18th March 1945

We could scarcely believe our ears when we heard that we could order eggs from a Japanese acquaintance in the country for only 81 sen apiece plus a tip of a bottle of sake for the total of 500 eggs. We can get the sake at the fixed price so that the savings will be considerable.

A Japanese doctor told me that most of his patients (and they are in the upper brackets of income) now suffer either from pneumonia or malnutrition. As a matter of fact the obituaries in the Times usually give pneumonia as the cause of death.

The transportation system is still clogged with refugees. I had to wait a full hour today before I could squeeze myself into a streetcar. An old man who tried to get in after me fell off when the car moved on before he could get a firm hold. I caught a glimpse of him; he looked grimy, unshaven, bewildered, a typical air-raid victim. He was clutching what looked like a charred piece of wood clumsily wrapped up in a soiled kerchief.


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.


16th March 1945

The roads out of Tokyo are crowded with refugees, each with his bundle strapped to his back. The last raid has done more to push the dispersion program than all the “powerful politics” of the past year. This morning a man with an ugly purple blister across half his face asked me shyly if I knew what time the next train was leaving for the north. He seemed self-conscious about his disfigured face, as if he had not had much time as yet to get used to the stares, half of horror, half of pity, that it automatically provoked.

An over-all picture of the present state of dispersion was given today by the Mainichi in an interview with the vice-president of the general headquarters for air defense. Foreseeing that “the enemy will surely come seeking to destroy what still remains,” the spokesman outlined measures for the calling for the distribution of non-essential personnel among the previous prefectures and the, if necessary, forcible detention of essential personnel in the capital. “Evacuees are being encouraged to take as little with them as possible. This emergency measure may appear excessive but the authorities ask the evacuees to put themselves in the same position as air-raid victims.” Excess household articles will be bought by the government or held in official custody.

The Tokyo Shimbun in turn complained that minor officials were holding up relief measures “by sticking to peace-time formalism” and called for emphasis on the protection of life rather than the extinction of fires.


15th March 1945

Fixing up the transfer of our rations from the Nonomiya I finally got a concrete idea of what is done for those who have lost their homes in Tokyo air-raids. It went off pretty smoothly in any case. First of all I was given a “consolation offering” from the Kudan 1-chome district association, a crisp new five-yen bill in a cheerful little envelope. Then there was a certificate which testified to the fact that I was a “fire-victim” and which would guarantee special consideration in stores, free rides on streetcars and subways, and free one-way transportation from Tokyo to any point in Japan where I might wish to evacuate. Thirdly, there was an “emergency distribution” certificate entitling me to a special ration of three and one-half kilograms of rice and beans, 100 momme of miso, one go of shoyu, one bundle of charcoal, five bundles of fire-wood, receivable within five days anywhere in Tokyo. I was given the rice by my new neighborhood association in the vicinity of the embassy but there was still neither miso nor shoyu to be had.

Meantime the home minister Odachi has managed to make himself heard. At a plenary session of the more sedate house of peers yesterday be was finally allowed to have his say on air-raid protection measures; he had little enough to reveal except a further “intensification” of the dispersal of population. The government is making “utmost endeavors” to move air-raid victims to the country and put them to work there on munitions or food production. So far only children in the third grade and higher grades have been evacuated to the country in “collective dispersion”; now the government is closing even the lower grades and “advising” parents to move “infants” to the country too, “though not by force”.

Outside official circles stories on the casualties and damage suffered in the last raid continue to spread. The Japanese, it seems to me, tend to exaggerate. They speak of 200-600,000 people killed. What seems to be official information given to the diet in secret session is that since the raids started a total of a million and one-fifth people have been rendered homeless by the destruction of 200-300,000 houses. No reliable figures on casualties have been given.

In our district of Kojimachi, at least, only 11 were killed in the last raid. Three girls were trapped in the basement of a nearby college. One grandfather was forgotten behind when his family-fled. Seven children were burned alive in a concrete dugout under their house. But in the basement of the great kabuki theater, the Meiziya, 250 are said to have died when the building caught fire to rapidly for them to be able to escape. They had taken refuge there fearing explosives but instead incendiaries were dropped.

Another unusual case was that of a panic-stricken crowd that fled to a wooden bridge to escape the flames. The bridge collapsed and few escaped. Among the casualties who deserved individual mention in the papers was a member of the diet who was killed while helping to put out the fire in his neighborhood. An incendiary burst close to him and badly burnt his leg. An artery broke and he died of hemorrhage.


14th March 1945

The stories in this mountain village of Miyanoshita about the great raid on Tokyo are vastly exaggerated. Distance has multiplied all figures and one old man, whose house we asked to rent, wanted to know if it was true that the Americans were using a new type of bomb which blinded its victims. Meantime the Yomiuri today told another story of the raid. The translation it read:

“In the wake of the air-raid dawn came. Dense smoke still rose from the devastated scene near the Nihonbashi. Here, near the bridge, an old woman lay prostrate on the ground. At a glance one could see that she was an air-raid victim. She had nothing but the clothes she wore. She sat quietly, almost motionless. Afraid that she had been injured, members of an air-raid defense unit approached her. When they shook her by the shoulder, the old woman raised a face smeared black with soot but surprisingly calm and solemn.

“‘Are you hurt?’ they asked her.

“‘No,’ she answered. And then in her turn she asked: ‘How is the imperial palace?’

“For a moment they were taken aback. Then they drew themselves up. ‘The imperial palaca is safe.’

“Hearing this, the old woman visibly recovered her strength. ‘Really? I was so anxious about it that I was praying for its safety until you came.’ Thereupon she prostrated herself once more and with her face on the ground gave thanks that the palace was safe.”

It will take more than this pretty story however to make the people forget their troubles. The tobacco ration has been cut to three cigarettes per day. Newspapers have been cut down to one per prefecture. The Mainichi says bluntly this morning: “The people are now experiencing hardships beyond description. Among the victims of the recent air-raid there are many who have reached such a desolate that they cannot stand being told that henceforth they will suffer even greater hardships.” The Yomiuri in turn demands more concrete bulletins on air-raid damages in order to counteract exaggerated rumors and to secure the sympathy of the people in the countryside for evacuees from Tokyo.


13th March 1945

For once a foreign office circular has arrived on time. Yesterday all diplomatic missions were requested to warn their nationals to stay out of the bombed areas to avoid incidents. There is indeed a possibility that the suffering Japanese may take it out on any “foreign devils” around. The 1923 earthquake was blamed on the Koreans, who were massacred by the thousands. In wartime superstition is sharpened by spy-mania.

Our students, who have the most intimate contact with the ordinary Japanese, have given us many instances of this. One aircraft factory which was bombed blamed the raid on some Chinese students who had been working there on labor service. The suspicion arose from the fact that, by some unfortunate coincidence, all the Chinese students were absent on the day of the raid. One of our own students, riding in the streetcar, was accosted by a fanatic who demanded to know why he was reading “enemy propaganda”. The book was Papini’s “Life of Christ”. Another day he and an Annamese student got into a similar scrape in the streetcar because they talked in the “enemy’s language”, English. During the altercation that followed with the Japanese diehard, they kept insulting the ignorance and intolerance of the Japanese people in English asides to each other. The matter was finally fixed up by a policeman who had been standing nearby all along. He spoke perfect English.

But the currents of hate and discontent are various, unpredictable. Another student had witnessed a different kind of incident. A young Japanese peasant had got into the wrong compartment in a train. He was immediately upbraided for his insolence by an arrogant army major who slapped the boy around until a navy officer, apparently of higher rank, intervened. It was now the turn of the army major to be scolded and slapped for maltreating one who might be “a future leader and hero of Japan”. The navy man ended up by ordering the major to get off at the next station and walk. So it is, according to the story, that the Japanese speak of “the army — their government — our navy.”


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.


10th March 1945

Shortly after midnight we were awakened by explosions nearby. We tried the lights but they would not go on so that we had apparently slept through the alert and alarm. The explosions had sounded near enough to make us uneasy and we dressed hastily in the dark. We had grown so used to the alarms that for some time we had neglected to lay out our clothes and shoes before going to bed. We had not even left our candle at arm’s length. But we managed to grope our way down to the basement quickly enough. It was pitch-dark and almost no one spoke but the crowd made itself felt; it stirred, sighed, breathed rapidly, pressing itself into the deepest corners like a frightened whispering hunted thing. I left Anita there and went up and out.

The neighborhood association officials were running about softly in the dim foyer, readying pails and staves. I did not want to look like a spectator and took one of the hooked staves in my hand. It gave me an official look and one of the officials thanked me with fine courtesy for nothing at all. The skies were already covered with smoke. It was a night of wind and cloud, and the bloody mists, streaked with gray and black, went scudding swiftly overhead. There were fires in the familiar directions, downtown and the imperial palace, but they seemed far enough away and I went back in to wander through the deserted corridors.

Suddenly there was a rush of feet and cries. Fire had broken out — inexplicably I had heard nothing — almost next door in the army post-exchange. Hurrying along the empty sidewalks, under the burning clouds, sharp smoke in my eyes, I had for a moment a queer dreamy sensation of having been left alone in the middle of this great deserted city going up in flames. I ran on quickly until I saw a small group of neighborhood officials hovering uncertainly at the edges of a blazing army store-house. There was no-one else around; everyone was standing guard over his own house. The fire was already out of control. The small red neighborhood association hand-pump never looked so pathetically futile as now that it sent out its thin thread of water into the leaping flames. A girl in an army smock started to pull out a packing case that had been left on the edge of the warehouse but it was a hopeless task. The wind was howling and leaping madly from one side to the other. A red hand flicked carelessly toward the girl and she staggered back.

There were only three small rickety shops separating the Nonomiya from the fire and it seemed to be a question of luck whether they would go or not. The wind kept changing, twisting blindly now here, now there. Then it made up its mind. The stationery shop started to steam and smoke. We made some half-hearted efforts to save it but even the owner soon, began, throwing the bedclothes out of the window. There was now no water to be had; the pressure had almost completely disappeared. The army had built three range water reservoirs for the waterhouse’s protection but they had been wedged in, with what now seemed incredible stupidity, between the shop-fronts and the flank of the apartment house. It was impossible to get through. We stood and stared at the flames for some time, uncertain as to what to do next. The fire-engines were wailing all around us but none were coming our way.

“We should pull down these shops and make a fire-break,” somebody suggested.

“With what?” was the obvious reply.

I looked at the hooked staff in my hand and threw it away. The glass in the stationery shop was cracking and we helplessly watched the fire run along the shelves. Soon the office next-door would go and lastly the pet shop. It was curiously empty. The gaily-colored birds were not in their cages and as I went through I wondered vaguely whether the owner took them home every night or whether he had opened their cages when the fire began to spread. It was a shallow shop and from a narrow balcony in the back I could put out my hand and touch the wall of the Nonomiya.

Still nobody believed that the Nonomiya would burn; the seven-story apartment-house, with its clean modern lines alternately painted in wide blue and white stripes, never looked so safe and strong. It rose like a calm square tower from the empty crimson hill.

The neighborhood association leaders were having a hasty conference in the lobby. They had an air of alert confidence too. Orders were issued and they were answered with smart “Hai, hai, hai.” They seemed to say: Well, we have done everything we could do for these pesky neighbors; now we are on our own and this place won’t burn, thank God. They nodded to me briskly and I felt a little ashamed that I had already became uneasy. It was difficult to find Anita in the basement; the place was crowded with women whispering softly to one another in the expectant darkness. When I finally located her I said it would be wiser to do a little packing, not much because it did not look so very bad, but still, the fire was almost next door. We were groping our way out when we heard the voice of the reception clerk calling out in a sobbing hysterical wail for her father, the apartment janitor; they lived in the neighborhood and her father had the key to her trunk.

“Otosan, otosan!”

There was something urgent in her voice that made us quicken our own steps. Once in our apartment we drew back the curtains and there was no need of light. Below our front windows was a sea of flames, reflected ironically in those useless isolated reservoirs. From the back window we could see a great ring of flames all around us; it seemed that Tokyo was bounded with fire and smoke. Just across us, in the center of the ring, there was a vast blue spout of gas, cold, clean, and pure in the heart of that burring sky.

I told Anita to pack a suitcase with essentials while I went down to see if I could help. In the corridor I met our neighbor the factory owner. He was as chirpy as usual. “No need to worry,” he grinned, helpfully flashing his light as we walked. “It looks all right.” There was nothing much to do downstairs. There was still no water. We trudged about conscientiously but helplessly. Then for the first time I became aware of the bombers flying overhead. I was too excited to feel afraid. They were very low but it was impossible to see them through the murk; one could only hear them, prowling and growling watchfully in the darkness, now shouting loud challenges and threats, now fading into distant rumbling full of menace and disdain. Staring up into the mysterious void surcharged with the sound of formless nameless death, I could understand for the first time how the Japanese could look on the destruction of their homes, not as the planned vengeance of a human foe, but as a natural catastrophe, an unpredictable earthquake, an incomprehensible typhoon, “divine punishment”.

As the fire spread, more and more people began to appear in the streets but they made little noise. They ran about softly, like melancholy shadows, bent under great ghostly bundles, appearing and disappearing in the vague thickening mists of smoke. Once more I felt alone, deserted, and I ran back quickly into the apartment house, through the foggy lobby down into the basement. There was no one there. I ran up again out into the street. A gust of wind swept back the smoke and I saw a group of people huddled at the next corner. Someone was waving. It was Anita.

“We were told to take shelter here. Where have you been?”

Fortunately the embassy was nearby. We decided to take our suitcases there for safety. We had scarcely set out when we heard rapid steps behind us.

“Wait for me. Oh, please take me with you!”

It was Yvonne, hysterical, her face streaked with soot.

We went on again. The fire had circled around the calm graceful tower of the Nonomiya and almost the whole of Kudan hill was blazing. We panted our way up the steep slope amid swirling smoke and flying cinders. The pale silent people ran noiselessly around us or sat quietly on the sidewalks, watching their spectral burdens. Only one man spoke to us. He came out of the smoke suddenly.

“It is not safe to go up,” he warned.

But when we went on, he did not stop us. Like a character in some shadow play who had spoken his line, he fell back into the crimson smoke.

The embassy too was still safe. I left Anita and Yvonne and went back to the apartment house with two of our boys. I decided it would be better after all to try to get everything out. Surprisingly the lobby was now full of people. Apparently the refugees from the neighborhood had come to exactly the opposite conclusion. Somehow they imparted, an air of security and confidence. The people from the neighboring office had dragged their two cash registers to the front door of the Nonomiya and were now sitting on them. Nevertheless we decided to go up and get out as much as we could. The fire next-door was flush with the Nonomiya’s flank. The glare was dazzling as we ran up the staircase, passed the cracked windows. The corridors were muddy and treacherous with abandoned water-hose. One of the rooms had apparently caught fire during my absence but the abortive conflagration had been put out. Our own apartment still seemed pretty safe and we were able to make two more round-trips to the embassy.

The third time it was too late. Once more the fire had smashed one of the lower windows and had leaped in eagerly; this time too swiftly to be stopped. It ran along the linoleum carpets and the wood paneling, sneaked in under closed doors, snatched at curtains and bedspreads. We were driven back from the staircase by the glare and the heat. Now, at the last minute, the few tenants left made an effort to save their belongings. It was already too late. But still it was eerily quiet except for the crackle of flames and the crash of timber. For once the excitable Japanese did not shout and they did not weep. They fell back from the fire with timid reluctance, staring fixedly into the devouring flames. Now the windows of the apartment were lit up one by one; behind the glass, still whole, the rooms were bright and gay; from the burning hill the burning tower rose in harmonious climax.

We lingered for a moment to watch. From a doorway a German woman in a glistening fur-coat tugged at me by the sleeve.

“Excuse me. Have you come from the apartment? How is the fourth floor?”

“I’m afraid it’s burning.”

She smiled uncertainly and thanked me. “It must have been like this in Berlin.”

In the embassy I found Anita and Yvonne sit in the fitful dark amid suitcases and bundles. Yvonne was babbling nervously about, her panic.

“I saved only one suitcase,” she giggled. “And it has my summer clothes.”

She paused and then lifted up a covered cage in her hand. She had not forgotten her pet bird. But she had sacrificed a French manuscript of which she had been making copies for the author. The manuscript represented 20 years of research in Japanese literature, It was the only copy.

“Oh, he’ll never forgive me,” she wailed, belatedly remembering the author. And then, with an uncertain smile: “I had better not tell him I saved my bird. He would never understand.”

I found the ambassador in the embassy tower. There were three Japanese policemen with him who had suddenly appeared for his “protection”. On this highest point of Kudan hill one could submerge individual cares in the humbling spectacles of general catastrophe. We were surrounded by concentric circles of fire that the wind whipped faster and faster in their racing orbits. Tokyo was burning and it seamed a little silly to say anything.

I suppose everyone in Tokyo that night imagined himself in the very center of those circular hells. I know we did, looking down on the flames that lurched and lunged up the slope toward us. Soon the tall schoolhouses around the embassy were blazing too. As telephone poles crashed down with fiery explosions, there was a little fear that the garage, with its deposit of gasoline, would go up. But a high wall and a spacious garden saved the building and shortly before dawn we felt we were safe.

I went out into the street again and made a round of burning Kudan. Already sentries with fixed bayonets were on guard on street-corners but they did not stop me. One little fire-engine had finally found its way to one of the cheap apartment houses nearby but it could do nothing much. It was pretty hopeless to try to save these woodland-paper doll-houses, crowded elbow to elbow and caught In the teeth of a raging wind. There were still burning incendiary shells on the streets although the all-clear had sounded sometime during the chaos that was now dying down. Bright blobs of flame were scattered all along the slope and on the sidewalks one stumbled on empty dented shells. But nobody bothered about them now. There was nothing left to burn except the asphalt of the pavement. A monotonous crashing of tile and tin followed me as I went back up the hill. All around me the city lay beaten flat in its ashes.

The students in the girls’ college opposite the gates of the embassy were doggedly trying to save the building when I returned. Someone said that three of the girls had been caught in the basement. The faces of their schoolmates gave no clue to this tragedy: blank and expressionless in their grimy mompei, they were lined up in a pail brigade from the ornamental pool in the embassy gardens to their college entrance, passing the buckets along with soft encouraging “hai, hai, hai,” down the line.

Vargas had planned to leave for Karuizawa in the morning and the fire did not change his mind. Baggage and provisions were loaded on and the schoolgirls at the gate stopped for a while to stare at the sleek black limousine rolling smoothly and disdainfully down past the smoking ruins. “Hai, hai, hai,” — was there a note of envy, hatred, threat, pride, resignation, or the gentle melancholy gladness that a traveler in the desert feels even for the momentary illusion, the sweet swindle, of peace and security flashed by a mirage? The voices were a soft monotone and they gave no sign.

We had not had any sleep and we were too tired to have any now. But we went to bed for a rest after seeing Yvonne off to her consulate. Later a number of officials called to inquire and express regrets. The German rector of the Jesuit university, making a round of Catholic colleges on his bicycle, was among the first. He had watched the B-29’s break through and come over, one or two at a time, from here and there, flying low, much below the anti-aircraft fire. They had cleverly kept the circles of fire going, narrowing them, it seemed, closer and closer. His neighbors had fought the advancing fire together, stern and pitiless to one another. Those who left the fire-fighting units to try to save something out of their homes were fittingly punished; what they had saved was tossed back into the flames. Only once had they paused in their grim task. A B-29 was hit over their heads and, clapping and jumping, they had set up a wild pathetic cheer.

Later the embassy butler arrived. He shambled in, gaunt, unshaven, clutching a blackened empty pail. He had saved nothing else. The embassy laundress had also lost her house. She stalked in like a heartbroken ghost. She said she had managed to save a bundle of clothes but the neighborhood association officials had slapped her down for her selfishness and had thrown the bundle into the fire. That was the story she told. Others said she had been hysterical and it had been necessary to slap her back into her senses. She had thrown herself into a half-burning shelter, clutching an odd wooden shoe.

Yvonne returned shortly after lunch, if possible more excited than ever. She had been to see the French consul and that dignitary had announced to her dramatically: “I am no longer French consul-general!” The Japanese, she insisted had “declared war” on Indo-China. It was all very confusing, she admitted. All she knew for certain was that she was not supposed to have any dealings with other foreigners. And ah yes, when she had gone to the district police station to report, the first thing they had told her was: “You spent the night at the Philippine embassy, no?” Somehow we did not seem to care very much whether Japan had “declared war” on Indo-China or on Monaco. We were more interested in Yvonne’s story that, hounded and nagged by the disconsolate author whose manuscript she had lost, she had managed to climb up to her apartment on the seventh floor of the Nonomiya. Apparently all the floors had been gutted but the fires had been put out by mid-morning.

We decided to go up to see our own apartment. We found the ground floor totally undamaged. Two of the apartments, we were also told, had escaped by some chance. Not ours. We went slowly up the staircase, stripped to its concrete foundations and already cold under the feet although the stench of smoke and wet embers was heavy. There was nothing left in the apartment, of course, except a few cups and saucers and two pots which we carefully put aside. The wind was whipping through the broken windows from the lugubrious ruins outside. Afterward we sent someone to fetch the pots and the china but when he got there, half an hour later, they were gone.

Night fell with charitable haste to cover, the ravaged city. There was no electricity, water, or gas in the embassy and we had dinner at the house of a colleague. It seemed magically peaceful and comfortable there after a long dismal walk past the rocky desert of ruins, with the homeless stretched out on a stray straw-mat or two under the gaunt burnt trees. Strangely enough it was not so much these dumb shivering victims who struck the highest note of emptiness and desolation as the sound of countless water faucets spouting unheeded in the wilderness of tangled, debris and the naked gas pipes burning at the mouth with a delicate blue flame, and no one to bother to turn them off.