bowed heads and reddened eyes through the clumps of foreigners already planning how they would rush home. It was incredible how swiftly normality, or at least the air of normality, was restored; indeed it had scarcely been disturbed. Lunch was a little late but it was served without a hitch.

In the afternoon I decided to go to Tokyo. I felt I had to see whether the Japanese had taken the end of their world with similar serenity. Before taking my train I went outdoors for a swim. The pool was deserted except for four Japanese boys frolicking noisily in the water. They kept to themselves but they did not seem depressed. Perhaps they had not yet heard. But outside in the
village it was the same. A group of school-girls in pigtails were skipping rope outside the hotel. A military policeman was feeding his carrier-pigeons. The crowd waiting for the electric tram had its usual air of preoccupation with bundles and tickets and seats.

The train to Tokyo was an hour late. As I waited on the  platform at Odawara two Japanese came up and spoke to me. It was the first tangible proof I had the the war was really over. One of them was a slatternly woman, dirty, unkempt, loose-mouthed, shifty-eyed. She asked me where she could get some medicine for her sick baby. when I said I did not know, she lingered a while and then, laughing, jumped down from the platform, and drank rapidly from a public fountain.

The other was a quiet—spoken man in a frayed national uniform. He squatted beside me and, while he unrolled his gaiters with a calm decisive hand, asked what nationality I was. Then he offered me some pipe-tobacco which he extracted from a smudged and much-folded envelope.

I refused politely.

“It’s excellent tobacco,” he offered it a second time.

When I refused again, he nodded briefly. He put the package away and then added in an impressive reproving tone: “It was American tobacco, you know.”

The train was packed to the windows with tired silent people and their huge bundles of black-market sweet potatoes, fruit, rice, two or three fish. If anything the atmosphere seemed less tense than usual. There were no longer any raids or strafing attacks to be feared. The lights were going on in the stations and in the countryside as we went by. In almost every official building there were also small bonfires, papers that were being burned before the Americans entered.

But nobody talked about war or peace. could it have happened in any other country in the world? Till yesterday, till even noon this day, they had believed, with a faith beyond all doubt, that in this holy war of theirs there could be no surrender, and that without surrender, there could be no defeat. Now the imperial rescript might speak obliquely of “a settlement of the present situation by an extraordinary measure”, of a war situation developing “not necessarily to Japan’s advantage”, of a benevolent solicitude for “innocent lives” and “human civilization”. But not the most polished and elegant circumlocutions could hide the fact of defeat, the “unendurable”, the “insufferable”.

What were now the “inmost feelings” of these good and loyal subjects? The unconquerable was conquered; the divine laid low. In the innermost recesses of the racial memory, no equal could be found for this “dictate of time and fate”. Not even when Hideyoshi’s armies staggered back to the shores of Korea to find their fleets swept from the sea by the “turtle-shell craft“ of Admiral Yi Sun-sin, had the imperial land suffered such a crushing defeat. For this was no momentary reverse, the abandonment of a conquered province, but total and complete defeat, submission of the imperial land itself to the conquering invader. No wind had risen from.the shrines at Ise and Togo lay mouldering in his grave.

For this the young men had frozen on the Manchurian tundra and vanished without a trace in the tall kaoliang; for this the young men had dragged themselves across the yellow plains of China, eaten the Weeds and the snakes of the jungle, burned on the lonely  seas, dived to their death through flaming skies; for this they had sechemed, robbed, lied, intrigued and tortured; what a horrible price of shame, degradation, and self-pollution for this, this bowlful of brown rice mixed with the husks of beans, mulberry leaves and cattle fodder, this torn and grimy mompei and the paper shoes that fall apart in the rain, this acre of ashes, this hole in the earth, this night.

“Beware most strictly of any outbursts of emotion,” O ye good and loyal subjects. “Cultivate the ways of rectitude, foster nobility of spirit,” ye wretched of the earth. The men and women about me spoke softly of the price of pickled radish, an aunt in Hokkaido, an open window where the soot was coming in. A child equalled and when it did not stop the mother opened the top of her mompei and gave him her breast; it was a big child but her milk was cheaper than rice. A tired old man, with many apologies, sank on the strip of seat beside me and loosened the straps of the sack on his back. We were coming into Tokyo station now and a gnarled peasant woman cried: “How bright it is!”

But no one looked up. The passengers went hurriedly and silently along the platform to the exits, afraid, ashamed, of the light.


13th August 1945

The American reply to Japan’s peace offer has been announced by San Francisco. Delivered yesterday the 12th it demands that the authority of the emperor and the Japanese government be subject to the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces, presumably General of the Army McArthur. The question is more alive than ever: will the Japanese accept? The tone of the San Francisco bulletins which, with monotonous insistence, emphasize every hour that MacArthur will be the emperor‘s “boss” should warn the Japanese leaders what they can expect.

A Burman wondered why the Japanese, if they were really ready to surrender, had made an issue of the emperor’s prerogative. Now they must either take a clear humiliation, with possibly disastrous consequences to the prestige of the throne or go the whole way to national suicide.

A Thai explained that the Japanese were worried lest the emperor be brought to trial as a war criminal. A more reasonable explanation seemed to be that the Japanese government feared the Potsdam declaration on democracy might mean the forcible overthrow of the throne. At any rate the American reply is that the ultimate form of government in Japan.will be established on the basis of the freely-expressed will of the Japanese people which is a different matter since the Japanese will probably choose to retain the emperor.

A Chinese however doubted that Emperor Hirohito would personally survive defeat. He judged it probable that the present emperor would abdicate and leave the throne to the crown prince who, being still a boy, would not appreciate and suffer the indignities of surrender and who, if his coronation were suitably deferred, would not actually submit as emperor to the dictation of a foreign commander.

Some ambiguous echoes of this momentous debate have been allowed to reach the Japanese people. Commenting on the proclamation of the president of the board of information which only referred to ambiguous “utmost efforts” on the part of the government and called upon the people only to “overcome the present trial” and to protect ” the polity of the empire”, the Asahi today worried “How is His Majesty the Emperor? The concern of the 100 million
people hangs on this question. when we turn our thoughts to it, we feel a pain in our breast. It is this pain that will enable us to bravely overcome the worst and last trial. So long as the loyal subjects have the ruler, the _____ to advance is clear and the glory of the empire will be maintained.”

There has also been a significant series of inspired stories on the crown prince. On the 11th the Times front paged an announcement that it had been decided to establish a separate household for the crown prince and that a grand steward, concurrently grand chamberlain, had been appointed for him. Yesterday the 12th the Times had a longer story, centered on the front-page. ”His Imperial Highness the Crown Prince will shortly be graduated from the primary department of the peers‘ school”; he attained his 13th year this summer; he is enjoying the best of health and “observes strict discipline.”

“His Imperial Highness,” the release continued, ” rises at six in the morning and has never neglected his daily service as well as physical exercise, including fencing with his tutors. From seven in the morning to four in the afternoon His Imperial Highness undergoes school lessons, physical exercises, and training, just like other students. His Imperial Highness even takes part in the cleaning of the school-rooms and partakes of the simples kind of morning meal, consisting of one bowl of rice, soup, and a dish of pickles. His Imperial Highness‘ lunch and dinner are also as simple as ordinary people’s ration meals, with dishes of fish being served only occasionally. His Imperial Highness the Crown Prince has made a remarkable improvement in horse and bicycle riding in recent months and is showing a profound concern in current affairs.”

A Japanese diplomat however explained to us that the stories were strictly routine and not a preparation for the emperor’s abdication. Every crown prince, upon completion or the primary grades in the company of other boys, takes up higher studies by himself under a faculty of tutors. This accounts for the establishment of a separate household at this time.

More tell-tale however than these elusive hints is the mood of the press in general. The hoarse shouts of battle are dying down. The samurai, beaten to his knees, asks only that his head be properly severed and his honor saved. Even two days ago the Yomiuri spoke no longer of “final victory” but of “positive development and progress”. It was afraid no longer of defeat but of revolution. “Whatever difficult situation may come, we should not abandon hope. We should not behave blindly or crumple…. What should be guarded
against most is demoralization, self-abandonment, dejection, nihilism. For this purpose, don’t lose your heads but maintain perfect order. At this juncture no selfish or wayward acts are to be permitted. We should be strictly Japanese and protect the national polity of the empire throughout, mutually helping one another and collaborating among ourselves. It is not the true Japanese way to be absorbed in saving one’s self and one’s family alone. The freedom and the
futue of the race must be taken into full consideration. Collapse is something to be dreaded. In order to evade it, we must maintain our pride as Japanese.”

The Mainichi today is no less resigned. “The life of man has its ups and downs and the same is true of the history of any race…. Not to be disturbed by any turn in the situation, that is the attitude of a great people. In our country we have the imperial family, eternal and everlasting, and with the imperial family as
the center the 100 million people are united… Should our people allow themselves to disturb their domestic unity, they would abandon their glory of eternal life…. when our national fortunes were on the rise, the Japanese people maintained their unity; why not tighten it now that we enter a period or reverses? We should never despair or grow violent. we are a great people.”


11th August 1945

I sneaked up to Gora today to see how the Soviet diplomats were getting along._The village itself was quiet; the streets were almost deserted; the front yard of the hotel where the Russians have been interned was silent and empty; there was not a policeman in sight. The Hakone mountains had never seemed so far away from the war.

Then after lunch the Burmese military attache abruptly told us that Japan had sued for peace. We could not believe the news. And when San Francisco confirmed it, hour after hour, we subconsciously protected ourselves from disillusion by worrying over the condition attached by the Japanese government, namely, that the prerogatives of the emperor as sovereign would not be impaired. would the Americans reject the condition as against the Potsdam declaration? On the other hand, would the Japanese sacrifice their emperor for peace? Once again we tugged and pulled at the puzzle, with the exasperated feeling that the answer was already known.

The Burmese military attache thought that perhaps the Japanese had purposely put a condition that would at the same time appear reasonable and yet be unacceptable in order to solidify public opinion at home and divide it abroad. The suggestion did not sound far-fetched. The emperor was eminently the one condition on which the Japanese could agree, the one condition for which they would all be ready to perish. He was also one condition which could be calculated to divide the Americans who believed so passionately in leaving other people alone to choose their own form of government. What a masterful intrigue if it were true!

But the new bomb floated ominously over these intricate and subtle calculations; what did the cunning of diplomatists and the fanaticism of peasants avail against this imponderable atom dangling from its parachute? While the air crackled with its secret offers, the vernaculars published today the first eyewitness accounts of Hiroshima. The Yomiuri, which also noted briefly that another “new-type bomb” (in the singular) had been dropped on Nagasaki on the 9th, carried the following description by one of its correspondents:

“On the morning of the 8th August I entered the suburbs of Hiroshima in a truck with a group of civilian defense corps members from the city of Kaidaichi… All buildings on the ground had been razed and turned into heaps of debris. All the trees along the road, which once must have had an abundance of green leaves on their branches, were burnt black, bare to the trunk. The city had been turned into such a ruin that we covered our eyes….

“Judging from what I have been told by some of the inhabitants, the bomb may be a sort of high-heat flash-bomb which explodes with strong power and simultaneously emits a high~heat flash. One of the eye-witnesses of the explosion, Ai Miyano, told me: “when I heard the droning sound of an enemy plane I went outside and looked up. I noticed a black object falling lightly through the air. At this moment a red-and-blue flash struck me, causing  me to feel as if I had been burnt by a blast of extreme heat. I grew dizzy.”

“According to others, the enemy plane was seen over the city but it was gone at the time of the explosion. This shows that the new bomb, after being dropped, apparently continues to float in the air until the plane which had dropped it gets outside the range of the explosion….

“Many of the people killed were buried under the falling houses; those who were in the open were burnt by the heat. Only those who sought shelter in air-raid-defense trenches were saved.”

The Times in turn quoted today another eye-witness, Seiichi Miyata of Higashiku, Osaka, who was in Hiroshima at the time of the attack. “When the enemy super-forts appeared over the city,” recalled Miyata, “I was at an hotel some kilometers from the central section. First I heard the faint roar of a plane flying at a high altitude. I went to one of the windows facing south and a friend of mine went to the opposite side. In the meantime the roar of the plane had ceased. Then suddenly a dazzling flash came, as bright as a photographer’s flare covering the whole area. when, in no time, I felt a hot pressure, immediately followed by a deafening detonation. My friend and I rushed into the room and flung ourselves flat on the floor. My friend suffered a burn in the corner of one eye. Fortunately I myself escaped injury.

“Looking around I saw the bedding, that had been put out to dry, torn to bits. Flecks of cotton from the mattresses and quilts were lying about the room. All the glass windows and paper sliding-doors were scattered over the place.

“Later, walking around the streets, I saw that most of the wooden buildings had been demolished, the glass windows of concrete structures smashed, and furniture hurled here and there. At a certain national school, the children, who had been doing physical exercises in the open without much clothes on, suffered severe burns The skin had been torn off and they were in agony although the scorched parts were not bleeding much. some were covered with blisters. Most of the city residents near the area where the bomb was dropped suffered more from burns than from wounds.

“Solid wooden buildings, such as shrines, temples, and hotels, remained intact and those who quickly took shelter in them as soon as they saw the flash, escaped injury. Considering this, it is apparent that speedy action in taking shelter is absolutely necessary…. The effect of the new-type bombs is not so absolute as generally imagined.”

Presumably on the basis of these first-hand experiences the air defense headquarters has issued further instructions on how to deal with the new bomb. There is a frantic reiteration about them that borders on hysteria.

“1. It is very effective to seek safety in an air-raid shelter. It is necessary to repair and strengthen shelters which are covered.

“2. In regard to dress, one should expose as little of the body as possible. Otherwise one will suffer burns.

“3. The use of an air-raid-defense hood and gloves will prevent burns in the head, face, and hands.

“4. If there is no time to seek safety in an air-raid-defense shelter or if there is none in the neighborhood, one should lie flat on the ground or utilize a solid building for protection. But it is important to seek safety in an outside shelter.

“5. If the above points are remembered together with thos -previously announced, the new-type bomb will not prove to be so powerful.”

Meantime the Japanese government has filed a protest against the use of the bomb. The note was sent through the Swiss yesterday. Possibly it is important for the record. At any rate the Japanese can get from it their first accurate idea of the new bomb.

“On the 6th of August,” reads the note, “an American plane dropped a new-type bomb in the city area of Hiroshima and instantly killed and wounded many citizens and destroyed a major portion of the city. The city of Hiroshima is a common ordinary urban community without any particular military defense facilities and, as a whole, does not possess any characteristics which can be called military objectives.

“By the actual damage done, the area which has been hit extends widely. The persons within that area were killed or wounded by the vacuum caused by _____ and the heat radiating from the bombs, whether they were combatants or non-combatants, men or women, old or young. The scope of the  damage done was general as well as great. Moreover, judging from the individual cases of injury, it was unprecedentedly cruel.

“A combatant has no right to use indiscriminately means of doing harm to the enemy. He ought not to use weapons, missiles, or other substances which will give pain to others unnecessarily. These are the fundamental principles of international law. This is the reason why these principles are set forth in Articles 22 and 23 of the regulations concerning laws and customs of land fighting in the document attached to the treaty concerning such laws and customs.

“The American government has stated on more than one occasion since the outbreak of the war that as the use of poison gas or of any inhuman means of warfare is regarded as illegitimate by public opinion in civilized society, it would not use these means unless the other party did the same. The bomb which has been used by America is far more inhuman than poison gas and other weapons whose use is prohibited because they cause harm indiscriminately and because they are cruel.

“America, in disregard of international law and the fundamental principles of humanity, has bombed various cities and towns over a wide area in Japan, and has killed numerous old persons, children, and women. It has demolished and burned shrines, temples, school buildings, hospitals, and houses in general. It has now committed a sin against the culture of the human race by using a bomb which harms more indiscriminately and is more cruel than any weapon  or missile which has been used in the past.

“The Japanese government, in its own name and in the name of the entire human race and of civilization, hereby accuses the American government. At the same time it demands strongly that America refrain from using such inhuman weapons.”

So far the official note. Yesterday the Times accented the protest with unofficial rhetoric. Hiroshima was “no mere excess committed in the heat of battle. It was an act of premeditated wholesale murder.” It was not even murder; it was pure nihilism“, “a crime against God and humanity which strikes at the very basis of moral existence.”

“What more barbarous atrocity can there be than to wipe out at one stroke the population of a whole city without distinction –men, women, and children; the aged, the weak, the infirm; those in positions of authority and those with no power at all; all snuffed out without being given a chance of lifting even a finger in either defense or defiance! The United States may claim… that a policy of utter annihilation is necessitated by Japan’s failure to heed the recent demand for unconditional surrender,” concluded the Times, “but the question of surrendering or not surrendering certainly can have not the slightest relevance to the question of whether it is justifiable to use a method which, under any circumstance, is strictly condemned alike by the principles of international law and of morality.”

Aside from the obvious relish with which the Japanese, standing at last on sure ground, pay back the Americans with their own coin or atrocity charge and moral indignation, the note and the editorial raise a legitimate point. But it is a point as old as war itself, as old as the question of the end justifying the means.

How much does victory justify? Whatever the moralists and the lawyers may say, the brutal fact, of course, is that victory justifies anything. That may not be a moral fact but it is a psychological fact. The Japanese warlords know it as well as any other soldier; if they had discovered the “atomic” bomb, they would not have hesitated to use it in spite of any Article 22 or Article 23. This has been true since men first started killing one another; the ultimate consideration was kill or be killed. Modern wars have been increasingly more horrible not because human nature has grown more corrupt and callous but only because human ingenuity has conceived and fashioned more terrible weapons. He who can, does; he who cannot, dies.

All the fine distinctions and delicate scruples of theologians are swept away by that awful compulsion. The Americans, who recoiled in horror from the bombing of London, were just as ruthless in wiping out Berlin, Hamburg, and a hundred other cities in Germany; when it came to saving the life of one American soldier, what did a hundred thousand krauts matter? The winners are decorated, the losers are shot as war-criminals. Slaughter by your side is military necessity; slaughter by the other side is an atrocity, “inhuman”, “unjustifiable”, “a crime against God.”

The truth is that war itself is an atrocity. War produces only gradations of atrocity. Is a blockade, strangling an entire people in slow death by starvation, any less “indiscriminate” than pattern~bombing or “atomic” disintegration? Does a jagged scrap of bomb-casing, tearing through the intestines, cause less “unnecessary” pain than a blast of heat that tears off the skin? If their condition for peace is rejected, the Japanese warlords will hurl their people into national suicide. Will this be less “cruel” or more “justifiable” than national murder?


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…)


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”.


9th May 1945

Language has its subtle treacheries and they are probably nowhere more plentiful than in the ordinary translation from Japanese into English. This morning’s Times carries two articles on the special attack corps that, largely perhaps from differences in expression and ways of thought, stumble from the pathetic to the silly and then step suddenly into genuine emotion.

The first is the account of a visit by a staff-member of the Asahi to a tokotai unit. It follows: “The quarters of the members of the special attack corps were located in a very plain building. There were no mats to be seen on the floor. Instead there were two quilts and two mattresses per man, gifts from the people of the neighboring village. In an inner room was an altar. Before it were placed two caskets containing the ashes of comrades who had given their lives to keep the enemy away from their beloved country. All the men wore their flying suits throughout the day. They had no other clothes. It was exactly six hours before their departure on a campaign from which they had no hope of returning alive, that I visited their quarters. Sergeant-Major Shimote of Hiroshima prefecture and Sergeant-Major Watanabe of Ehime prefecture were bending over a map that was spread out on the floor. In their left hands they held rulers. They were drawing lines lengthwise and crosswise. Sergeant Takeda of Shizuoka prefecture knelt down beside Sergeant-Major Shimote, asking: “We are to change course at x degree, aren’t we?” The heads of the sergeant and the sergeant-major came into contact. As one of them said something, the other nodded. This they did several times; each time their heads bumped together. But they made no attempt to prevent their heads from colliding. They were so deeply immersed in their work that it seemed they found infinite pleasure in it.

“Sergeant-Major Hashimoto of Hiroshima prefecture was sharpening a pencil nearby. He kept sharpening it only to keep breaking off the point. He repeated this several times. At length when the pencil had grown too short, he put it away and, producing another pencil, set about sharpening it. He was equally unfortunate in this attempt. But he kept sharpening with untiring energy, which was a quite a wonder to me. As I watched him at his work I felt an excitement such as is produced by the sight of some dramatic event. I felt as though my heart were being wrung. I found difficulty in breathing. Then a thought flashed across my mind. I felt my throat tightening. The four men before me were truly wonderful. There was nothing unusual about them. It would have their movements and speech had suggested even in the remotest manner that these four fliers were on the point of going to meet death. But there was nothing of that.

“After much hesitation I suggested that people in general were under the impression that the men of the special attack corps were doomed to die. The answer to this came from Sergeant-Major Watanabe: “Everybody is wondering about that. It is of no importance to us. From the time I change over to aviation I determined not to get married.” He added after a short pause: ‘To tell the truth, I do not remember having got it into my head to have a definite view of life and death.’

“Here Sergeant-Major Hirate entered, holding a casket containing the ashes of a comrade of his, Sergeant-Major Nakamura. Saying it was getting late, and that it was time to go to bed, he lay himself upon the mattress.

“‘We are to leave the ground in formation so be careful not to be half-asleep and crash into my buttocks,” said Sergeant-Major Watanabe to Sergeant-Major Hirate as he also went to bed.

“Presently a man from the communications corps came in. To him Sergeant-Major Shimote said: “Be sure to be on your guard. It will not be for more than an hour from X to X o’clock. Be sure.’ He repeated this several times in a loud voice. What the signal man was asked to do was to get in touch with the base by wireless the moment the members of the special attack corps rammed into the enemy. The report should be a confirmation of the fact that the members had fulfilled their mission and at the same time it would be something of a farewell to their mother-country.

“I produced a cigarette and asked Sergeant Hashimoto to give me a light I pressed the end of my cigarette to the lighted one of Sergeant Hashimoto and puffed away vigorously. I did this two or three times in the belief that by inhaling the smoke of a cigarette lighted by a member of the special attack corps, I would become imbued with the spirit of the corps. Sergeant Hashimoto was looking at me in wonder as I went through this performance. As I returned his cigarette to him, my hand touched his. I felt that there was nothing to distinguish my hand from his. I and the members of the special attack corps bathed together. We drank together. We sang together. We joked with one another. Essentially we were the same and yet we were different. Aloud I wondered why. Sergeant-Major Watanabe, who had overheard me, turned to me and said: ‘It is because you think about death too deeply.…”

x x x

The second article is by a correspondent of the Mainichi at the base of the Koma unit of the special attack corps. He writes: “One night when the members of the Koma unit were in their barracks, warming up for the action scheduled on the next day, an officer came up to me. In his hand was a square notebook which he asked me to place in his mother’s hands. A glance at the book showed that there were two Y100 notes between the pages. On the cover were written the words: To Mother, as well as his full name and the unit to which he belonged. ‘I’ll be glad to oblige you,’ I told him. A short silence fell. ‘I suppose you would not like me to see the contents of the book,’ I said, looking into his face with the air of a man who is afraid his request will be refused. ‘I have written nothing of a confidential nature there,’ he replied. ‘But I am ashamed of my writing. I was so poor at composition when I was a boy.’ He smiled and continued: ‘I was a spoiled child and must have caused my mother a great deal of trouble.’ The young sub-lieutenant spoke very quietly. I found it hard not to bow to him when he finished speaking. Here are some of the entries in sub-lieutenant Watanabe’s diary:

“Mother, I think that you will rejoice at my having joined the special attack corps. I and the rest of us have been the recipients of great imperial favors, as were our ancestors. Nothing is a greater honor to me than to be able to requite even the smallest portion of the imperial favor which has been granted to us and those who went before us….

“‘We came into the world to die. We have now learned to die….

“‘Mother, I am going along young airmen, some of whom are barely 20, and all of whom I have taught. Oh, Mother, shed tears for them. In their youthfulness, assailed by momentary thoughts of home, they are said to have shed tears throughout the night after receiving orders to take the field….

“‘Since I came to live at the barracks it has been my custom to go out to the middle of the airfield in the dead of night and pray that I may not be behind the others in offering my life for our country. Tonight there was a half-moon in the sky. As I looked up to it many thoughts crowded into my mind. I remembered a spring festival at a shrine, which I attended with my mother. I was dressed in a brand-new dark-blue suit with a knitted shirt that smelled strongly of camphor. In my right hand I clutched some candy that my mother had bought for me along the way….

“‘Today I find myself overwhelmed by emotion. This base is the last corner of Japanese land upon which my feet will stand. Tomorrow I am to take off. My mind is as clear as the bright sky of Japan. Mother, sayonara.’”

 

 


7th May 1945

For the past four days the Japanese government and press have mourned for Hitler and his Reich, Mussolini and his Republic. In the afternoon of the 3rd Suzuki expressed his “profound sympathy”. At the same time Togo called on the German ambassador to express deep condolences. The next day Iguchi, the official spokesman, eulogizing Hitler, declared that “his spirit, his labors, and his ideals will surely live in the hearts and minds of the German people. He will leave an indelible mark in history as one of the greatest leaders of nations, as a man of great vision who peered far ahead into the future, and as a man of action and labored with messianic zeal to create an order in Europe which would ensure stability, peace, and progress.” The press was not slow to follow the official lead. The Mainichi on Hitler and Mussolini: “Two great stars falling from the sky, trailing a magnificent glory behind them….” The Nippon Sangyo Keizai: “Tears of sympathy…” The Times on Hitler: “One of the towering characters of world history..”

But now the mourners are back from the graveyard and they are sitting uneasily in the lawyer’s office, waiting for the will to be read. The new heir does not look too friendly and the estate is bankrupt. Yesterday, calling a press conference hastily, the foreign minister made it clear that if the new Doenitz government was, as reported, making a separate peace with the Anglo-Americans, it was violating the tri-partite pact and Japan was consequently reserving freedom of action. Dutifully echoing the new line Asahi grumbled: “It is very regrettable that Germany has lost her political vision and virtue and ignored international goodfaith….”

 

 

 


4th May 1945

The Times today publishes in translation the letter of a Japanese mother, written to a lieutenant in the Shimbu unit of the special attack corps who had sent her a photograph of her son, a corporal in the same unit. “The letter,” notes the Times, “was written on a piece of rolled paper. The calligraphy was pleasing to the eye. The Letter itself, a revealing struggle between the conventions of patriotism and an elemental anguish, follows:

“It is spring and I am full of a profound sense of gratitude to you. I am the mother of X, whose photograph you were so kind as to send me some time ago. I am in tears under the influence of the strong emotions that come upon me at the thought that you were good enough to send me the last photograph of my son, after you had done so much kindness to him. I know from the newspapers and the radiobroadcasts that were young men are ending their lives gloriously by ramming enemy vessels. It pains my heart to think that our country Japan is facing such a severe trial. I was anxiously hoping for the speedy arrival of the day when my son, a man utterly inexperienced in military service, would go into action without doing anything that might expose him to the charge of delaying in the demonstration of his loyalty to the national cause. Then I was informed of his selection for your (special attack) unit. There could be no greater joy for me, as a mother in a military country, a mother of Japan fighting the decisive battle. All I have to do now is to pray that he performed a great deed for our land Japan. After I received the photograph I stared at it for a long time. I tool it out of its envelope many times, with the thought that my son wished to speak to me. But I looked at my son in the photograph not as my son but as a soldier of the empire. Still I find it difficult to think that my son is no more. Whenever l hear the roar of a training plane it is with difficulty that I keep myself from running out; I think then that it is my son who has come to say goodbye after all. Please do not laugh at this, considering it the fancy of a foolish woman. My only wish, I assure you, is for the day of victory.”