Delayed one day by the heavy bombing of Nagoya on the 26th, the Laurel party arrived in Tokyo on the night of the 27th for a short stay in the capital.
The third fundamental policy in Japan’s new pre-invasion structure (following the wartime emergency authority and the division of the empire into eight regions) was announced today. Effective the 22nd, when imperial approval of the diet measure was granted, the volunteer military service law went into operation. Some additional details of the measure are: the term of service shall be one year; the volunteers, excluding those already in the armed forces and the physically unfit, shall be called into action by the competent ministers of state; they shall be organized by regions or by occupation. Thus “railway volunteer fighting headquarters” is expected whose main effect will be to subject railway workers to military discipline.
Our principal concern in Tokyo however was to see to it that our students are not caught between Japanese mobilization and American invasion. Already [illegible] small cities, no less than the crescendo of attacks on Kyushu, had radically changed the situation from that in spring when the students were evacuated from Tokyo “for their own safety”. As a matter of fact our students in Fukuoka had already lost their dormitory and personal belongings in a recent raid. It was to inquire after them and to explore the possibilities of a change of program that I called on Taketomi today. He assured me that his organization was doing its best for the boys in Fukuoka. Communications were badly disrupted and there was little baggage space available on the trains that were running South but he said “we are sending them shirts, shoes, mattresses, and whatever else we can through six of our men who will carry the supplies on their backs.” I offered the help of the embassy but he hesitated to accept anything because he did not want the Indonesians, Malays, and the other students in Fukuoka who have no diplomatic representatives in Tokyo to feel that they were being discriminated against.
With regard to the over-all program, he was equally apologetic. Yes, he said, the problem was being reconsidered but it took so long to get any sort of official action in Japan; there were so many authorities involved that endless conferences were necessary. The embassy, he did not have to emphasize, was not one of those authorities. What we still wanted, I informed him, was what we had asked from the beginning, that all the Filipino students be gathered in one place, preferably in Kyoto, which seemed to be safe from bombers [illegible] about Kyoto. The imperial university there, it seemed, was “prejudiced” against foreign students and from the very beginning had consented to receive only a quota which was now filled.
Our discussion was desultory and fruitless. Neither of us had any authority. I complained that the students in Gifu had been forbidden to go to church on Sundays. Ah, yes, he recalled. That was because the church there was one run by foreigners under police suspicion. I made several other requests and then, as I was leaving, I asked casually once more about our student in the north. This time, unexpectedly, Taketomi blurted out the truth. The boy had been arrested, he admitted mournfully. It was a distressing case. This “misguided” young man had somehow managed to cross to the island of Karafuto and had been caught only one town away from the Soviet border. He had been taken back to Hakodate and was now “safe” in custody. No, nobody could do anything about it. The kempei were in charge. I questioned him closely but he did not seem to be very well informed or more communicative. Apparently he did not know, or did know that I knew, that our student had made friends with a Japanese girl, bought the ticket for Karafuto through her, and almost made the border when the girl, in an access of patriotism, remorse, and curiosity, told her father who told the police.
Reshaping the administrative structure of Japan to conform with the emergency and the new summary authority demanded by the emergency, Suzuki announced at the present session of the diet that the empire was being divided into eight practically autonomous and self-sufficient regional governments-general. The first conference of their new heads was held in Tokyo last week and today the Times takes the opportunity to summarize the significance of the system. The trend has always been toward larger administrative units, it notes. The 305 prefectures set up in 1871 to take the place of feudal fiefs had been reduced to 46 by 1906. War necessities however have shown that even these 46 are still too many and too small. In partial response to the need for greater coordination regional administrative councils were established in 1943 but the system did not prove successful because it was fundamentally a conference of [illegible]. Under the new system of Governors-general with ample centralized authority will take the place of the councils. They will have cabinet rank, be responsible directly to the cabinet, and will exercise authority in their districts on behalf of all the ministers. In other words, they will be one-man cabinets for their respective regions. The system seems to be similar to that of the commissioner for different regions in the Philippines, established in the closing days of the Laurel regime.
Today the wartime emergency measure law went into effect. It was about time, if not too late. The vernaculars were speaking of “gradually mounting losses” in the “death grapple” on Okinawa; more than 500-B-29’s had once again hidden the sun in dust and smoke over the naval base at Kure and the regions under the central army command. There was no exultation in the heart of the who held the unprecedented mandate of the empire; only an oppressive sense of obligation. In this at least the Premier Admiral Baron understood power better than his predecessors the Premiers Generals. On this day he addressed himself, not to the humble docile people who had surrendered power, but to the magnates and potentates who had seized it.
Power was responsibility, he reminded the cabinet in a special statement. The new law placed them above the law but it was an opportunity for service, not for tyranny. Henceforth they should rule their actions by “morality and reason” rather than by law and regulation. By the same token the convolutions of law and the red tape of regulation would henceforth cease to be valid excuses for inefficiency or inaction. Officials would judged strictly on their merits, policies strictly on their utility. Noting with approval that for once their “sermon” had been preached to the government anf not to the people, the Mainichi also doubted: “But how are the brains of the government officials? To what extent can they adjust their brains to the administration of ‘morality and reason’ instead of legal regulations?” The question remained to be answered.
Just as my train was going to pull out of Tokyo station a railroad official came up to our crowded coach and shouted a command. A ripple of restlessness ran along the aisle and I wondered what was up until a long file of soldiers, carrying wooden boxes wrapped in white napkins, entered the coach with as much solemnity as they could muster in the press of elbow to elbow. They were bearing the ashes of the war-dead.
Slowly and irregularly, one after the other, the passengers rose to their feet. Most of the men doffed their caps. We waited while the officer in charge of the detachment looked over the seats. Many faces were concealed in reverence; other scarcely hid lines of annoyance and apprehension lest they be forced to give up their seats for which they had stood so long in line.
But when the officer finally made up his mind and pointed to a group of seats in the center of the coach, the unfortunate passengers took it with characteristic discipline and resignation. The soldiers settled down with their ghostly burdens, sitting up straight, stiff, and expressionless.
Conversation was hushed for a while but soon, as the train jerked into motion and rolled along, the passengers forgot their strange companions. Only when the train stopped briefly at the various stations en route were they reminded of their somber distinction. The crowd that stormed the doors and windows of every car for standing room, all back [illegible] when they saw the white boxes. Then they stared or bowed profoundly and ran to the next car.
The soldiers did not move or speak. They stared blankly straight ahead, engrossed in their own thoughts.
As a “new offensive” was launched by the Americans on Okinawa, the Asahi noted with a hint of panic that the Americans are now bombing medium-sized and small cities.
Without comment the papers today quoted the Guam radio on the death of Lieutenant-General Simon B. Buckner on Okinawa.
Tonight Vargas had dinner with an officer of the military police who had been in Manila. The questions which he asked Vargas were unexpected, to say the least. How, in the opinion of Vargas, could the war be brought to an end? What kind of peace proposals would be acceptable to the Americans? How did the Americans feel about the Russians?
A Filipino and an Indonesian working for the Japanese board of information have been living for some time in a house furnished to them by the Japanese government. They have naturally made some friends among the Japanese, girls and these have often visited them for dinner and a little behind-drawn-curtains dancing.
Apparently the police did not like it. Recently they picked up about seven of these girls. One had only visited the place once; she had left a trunk there for safe-keeping after her house burnt down. The others were all working for Domei news agency, mostly in the interception of American news cables.
They were questioned separately for almost a whole day, far into the night. Had the foreigners asked them any questions concerning the war situation? Had they asked for American radio news? And above all, why had they visited these foreigners? What had they done in their house?
One of the girls cried afterward: “They have the filthiest minds I have ever known.”
The Asahi today carried a significant article which confessed the bankruptcy of a fundamental policy in Japanese diplomacy. There is no longer much hope, the paper admitted, for an Anglo-American vs. Soviet clash so long as the war against Japan continued. To bring the U.S.S.R. into the war in Asia, Britain had surrendered her traditional policy against the predominance of any one power over Europe while the U.S.A. had adopted a policy of “conditional non-interference” there. The Anglo-Americans would hold the Soviet Union “in high respect” –until the end of the war.