11th May 1945

A small peace clique is now taking shape in Japan. One of its leaders is sopposed to be General Ugaki who has, according to the story, openly announced his readiness to negotiate a peace through his former good friend, Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek. Ugaki has never been on good terms with his army colleagues; the army overthrew him when he was premier because he tried to cut the army budget. Now the military police is keeping an eye on Ugaki. The former Japanese ambassador to London, Yoshida, has already been arrested.

But the mass of the people is still for the war; while the Suzuki cabinet is none too popular, the premier himself has won the hearts of the people with his opening statement calling for victory “even over my dead body”. The army however is definitely out of favor. The present cabinet is a navy cabinet and, as one indication, its war minister stood in the last row in the official photographs. My informant had one more version of the fall of Koiso. The former premier, he said, has resigned because he disagreed with the army chiefs on strategy; that as the core of the official and semi-official explanations hinting at a lack of coordination between the armed forces and the administration. The army wanted to fight in Burma and the Philippines; Koiso, perhaps with an eye on internal conditions, favored withdrawal, at least of the bulk of the air force, to the homeland for defense against the B-29’s. Koiso seems to have won his point in defeat because it is said that the air garrison in Tokyo has been considerably strengthened while the Philippine and Burmese armies have been practically abandoned.


7th April 1945

With 120 bombers over Tokyo and 150 more over Nagoya, Suzuki requested “the visits of ministerial candidates to his cabinet-organizing headquarters” from 8 o’clock this morning and “entered into direct negotiations with them.” The press expected that some of the Koiso ministers would be retained, among them Admiral Yonai for the navy, “to organize the most powerful cabinet available, one that will be the last of the war, ” a phrase of double meaning.

In the Fujiya I was surprised to meet the Manchu ambassador. We had received the official notification of his return home on leave. He explained that he had left Shimonoseki on the ferry to Chosen but one of the magnetic mines sown by B-29’s had exploded 15 meters behind the ship, lifting it out of the water and damaging its propellers. It had to be towed back to Shimonoseki. Now the ambassador is waiting for a plane.


6th April 1945

Admiral Baron Kantaro Suzuki is the new premier. The Mainichi, in reporting how he “received the imperial command” to form a new cabinet, gave an interesting peek into Japanese government. “When Premier Koiso submitted the resignation of the cabinet to the throne yesterday, His Majesty the Emperor summoned to the imperial palace Marquis Koichi Kido, Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal, and commanded him to recommend the successor. In view of the seriousness of the situation both at home and abroad, Marquis Kido desired the opinions of the senior statesmen and asked them to assemble at the imperial palace. Accordingly, Baron Reijiro Wakatsuki, Admiral Keisuke Okada, Koki Hirota, Prince Fuminaro Konoye, Baron Kiichiro Hiranuma, and General Hideki Tozyo, all former prime ministers, and Admiral Kantaro Suzuki, president of the privy council, presented themselves at the imperial palace. They sat in conference at 6 p.m. and deliberated in earnest on the selection of the head of the succeeding cabinet until 8:40 p.m. Marquis Kido reported to the throne on the results of the deliberation. Admiral Kantaro Suzuki, who remained at the palace after the conference, was received in audience by His Majesty the Emperor (at 10 p.m.) and was commanded to organize the succeeding cabinet.” According to the Asahi, Admiral Suzuki, overawed by the imperial favor, asked for time and retired. The premier designate will now establish his “cabinet-formation headquarters”. Pressmen and politicians will watch who calls and is called and will make up their dope-lists of probable cabinet members. When the cabinet is completed, Suzuki will present the list to the throne and an imperial investiture will quickly follow.

There are several points about Suzuki that have immediately been brought up. He is known as an “emperor’s man” because he was grand chamberlain for many years. He is of course a navy men and his chief aide in lining up a cabinet seems to be another navy man and elder statesman, Admiral Okada. He is considered a “liberal” as liberals go in Japan; both he and Okada were on the “wanted” list of the young officers’ revolt in 1936; he was wounded while Okada was saved when the conspirators killed his brother-in-law by mistake. Most significant of all, Suzuki is old, only one year short of 80, old enough to be a hero of the first Chinese and Russian wars, old enough to commit political or actual harakiri by making peace. Long before this everyone agreed that an old premier meant defeat and peace. Certainly if the goal were still the active and unrelenting prosecution of the war, a younger man would have been chosen, possibly a prince of the blood royal as was expected after Tozyo. The Filipinos in Tokyo have a word for it; the new premier is not Suzuki but Susuku (which is Tagalog for “will surrender”).

There is of course no open talk of peace. In resigning, the Koiso cabinet expressed the hope for a stronger government, presumably stronger for and in the war. For their part the vernaculars all call for one grim united effort to avert invasion and conquest. They assign many causes for the downfall of Koiso. Koiso’s policies were not “coordinated”. He failed to rally the people. He lost their confidence. He was purely a transition premier from one “strong man” to another. Most of the vernaculars hint at the insoluble problem of “coordinating” the administration and the high command”. But no one has mentioned Yiojima or Okinawa or the great Tokyo raids or the fact that Soviet Russia has given notice of its desire to abrogate the neutrality or non-aggression pact. These causes, and peace, were just as decisive. The people were tired of the army and they have turned to the navy; they were tired of the younger officers and they have turned to the elder statesmen; they were tired of defeat, ruin, hunger, homeless insecurity, and they have turned to — what? They do not say because they do not know. They shuffle in their long weary queues, bundle up their frayed and scorched belongings, and hide their faces. Koiso has been jerked out of the stage as suddenly, noiselessly, and simply as Tozyo. It is not hard to see that it makes little difference to the puppet show. But the profound weariness and melancholy of the people cannot be healed by a change in the cast. It is convenient to give them someone to blame and hiss and boo and throw out. It may assure them for a time. But their mood is too deep to be lifted by anything short of glorious victory or at least the surcease of peace. Now if they cannot take it out on the cabinet, they take it out on what they can lay their hands on.

Going to the chancery we sniffed something of this reckless desperate spirit. A volunteer wrecking squad was tearing down the houses in our neighborhood to clear a fire-break. They seemed possessed by a lust for destruction. A laughing student hurled down a window to the street and it crashed amid a shower of broken glass. Another student was furiously at work with a heavy hammer, smashing down, the plaster partitions. A heavy rope was coiled along the street. Later the squad would noisily pull down the light framework, splitting and rending irreplaceable timber in a roar of dust, splintered tile, shattered glass, and that strange satisfying exaltation of blind destruction. And then they would sit on their haunches, their mirthless laughter slowly dying; they would stare at the ruins, breathing heavily, and their faces would grow sad and empty. We had seen many of these squads at work and passing them today we felt once more a twinge of uneasy apprehension.


5th April 1945

The ruins of the 10th March fire in Tokyo are haunted by a stench of leaking gas. Hundreds of twisted faucets are still dripping in the ruins. Possibly as a result of this there was no water running in the house of my colleagues in Yotsuya, where I put up now when I am in Tokyo. Just as we were going to bed the maid rushed in with the news that the radio had announced the resignation of the Koiso cabinet. It had lasted from Saipan to Yiojima. “The resignation,” said the official announcement of the board of information, “has been decided upon by the cabinet so as to make way for a more powerful cabinet in consideration of the grave situation.” After nine months in office the cabinet was called into special session at 9 o’clock this morning. After collecting the written resignations of his colleagues, General Koiso presented himself at the imperial palace at 10:30 and submitted the resignations en bloc.


23rd March 1945

Saipan led to Yiojima and Yiojima may lead to the mainland, warned the Mainichi today. Apparently in preparation for invasion the vice-minister officer, Shibayama, in reply to interpellations in the commons yesterday, revealed that “the fighting services at present are making nationwide preparations for the organization of a defense corps”. This defense corps will be composed of former service-men, with units in every army regional command in Japan. Their arms will be manufactured locally in the different regions. “In case we directly face an enemy invasion,” concluded Shibayama, “not only this defense corps but also the volunteer corps, the patrol corps, and the police forces, etc., will be unified and mobilized.” The volunteer corps refers to another organization proposed by Koiso himself yesterday; details are not yet available but it will be drawn from the people at large, who will be armed and trained to fight as guerrillas.


22nd March 1945

In a communique dated noon yesterday imperial general headquarters announced the loss of Yiojima. The announcement quoted the last telegram from the garrison: “All the officers and men with the supreme commander at the head launched a dauntless general attack at midnight of March 17, praying for Japan’s sure victory as well as the tranquillity of the imperial land.”

Prior to this last report the supreme commander, Lieutenant-General Tadamichi Kuribayashi, sent the following farewell message: “The war situation has finally reached the last stage. At midnight of March 17, I, your humble officer, at the head all those under my personal direction, shall carry out a final general attack, praying for the sure victory and welfare of the empire. I am satisfied that the Japanese forces have kept up their defense against the enemy offensives from the land, sea, and air, with numerical superiority beyond imagination since their landing. The brave fighting of the officers and men under my command is worthy enough to make even the gods dumbfounded. However our fighting men have fallen one after another before the persistent enemy attacks. I am extremely sorry that circumstances have caused us to let this key position fall into enemy’s hands, for which I offer my thousand apologies. Thinking especially of the fact that the imperial land shall not be placed in a peaceful situation without taking back this island, we expect that we ourselves, though dead, shall herald the coming back of the imperial troops to this island. All our bullets are gone now and no supply of water can be had. One the eve of conducting the last assault by the entire body of men we cannot but be reminded of the gracious imperial benevolence. With this in mind we shall never regret having done our utmost for the cause of the empire. With loud and respectful banzai for the imperial eternity, I, together with the officers and men, offer my last farewell. I hasten to present for your inspection some 31-syllable Japanese poems I have found time to compose:

“1. It grieves me that I have to die, having used up my supply of bullets, it having not been my lot to perform the function I had to the country.

“2. I will not decay on the plain without taking revenge. I will take up arms each of the seven times I come into the world.

“3. My sole thought is about the course of my country at the time when unsightly plants have covered the island.

Lieutenant-General Kuribayashi”

What a fantastic compost of arrogance, humility, incompetence, heroism, pettiness, and greatness, is this farewell message, which combines military advice with poetic sentiment, boasts that the gods have been dumbfounded and then prostrates itself with a thousand apologies. Yet, to take the poems as an instance, one can see through the quaint conceits and unfamiliar metaphors the workings of the essential military spirit, the gleam and fierce splendor of an ageless armored ghost. Churchill would have said “blight” or “fell disease” for “unsightly plants”: MacArthur said “I shall return” instead of “I will not decay”; in every language spoken by man, in every war that has been fought, soldiers have regretted that they had only one life to give for their country, have grieved to leave the job undone, have called for remembrance and revenge. Kuribayashi on Yiojima might have been ten thousand other defeated captains letting out one last angry yell to life.

Meantime in a radiocast to the nation last night Koiso, while admitting that the loss of Yiojima meant that for the first time an integral part of the homeland had been invaded, denied that the defeat was a defeat of Japan’s “spiritual power” by material power. “In taking that small island of about 23 square kilometers, the enemy had not only to bomb it for 70 days but also to concentrate his entire fleet of 800-odd vessels, three divisions and 900 tanks and pour several thousands of tons, of shells from the sea and from the air. When I consider this fact,” said Koiso, “as well as the losses inflicted on the enemy, I cannot but take pride and feel exhilareted at the peerless strength of the spiritual power of the Japanese forces.” But Yiojima fell. And the government itself is making less spectral preparations for the next stage of the campaign.

In addition to a supplementary budget calling for four and a half billion yen, a special military measures bill has been submitted to the diet. According to the official explanation released simultaneously, it provides that “land, buildings, other structures and objects, as well as people, juridical persons, and other public bodies may be mobilized to execute plans for fortifications, fill military needs, and effectuate the other strategic purposes to be designated by imperial ordinance. In other words the government asks authority to take over anyone and anything for war purposes and the official statement blandly grants that this is “likely to affect the constitutional rights of Japanese subjects”.

It is doubtful however if it will lead to anything. Comparing notes with a Spanish diplomat, we agreed on the incomprehensible waste of time, manpower and materials in Japan. The precautions against air-raids had all been eminently futile, the Spaniard complained. They had compelled him, for instance, to build a concrete water-tank in his garden that was never used and failed to save his house. They had conscripted, his servants and cook once a week to dig trench-shelters that probably killed as many people as they saved. He had seen other sighs of disorganization. In spite of an all-embracing mobilization law, the trams and subways were chock-full of able-bodied young men — during working hours. The big munitions companies were still operating on a strictly private basis, producing what they wanted when they wanted, even planes that did not fly. An insane bureaucratic jealousy paralyzed every official measure —- the home office ignored the foreign office and the army sneered at both while the different police bodies cut each other’s throats. The Spaniard was a man with a grudge but every foreign diplomat in Tokyo, without exception, agrees that the “most disciplined” country in the world is the most inefficient and disorganized.

The most dramatic instance of Japanese inefficiency can be found in the heaps of scrap-iron rusting on the streets. More than a year ago all the radiators were torn from homes and offices in a frenzy of enthusiasm; they are still on the sidewalks. Often even the buildings from which they were taken have since burned down and the rusty masses of old steel files, radiators, safes, rot in front of newer heaps of tin and galvanized iron, quickly turning from the fresh bright orange of yesterday’s fire to the older more somber crimson of today’s ruin and desolation. The authorities talk loudly of “powerful” plans and strong measures. But apparently no one can stoop to the details of clearing the debris and shipping off the scrap iron or no one has thought of it. The Japanese have fallen under the baleful spell of their own propaganda on spiritual power. They think they can squat on straw mat, stomach sucked in, fists at their hips, “the soul of the sword” before them, and just stare down a B-29.


17th March 1945

Imperial headquarters has announced that the Americans have suffered 25,000 casualties on Yiojima and to those who can read between the lines it is plain that the battle is coming to an end. As a result of this new setback a further effort has been made to solve the question of coordination between the high command and the administration, which has plagued Japan’s war effort since the China affair. Apparently, when Koiso took office he advanced three proposals on the subject. He would attend conferences at imperial headquarters as premier, he would return to active service and thus adjust differences himself, or the issue could be solved “according to an entirely new conception”. This last alternative was the first taken. A supreme council for war guidance was established but, according to the Asahi, it was “merely a sort of conference and so far has gone little beyond the adjustment of differences between the high command and the administration. It was by no means adequate to cope with the present stage of fierce war.” Consequently the first alternative will now be resorted to; Koiso will be allowed to sit in at imperial headquarters conferences; “he will have a voice in matters under discussion in the same way that the chief staff officers have and partake in the supreme guidance of the war.” The measure was taken “at the command of His Majesty the Emperor. The same step,” recalls the Asahi, “was taken at the time of the Sino-Japanese and Russo-Japanese wars when the Premiers Ito and Katsuura attended the deliberations of imperial headquarters.” It only remains to add that the more realistic Tozyo solved the problem in his own characteristic fashion by combining in himself the powers of prime minister, war minister, munitions minister, and chief of staff. He was overthrown by jealous generals on the charge of dictatorship. Whatever his shortcomings, Tozyo had a better understanding of total war.


12th March 1945

The situation in Indo-China was “clarified” by Koiso at the diet yesterday. It seems that “because the authorities of the government of French Indo-China came to take a passive attitude of non-cooperation with Japan, contrary to the terms of the joint-defense pact, the imperial government has taken minimum measures actually necessary for Japan’s independent defense of Indo-China.” In plain language the French have been caught in communication and conspiracy with the allies; Japan has taken over Indo-China as a consequence while for its part Annam, which comprises the greater part of Indo-China, has reaffirmed its independence, abrogating the old treaty by which it placed itself under French protection. This development, which would have been, startling and electrifying empire news before the war, failed to distract the diet or the press from Japan’s own troubles. “What the people wanted to hear most,” complained the Asahi, “was a report on the war situation and the political and military measures taken to cope with it. The Mainichi for its part said: “What the people would have liked to hear is that all measures have already been completed and that the situation is already such that we confidently face things to come with adequate preparation.”

But it will be a long time before the people hear that. The whole business of precautionary evacuation from the big cities is as much of a mess as ever. Our interpreter says that his brother who is mayor of a nearby town, keeps receiving orders from the central government to make arrangements for the accommodation of refugees from Tokyo but no help or advice on how to do it. It may be wondered of course why he waits for help or advice but the fact seems to be that the town is already strained beyond its resources. Another Japanese gave us a vivid instance of this recently. He said that his father had gone for a visit to a northern province which had formerly exported rice. He had had to send to Tokyo for his own rice this time; the government after taking away all the crop except just enough for the farmers’ own livelihood, had now dumped so many evacuees on the countryside that they had eaten up all the bare reserves.

Fortunately the diplomatic corps has been provided with its own evacuation centers which are tolerably well run. We had been assigned to the Fujiya hotel, possibly the best in Japan, in the heart of the beautiful mountain reservation around Fuji, and today I took Anita there for the duration. After the filth, the stench, the squalor and desolation of Tokyo, the silent green hills seemed like an enchanted refuge. The pretty villas of the rich slumbered cosily along the slick white winding road and even the farmers’ shacks were neat and peaceful. Red-cheeked children waived from the roadside. Only in one small village was there a hint of war. Apparently it contained a military hospital for we saw several wounded soldiers, bandaged, or hobbling on canes, but even they, in their customary white kimono, led by the hand by laughing admiring youngsters, seemed far away from war.

The Fujiya itself had not changed except for a new set of rules on the blackout. The lights in all rooms were switched off at 11 p.m. In case of air-raids only the small hooded lights at the dressing tables are allowed during the alert and none at all during actual attack. No foreign guest may leave the hotel once an actual alarm is sounded except with special police permission. It is difficult to imagine the Fujiya actually under air-attack; there is nothing to attack in this little village in the mountains; most of the guests therefore are more worried about the food than anything else. It seemed to us adequate and even more than adequate but the long-termers complained of the monotony of the menus and the fact that the hotel got the special rations of its diplomatic guests and spread it out among all. In fact diplomatic activity in the Fujiya seems to be confined to negotiating for one more butter ball with the bread.

The Japanese staff of course receives only the rations given all over Japan. We found this out shortly after we arrived, vie had brought alone a case of emergency provisions. Between the time it was taken from the car by the hotel porter and the time it was delivered to our room, two pounds of butter disappeared. Afterward we told an Italian diplomat what had happened. He laughed. “All of us have had the same experience,” he exclaimed. “We thought the Japanese were the most honest people on earth. Perhaps they were. But now we lock up all our extra provisions.” He thought for a moment and then added: “You can leave anything else lying around and no one will pick it up. Money, clothes, jewelry. But they are hungry.”


11th March 1945

The diet was opened today as scheduled in spite of an air-raid signal that drove the members down to the basement. In the words of Vargas, who was present, it was worse than a baseball game. The Commons allowed Koiso to finish his main address with only a few interruptions but Sugiyama, speaking as war minister, was overwhelmed with boos and catcalls. Yonai, the navy minister, made a short frank speech ending with the cautious and modest promise that the navy would do its best; he was the only cabinet member applauded. Odachi, the home minister who is in charge of air-raid protection, could not even finish his speech. At every official assurance members called out: “It’s a lie! Resign! Get out!” They shouted, pounded on their desks, howled insults, and when the premier himself again took the floor to answer an interpellation with the usual promise that a committee was being formed to study the situation, the house let out one outraged roar against: “Committees! Committees! Always Committees!” Loudest, most raucous of all were the representatives of the burnt areas in Tokyo; many of them lost their own houses in the last raid.

The session as a whole was one more instance of the peculiar incomprehensible unpredictable “national polity” of Japan. In no other country perhaps could a similar paradox be possible of a puppet parliament being allowed to insult and shout down an absolute military government and, at the same time, of a theoretically responsible government remaining in office after being thus attacked. But it is easy to see whence the diet has derived its daring anger. The main stations in Tokyo are crammed with refugees, some of them badly burnt red, their hands scaled black and crimson. All carry on their backs a few salvaged possessions. They call to one another in the dirty confusion of the depot, asking about relatives and neighbors still missing, asking the still more demanding question of a new home to be found somewhere before nightfall. One of our students, waiting for his train, had a few oranges with him for the trip. He was so moved that he gave them to a hungry child. Yet one does not usually give away food in Tokyo.