8th February 1945

A heavy snowfall did not help to cheer us up. All of us were in a bitter mood. Vargas has definitely rejected the proposition that, due to the possible suspension of funds from Manila, he be put on the Japanese government payroll. “It would put me in the position of a querida,” he exclaimed. And he added: “I don’t love the Japanese government that much.”

A ranking officer from the war office had dinner with him last night. With the help of numerous military maps he took the trouble of bringing along, he explained Yamashita’s strategy in the Philippines. His version was substantially that given in every newspaper in Tokyo: a strategy of “blood-letting” or attrition from mountain positions dominating Manila, Clark Field, and the gate to the Cagayan valley in northern Luzon. Cagayan will be Yamashita’s Bataan.

In the diet the fall of Manila led the lower house to pass a nagging resolution calling on the Koiso government to get going.

5th February 1945

Kobe was raided yesterday by 100 B-29’s. She eight-day theory seems to be working.

Manila’s fail was announced last night by San Francisco but the Japanese press still has the Americans at San Fernando, 70 kilometers away.

At the diet a curious little exchange took place. The story goes that someone was indulging in the usual platitudes about “divine assistance” when a representative arouse to remind his colleagues that there was also such a thing as “divine punishment”.

I wonder if the story is authentic. It sounds almost too pat to be true.

The cabinet had to run another gauntlet of questions in the upper house yesterday. The Koiso government seems to be on its last legs. Who will be next? It is said that a powerful clique is gathering around the old men who did not want the war and now seem to have known beat. If and when one of the old men takes over, possibly Admiral Nomura or General Ugaki, it will be the beginning of the end.

31st January 1945

Sometime in the middle of last year it was decided to establish a central bank in the Philippines which would issue “Republic notes”, redeem the Japanese military notes, and withdraw them from circulation, and otherwise control and manage Philippine currency. The Republic negotiated Japanese support and ordered the printing of a five-billion-peso issue, a good, and indeed the only, index to the amount of military notes with which the Japanese forces had flooded the Philippines. This week, with the Laurel government in flight, there seemed to be little point in a central bank. Vargas decided to ask whether the printing of the notes could be suspended; it would cost 10 million yen which the Laurel government did not have. Today the foreign minister gave the Japanese answer: yes, the Japanese government would be happy to stop the printing; as a matter of fact, it had already suspended the printing of the notes for the Burmese central bank. One of the reasons given was at least realistic: there was a shortage of paper and ink.

There is apparently also a shortage of blankets. In the course of his visit to Osaka this month Vargas was promised some woolen blankets by members of the Philippine society in that city. One of our interpreters, who had been sent to fetch them, returned empty-handed. There were no woolen blankets to be had, only inferior substitutes at 10 yen apiece.

He also brought back stories of a violent outraged anger against Tozyo among the businessmen there. They all believed the former premier had made millions out of the munitions ministry which he had held concurrently. Their indignation seemed to me to be vibrant with the righteous envy of unsuccessful competitors. “And once,” cried our interpreter who is an honest soul, “we thought this Tozyo was a god.”

He was toying in his mind with the possibility of peace-talks. Japan, he thought, needed an intriguer as premier, someone who would shout to the empire and to the world that Japan would never surrender while discreetly negotiating for terms through the Soviets. Such a man as Koiso, but Koiso had come in too soon, he said, and would have to go if end when the Philippines fell. He was quite bitter about the hotheads who had dragged Japan into this fatal war. But better surrender than annihilation.

I looked at him in amazement. Did he remember I asked him, that morning last summer, in the Japanese inn by the sea at Atami, when he had sworn to me that Japan had been forced into the war by the machinations of her enemies? Did he remember, I asked, that he had boasted of Japan’s unconquerable spirit, crying that every man, woman, and child of the Yamato race would slash his belly, cut her throat, throw itself into the sea, rather than surrender? He smiled shame facedly.

But I wanted to tell him not to be ashamed. He was not the first man to compromise with life, nor would he be the last. He had compromised a little earlier because he had served an apprenticeship behind the bars of a New York bank, because he had a wife and three children, because he still nursed a. homesick appetite for baseball, beer, well-cut suits, rice wine under the cherry-trees in spring, the elusive pleasures and absorbing puzzles of life. But I knew now that, sooner or later, one after the other, they would all compromise, down to the last youngster of the tokotai with the red sun painted on his breast, his shoulder, and his back.


22nd January 1945

The opening addresses of Koiso and his principal ministers at the 86th session of the diet yesterday “betrayed our expectations”, the Asahi states bluntly. And it adds: “A general survey of the discussions gives us the undeniable impression… that they are low-toned.” Indeed from the translations that have been published, Koiso “did not go beyond what has already been said” while the interpellations from the floor have fallen far short of what the press calls “patriotic relentless interpellations to be levelled against the government”.

There were three of these interpellations yesterday. First to take the floor was Dr.Tsuneo Kanemitsu who asked whether or not the government had a war policy at all and whether or not it had the courage to carry it out. He also called for closer touch with the people and the reformation of the present complicated political structure which was entirely dominated by the government. Finally he attacked internal jealousies and excessive formalism in the bureaucracy.

He was followed by Mr. Yadanji Nakajima who blamed the war situation on “low-toned munitions production” and this in turn on “too many orders”. Going into details, he asked a question that might well puzzle the most acute grammarian; “What,” he wanted to know, “is the so-called provincially classified composite self-standing structure?” If it meant regional self-sufficiency for defense and production, he pointed out that “the natural resources for our country are not to be found everywhere but are rather limited to certain regions while not all regions have adequate labor, sources of power and transportation facilities.” Would not such a policy, he asked, lead to a lowering of production power?

He also took up the operation of the munitions company law. On this subject however the comments of the Tokyo Shimbun were sharper; nothing, the paper said, had been done to remedy the “discrepancy” between labor’s sacrifices and capital’s profits. “No ‘putting-the-whole-nation-to-work’ is truly possible unless, through a thorough-going enforcement of an ‘every-body-a-soldier’ system, the entire nation is truly militarized and turned into a military life end all private rights are returned to the throne for the duration of the war.”

No translation was made available of the third interpellation by Mr. Masayoshi Kimura on foodstuff distribution,

Yet even these scattered diffident voices, overheard from behind the closed doors of Japanese government, are enough to trouble our deepest prejudices. Interpellations in the diet are put by men carefully chosen from a national party imposed and maintained by the government. Comments in the press must survive the official censorship of the brush as well as the unofficial censorship of the sword. But somehow the secret thoughts of the people leap over all these barriers, seep through the complicated and cunning sieves, and break out into the open light of day.

It makes one doubt whether an old-fashioned tyranny is now possible at all. The most modern dictatorships must pay more than lip-service to the people; by guile, deceit, the bribe of security, the bait of glory, the cry of “Wolf, wolf!”, they must rally their willing allegiance. So also Japan’s medieval despots can no longer tame or chain the tiger; they can only ride it. Looked at in this fashion, any modern government is popular in the sense of being maintained by the people; not all the “younger officers” could keep Tozyo in power once the slow irresistible heave and surge of popular discontent got started; at this rate Koiso will not last much longer; it is a clumsy ponderous process, too often blind, belated, instinctive, bewildered, but something that all tyrants must fear and take into account. The advantage of democracy is that it provides a more advanced and scientific technique, a cleanly defined channel for the tide of power, but the power itself, the power of the people, is ubiquitous.

12th January 1945

There is a limit even to Japanese patience, it seems. The Yomiuri, this morning, takes the Koiso cabinet slogan in its teeth and shakes it. “What is meant anyway by powerful politics?” And the Yomiuri snarls, as much as a Japanese newspaper can snarl these days, “It is regrettable that the evil habit of lukewarmness, characteristic of the Koiso cabinet, has not been entirely wiped off in the present serious stage…. It is to be hoped that the government… will not end with a mere array of words but will take concrete measures with boldness and daring.” It was the Yomiuri that, when the Koiso cabinet was first formed, called it after one of Tokyo’s wartime busses: “a charcoal-fed cabinet”.

The Asahi too has taken a stronger line and has asked Lieutenant-General Teiichi Suzuki, chairman of the Association for Service to the State through Industries, why the Japanese forces have not been getting enough planes. The general blames insufficiency and uneven distribution of war materials as well as government red tape. “Here is an example,” he told the Asahi. “A certain aircraft factory used to spend 60 kilograms of metal for manufacturing a machine part weighing seven kilograms. But the factory later found that by adopting a new production formula 15 kilograms of material would do. To put this new formula into practice, the factory had to go through various formalities to obtain government permission. But anxious to begin work, the factory went ahead without permission and, as a result, scored excellent results.” The moral drawn from this parable on initiative bordering on insubordination is probably comprehensible only to a Japanese. “The people,” concluded the general, “are waiting for orders from above.”

Certainly no one would accuse my apartment neighbor, the factory owner, of waiting for orders from above. Chatting after dinner tonight, he was quite elated over the way he had got hold of some cobalt and vanadium that his factory needed badly. He had traced a black-market agent to his secret warehouse on the pretext that he would buy the metals at any price but would have to check the stock first. Then he called in the military police and had the whole lot confiscated. The agent, a German, took refuge of sanctuary in his embassy and did not emerge until he had an official clearance.

There is something pathetically infantile about Japanese wartime industry. My neighbor brings home machine oil to fry his rice-cakes; he has his hot baths in the office because the public baths are so crowded; he took 10 days off for the New Year; once he tried to smuggle some black-market purchase of his in a military truck assigned to his factory and failed only because the recruit driving it was naive enough to pile the goods on top of the factory equipment he was supposed to be transporting. Amid all this light-hearted grasping, fumbling, stumbling, cheating, hit-and-miss, does any work ever get done?

5th January 1945

Koisos statement at the initial cabinet meeting this year is full of those circumlocutions and euphemisms that the Japanese love. “I wish to make this year a year of war victory,” he began, “but the war situation is very acute. We have won unprecedented victories in the battles off Taiwan and the Philippines but our navy has suffered losses and consumption which were not necessarily small. Subsequently both the army and the navy have been blocking the advance of the enemy through the activities of the special attack corps but the war situation on Leyte Island is not necessarily favorable to us.” The balance of “buts” is delightful. The Japanese have been told with delicate and classic subtlety that they are winning all the battles but losing the war — or rather, not necessarily winning it.

2nd January 1945

Koiso ate his words yesterday or perhaps took a bigger mouthful. In a New Year’s Day radiocast he proclaimed that Leyte was no longer decisive; “the entire Philippines…is the crucial battlefield.”

The Burmese military cadets are out on furlough over the holidays and the Burmese military attache has been hunting all over the city for a pig to give them one decent meal before they go back to their rations of rice and pickles. Today he called us up again to ask if our cook could help him locate a pig in the black market. At first it seemed hopeless. The cook knew where to get the pig but he claimed that his friend the meat-dealer had a son going into the army today and that nothing, not even a thousand yen, would persuade him to go out to the black-market pig-farm. My friend the colonel however was his usual persistent and resourceful self. He asked for the man’s address and in one hour he had the pig. One bottle of Japanese whiskey had worked it. Cost of the pig: 600 yen; of the whiskey: 300 yen.

In the evening there was a farewell dance for Eddie. It was the first ever held in the chancery. The cold hall looked different with the desks out of the way, a fire actually blazing in the shuffling dimness; a phonograph provided dance-music muted to a whisper to defer to Japanese prejudices. We all took a turn or two but most of the dancing was done by Nisei girls and all those young Filipino students who were going to be made over into grim and earnest Japanese.