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.


7th February 1945

The Japanese press has now been allowed to reveal that the United States army entered Manila on the 3rd and that fighting is now going on within the capital.

The news of street-fighting in Manila plunged us all into deep anxiety. “The Filipinos will never forgive for this,” I told one of our interpreters. “The Americans declared Manila an open city in 1942 and withdrew without fighting. Why couldn’t you do the same?”

He was decent enough not to argue about ”blood-letting tactics”; he grew thoughtful and said nothing. Later he came up to me with a Japanese newspaper. Japanese marines, he said apologetically, were doing all the fighting; the army had withdrawn according to plan but the navy had refused to cooperate.


6th February 1945

The evacuation program is still meeting with difficulties. The Mainichi reports today that some of the evacuees are even re­turning to the cities, either because they could not get along with their new neighbors in the countryside or because they could ‘ find no work. Calling for better planning on the part of the govern­ment and a more patriotic attitude on the part of the evacuees, the Mainichi emphasises that “evacuation does not mean to take re­fuge but to take a new post in the fighting line.”

I had lunch today with the president of the local Indone­sian Union. The organization is unofficial and semi-secret because the Japanese have not made up their minds about Indonesian indepen­dence and meantime have tried to divide the Indonesians in Japan, for instance quartering the Java, Sumatra, Borneo, and Malaya stu­dents in. separate dormitories. However they manage to keep in touch with one another at religious festivals. The Japanese would be surprised to learn, the president of the union told me, that at least 15 of the Indonesians attending these Mohammedan festivals are Christians.

Later one of the Filipinos in Japan called to ask for advice. He had published a Tagalog-Nippongo grammar-dictionary and now his Japanese publisher was trying to cut down on his royalties by claiming that several hundred copies had been “spoiled” and that some sort of new tax was payable on the rest. A Nisei friend chimed in with the story that after he had gone through the Nazi blitz on London the Japanese consul there had asked him to write an article on his experiences for the instruction of Japanese school-teachers. The article had been duly written and published but he had never been paid what he had been promised for it.

The Nisei stayed late into the night. He was obviously lonely. I asked him about his family and his home. He answered bluntly that he was not happy there. “I can’t even trust my own sister,” he grinned mirthlessly. “I think the police have gotten her to spy on me.” She was brought up in Japan; he was born and reared in London and was in Japan only for a short visit when the war caught him.

The Niseis are not very happy in Japan. He claims he has suffered more from discrimination in Japan than he ever did in England. In a way it is not to be wondered at so much in his particular case. The first time I met him he could not even read the signs in the subway stations; we lost our way and he had to sleep in my hotel. His Nippongo has still a very pronounced British accent. His thoughts of course are British. It is not difficult to tell what he wants; he is quite frank about it; he wants to “go home” to London. In the meantime he reads and re-reads his collection of Reader’s Digests, listens for hours to American swing, and hangs around the Filipinos in Tokyo because he can share with them some of his nostalgia. He is very young, very short, and very friendly, with a sharp humorous face. In the daytime he works with an oil company; he was designing improvements for the wells in Balikpapan and would have been sent there eventually if the war had not taken & turn for the worse. Some nights he gets extra pay for sleeping in the office and acting as air-raid warden; his experience in London has made him quite an authority and he is contemptuous of the American fire-bombs. The Germans used really big ones, he said; once he was thrown out of his bed by an explosion in the next block.

Somehow, perhaps because he is English and not American, he is different from most of the other Niseis, many of whom are so terrorized by the police that they spy on one another, bending over backward to prove they are true Japanese. My friend is nice. He never thinks of himself as a Japanese; it just never occurs to him.

He uses “we” and “they” in the wrong places. “We” do it in this way and “they” are crazy. But he does not hate or despise the Japanese; perhaps an atavistic memory helps him to understand, to forgive, to sympathize; his defense is not bitter, quarrelsome, it is tolerant, humorous, that of a sympathetic stranger.


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.


4th February 1945

A warning went out today for a possible big raid, Someone has figured it out that the Americans come every eight days and they came in force last Saturday week, All the girl workers in Tokyo were sent home early. But nobody came.


3rd February 1945

With the Americans at the gates of Manila the official Imperial Rule Assistance Association called a “Victory in the Philippines” rally at the Hibiya public hall today. It was piercingly cold even in mid-afternoon and the steep backstairs were slippery with crusted ice. Backstage distinguished visitors were shown into a shabby clingy waiting-room and served the usual tea. Japanese officers and dignitaries arrived in succession, glum and blue with cold, and with a strange and awkward air, half-defiant and half-apologetic. Nobody talked about the war but it was obvious that for the Japanese the news was bad.

Presently the distinguished guests filed out to the stage. Overcoats were taken off and hurriedly put on again. Only the officers with ostentatious asceticism remained coatless, sitting with an easy arrogance, their hands clasped over their sword-hilts. When the curtain went up, it was seen that the pit was full but there was only a handful of people in the galleries; not until an hour or so later were they to be comfortably packed with officials and members of the association as well as “invited” representatives of firms and other organizations with interests in the Philippines.

The stage itself was decorated with huge Japanese and Filipino flags, as well as patriotic slogans. All the speakers bowed deeply before each of the two flags before addressing the audience. The whole thing started of course with a general obeisance in the direction of the imperial palace and a silent prayer for the imperial forces.

The first speaker was General Matsui, grandfather of all Pan-Asian, precursor of the empire-dreamers and the empire-builders, apostle of Greater East Asia. He was a pathetic figure as he read from a classic scroll that tumbled and twisted, as it fell from the rostrum to his polished boots. His voice was quavering and his head shook and jerked in nervous spasms, the spasms of senility, cold, or profound embarrassment. He was not going over; there was only perfunctory applause at the end of those high-pitched periods for which the old man must have dreamt the deep roar of exultant victorious armies imposing dominion over Japan’s Asia. In the end, amid a silence that was almost poignant, the old general slowly and with deliberate dignity, touched with dreamy pride, rolled up his scroll again, turn after turn, until it was all neatly wrapped around its wooden core. Then he tied it up carefully with a broad red ribbon and walked unsteadily back to his seat. They were bungling his grand design, he seemed to be thinking, these younger men were bungling it all. Well, that was the way it went: a man had a great idea, an idea to shake the world, and others would laugh at it at first, and then they would get into trouble and snatch at it and steal it away from its owner, and then they would bungle it. Look at the way they were bungling Daitoa. And they would not let him do anything but take trips where he was bundled off very courteously from one airport to another or else make speeches before clerks and crooks and stenographers and shopkeepers who stared stupidly and slouched in their seats and smoked their stinking cigarettes. The general sat down.

Now a short stocky young man bounded up from his seat. As he bowed to the flags, one could feel the nervous eagerness in him, impatient and barely restrained for these formalities. Then he strode to the rostrum and grasped its sides tightly with his sinewy hands. This man could speak. Even to those who could not understand a word he was saying, he conveyed all his meaning with his fine vigorous voice, his impassioned gestures, even his shrill grimaces which in English would have been utterly ridiculous. He leaned over to every man in the audience, hungrily, commandingly, until it seemed he would knock the rostrum over and fall over the footlights. He shook his fists in the air, he stamped his feet, ranged and prowled from one end of the stage to the other. He was an angry man. A member of the diet, he had incurred the displeasure of the warlords, been called to the colors as a buck private, and packed off to Yiojima. Now he was back in Tokyo; a friendly commander had commissioned him to bring back the ashes of his fallen comrades and the mounting American bombings had cut off all communications with his post. He was back, and he was angry. His anger flamed and flared and shrivelled up the husk of language; he was angry at the stupidity, the complacency, the selfishness, the blind pride and paralyzing prejudice, the consecrated incompetence and gold-braided stripetrousered folly that were ruining his country and his people. He did not say a word about the Philippines but he said every word that could be said about Japan and Japan’s tragedy. He had been scheduled to speak for five minutes; he spoke for almost an hour. The befuddled chairman frowned, rapped on his little table, sent him indignant scrawled notes, and finally, unable to stand it any longer and trembling in his frayed gaitered trousers, rose and whispered to him insistently. But the audience, this picked and packed and guaranteed and certified audience of lingers-on and joiners, petition-signers, parade-marchers, pay-roll ciphers, even these had caught something of his anger and they shouted him on and shouted the chairman down, they called him back, when he made as if to go to his seat, they cheered, they chorused, they stamped and whistled and cheered again. The generals and secretaries on the stage frowned and gaped and, catching themselves leaning forward, pulled themselves up and frowned again. But they did not count any longer, only they did not know it as the old general knew it, grasping his scroll with a distant and melancholy smile.


2nd February 1945

The government still cannot make up its mind whether or not to bother issuing clothing-ration coupons this year, reports the Asahi. For months now it has been impossible to buy anything with the coupons except neckties, hats, an occasional scarf, and ersatz curtains and table-runners. And not even the Japanese have been able to bring themselves to cut up this paper-stiff paper-thin composition into drawers and diapers.

The Italian charge d’affairs has a good story on the point. When he was in Germany, he says, everything was “verboten” (forbidden). Here in Japan everything is “arimasen(there isn’t any).


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.