As the last breached wall of Hitler’s Reich crumbled and collapsed, Japan peered through the choking cloud of rumor, report, glimmering hope and thickening despair and as it settled over the ruins of the new order in Europe, found herself alone against the world. There could no longer be a doubt; Germany had surrendered; Germany had ceased to exist. In Tokyo, lying naked in her wounds a under the shadow of this disaster, the Imperial Japanese Government hurriedly called an extraordinary meeting of the cabinet in the premier’s official residence at 4 o’clock yesterday afternoon. By 6:30 p.m. an official statement had been adopted. Half an hour later, in awe and trepidation, the tall old admiral, proceeded in his sagging corpulence to the imperial palace and “reported the matter to the throne.” At 7:30 p.m. the following statement was released by the board of information.
“The empire regrets from the bottom of its heart the surrender of Germany, a country which was an ally of Japan. The war objective of the empire, from the start, has lain and still lies in the right of the empire to existence and self-defense. This is the immutable conviction of the empire and a sudden change in the European war situation does not cause the slightest alteration in this war objective of the empire. The empire seeks together with its allies in East Asia to crush the inordinate ambition of the United States and Britain to trample East Asia underfoot with their selfish designs and brute force. The empire seeks thereby to guarantee the stability of East Asia.”
Ringed by foes, at bay on her burning island, with the earth already shaking and slipping underneath in the first echoing tremors from Europe, Japan fiercely assured herself that she had never known defeat and would never know it. The Germans were different. “I hate the idea of whipping a dead body,” wrote Lieutenant-General Yahei Oba in the Asahi today, “but I feel that there was one important thing lacking in the fighting strength of the Germans. That was the spirit of the special attack corps and also the morale of the close-in attach with drawn sword in hand.” The postmortem had started and would continue for some time. Germany, according to the vernaculars, lost because she failed to invade England in 1940, because she put too much faith in the submarine-counter-blockade, because she went to war with the U.S.S.R. because the Nazis clashed with the Reichswehr, because Hitler lost control of the party, because Himmler quarreled with Goering and Goering quarreled with Goebbels and Ley. The Tokyo Shimbun said what to the Japanese must have been the last word: “There is something in the attitude of the German people that is incomprehensible to us Japanese. For us the word surrender does not exist in the dictionary.” But a Japanese told me a meaningful story today. When the tripartite pact was announced in Tokyo, the former foreign minister Katsuoka had an ominous comparison for it, one familiar to every Japanese. Germany and Japan, he said, were lovers who had made a suicide pact.
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.
“The fighting situation is becoming ever more fierce,” warns the Tokyo Shimbun today. “The enemy has landed on Yiojimu, which may be said to be Just in front of the gate of our mainland…. By now it has become evident that the enemy is intending to strike directly against our mainland and his fighting will cannot be splighted.” The paper then goes on to warn the people against “propaganda tricks” tending to divide them from the military or to persuade them that surrender will not mean slavery. These labored arguments are possibly an indication of what the Japanese people are beginning to think. Another is the following story that is going the rounds of the capital. A B-29 is shot down and one of the pilots bails out. He lands in the midst of a crowd. They all stare at him and cry out: “Wonderful, wonderful!”
“What is it?” asks a late-comer. “What’s so wonderful?”
“Look there,” he is told. “What wonderful shoes he has on!”
The press is still beating the tom-toms over the Ise bombing. A noted Japanese historian says that “the enemy are not men for men fight a man’s way”. An editorialist cries that “all the American devils should be slaughtered”. The Asahi openly accused the Americans of bombing Ise “according to pre-arranged plan”. The question is interesting. Was the bombing an accident or was deliberately executed to shake Japanese morale, to prove that the old gods are dead? Still, no Christian stops believing in God because his church can be burnt down.
Indeed if one is to believe the newspapers, the bombing has fortified home morale rather than weakened it. “We are convinced,” writes the Tokyo Shimbun, “that by this time there is not a single person in the entire nation who still entertains lukewarm ideas about this war…. There could be nothing to strike the people with greater awe and indignation.” The Americans, the paper goes onto point out, did not hesitate in the past to sink Japanese hospital ships, run tanks over Japanese wounded,desecrate the bones of the Japanese dead; now lse provides the “climax of American atrocities”. And the Mainichi for its part adds: “We cannot imagine anything from which the enemy will hereafter refrain.”
It is an interesting peek into national psychology. The Japanese atrocities that the Americans play up deal with man’s inhumanity to man. The Japanese like their atrocities inthe theological stratum. The American wants to be a man; the Japanese wants to be a god, or at least the servant of a god.