21st January 1945

In preparation for the opening of the imperial diet today the government has announced the distribution of one bale of charcoal per family, the release of fresh stocks of fish and vegetables for winter consumption, and a gift of sugar from Nanking to Tokyo which will come down to some 20 momme per head.

For the past few days the government has also started raising its voice on its plans and programs for the future. The first heavy raid on the key Osaka-Kobe district, carried out yesterday afternoon by 80 B-29s, underlined the “new” air-defense measures taken up by the cabinet the day before. As a matter of fact there seems to be nothing really new in the proposed program outside of the fact that while “hitherto the various air-defense measures have been left to private initiative… henceforth the government will take positive measures.” An appropriation of two billion yen has already been laid out for the purpose. Otherwise the government is still talking about evacuating oldsters, children and nursing mothers, while retaining war-essential personnel; tearing down inflammable houses to make room for safety belts and water tanks; increasing fire-fighting equipment (one-pump for every neighborhood association instead of one for every two); more preparations for monetary and medical relief to raid sufferers.

The cabinet has also formed a wartime price council to fight inflation. The Asahi has damning praise for it in saying: “What is noteworthy is the fact that some 10 persons of knowledge and experience will be taken from among civilians to join the committee.” The paper also recalls that “at present the price administration in connection with munitions materials is in n the hands of the war, navy, and munitions ministries; that of civilian consumption materials, in the forestry and commerce ministry; that of transportation charges, in the transportation and communications ministry; and that of wages, in the munitions and welfare ministries In addition the finance ministry plays the principal part in measures affecting currency.” The Mainichi for its part comments; “The low price policy… has become a thing merely in name, not in reality.

Meantime the “31st investigation meeting for national mobilization” was held at the premiers residence yesterday. It adopted the draft of a labor mobilization law which will supersede and combine the five existing ordinances on the subject. From the provisions it is apparent that so far Japanese munitions industries have lacked the power to draft labor, hold it, lend and borrow it, replace it, register it, or even ask the government to aid it in getting it without going through a complicated routine of requests, certifications, and other formalities. This tight and rigid empire, which seemingly awes the world with its reputation for disciplined totalitarianism, is just learning about total war. It is, to anyone who can see it at close range, still fighting with the rudimentary techniques of the first world war. It has learned nothing from German post-war inflation. American wartime organization, or even Nazi totalitarian efficiency.

But a vague discontent and uneasy apprehension are growing; people do not know exactly what is wrong but they do know that things are out of control, breaking down, rotting; they do not know exactly what should be done — for they have been trained to feel that that is not their business, it is the business of their masters — but they are bewildered, frightened, slowly angering, while “waiting for orders from above”.

The members of the diet are only by courtesy and polite fiction the representatives of the people but they too have grown restive. Most of them are members of the single government party, the “Imperial Rule Assistance Political Association”, and now they are calling for its dissolution as well as that of its allied organizations, the Imperial Rule Assistance Association and the I.R.A. Manhood Corps. The Manhood Corps is the core of the opposition to dissolution but most people are indifferent to it. The reformers only want a “new” national party but it will still be national and, as one editorialist puts it, they are “still within the same old shell”.


18th — 20th January 1945

Four Japanese Catholic nuns called. They had a small cake baked for us by their Mother Superior. The icing represented the Philippine and Japanese flags. One of the nuns apologized because they had been compelled to make the cake without sugar, butter, or baking powder. Another, who had been in the Philippines, wistfully rehearsed her scant Tagalog and afterward insisted on borrowing a new textbook, Tagalog-Nippongo, brought out a few months ago by one of the Filipinos in Japan. She talked cheerfully of going back to the Philippines which, it seemed, she had grown to love. How shall one make them understand that no Japanese will ever be able to step on Filipino soil for the next generation without running the risk of being torn limb from limb?

Eddie Vargas returned to Tokyo today. All civilian communications to the Philippines have been suspended. When he landed in Taiwan, he said, the airport was still littered with the wreckage of about 70 planes. The planes taking off for the Philippines the next three days had been all shot down and finally he had been forced to give up the trip. On Taiwan he had been constantly shadowed by kempei. He was frisked once after coming from church. One particular kempei, apparently because he did not know anything else in English, kept asking his name. He barely resisted the temptation of giving a different one every time. The kempei in Fukuoka on the mainland proved to be more amenable. Eddie gave him some Taiwan candy every time he wanted to ask questions.

One of our students in Japan, a former guerrilla in the Philippines, shared some of his experiences with me when he called. One youngster in his outfit had cold-bloodedly shot down a town treasurer, in full view of his daughters, purely because the man was making himself unpleasant by too much whining on the way to their hideout where he was wanted for questioning. Another, after a raid on an occupied town, wanted to go back because he had not had a chance to kill his first man. A third, who used to go hunting cows with a heavy machine-gun, finally ended up by betting his coming bonus on the possibility that his revolver, after the half-loaded roller had been twirled, would not go off. He put the gun to his head and it did go off. The young are bloodthirsty, I thought. Possibly they do not know the value of human life.

It was the same student who told me with some relish that since the total blackouts began to be enforced, increasing numbers of women had been found dead in the sidewalk shelters in Tokyo and Yokohama. They had been raped and robbed. When he told me about it, I could not tell whether he was happy because they were Japanese or shocked because they were women. His eyes would fill and deepen and then a teasing, calculating smile would light up his smooth unlined baby’s face.

I have often wondered about Danny. He was in his teens when the war broke out (I think he still is). His father, whom he loves and respects more than any other man, works with the Japanese; he went out to kill them. They did it for the same reason; the independence of our country and the welfare of our people. Was one right and the other wrong; must one and one alone be right and other wrong; or are these shining phrases mere words, habitual disguises for the individual instinct and choice?

Danny was caught, thrown into a dungeon, tortured perhaps, then released on an amnesty (it was the emperor’s birthday). Then he came to Japan as a government scholar. Why? I have never asked him. But I have gathered from loose ends in our conversations and from the stories of his friends, that he wanted to “give the Japs a chance”. Perhaps they meant what they said; perhaps they had something worth learning and working over: a code of honor (even before the war bushido was a good word in the Philippines), the ideal of Pan-Asianism (Asia for the Asiatics, the Philippines for the Filipinos).

But it hasn’t worked out. Danny is too much of an American or too much of a Filipino or too much of both. He thinks in English (although he never could spell), he loves the boogie, he is used to asking questions and getting answers instead of a slap in the face. He hasn’t touched his books in Japan; he wanted to study architecture and they put him in an engineering school; he says he will not be “broken” by the drill sergeants who pass themselves off as teachers.

Now he spends his days making love to Niseis, collecting “military information” for future use, writing poetry, not love poetry as one would expect but “native land” poetry and “peace” poetry and “humanity” poetry in the vein of the “brotherhood of man”. For he has not forsworn Orientalism; he has cut it up and spread it out; he talks of the U.S.S.P., the United States of the Southwest Pacific, and of the “Sepia Federation” which will unite all the Malays; he talks also of writing a book on peace and how it can be found and kept.

One can see that he is no longer bloodthirsty; he can afford to talk tolerantly when he tells his stories of guerrilla murders and raids. He no longer hates the Japanese; he has lived here too long. He only despises them with a contempt that is softened with pity; “These people are crazy. They don’t know what’s good for them. But by God, a few more bombs will l’arn them.” What will his comrades in the guerrilla bands think of him now? Will they think he has gone soft, that he has betrayed them, that he has gone over to the enemy? Or will there be one among them who will comprehend something of the tortured indecision that eats at the secret heart and shakes the brooding soul of every man cursed with understanding, tolerance, and a sense of the kinship of all men?


17th January 1945

The Japanese financial adviser in Manila has given us a few graphic flashes of the last days of the Laurel regime in that city. Its government, he said, had ceased to exist for all practical purposes. It could not collect one centavo in taxes; the collector of internal revenue had himself fled to the provinces on the excuse of bad health; the government was living on 50 million yen borrowed from the Nampo (Southern Development) bank against the 200 million credit granted last year by the Bank of Japan. Nor could the government exert its authority outside the city borders of the capital. Orders to provincial governors could be delivered only through the Japanese army. The governors of Bulacan, Rizal, and Pampanga, summoned to Manila to receive instructions, had disappeared on the way back to their posts.

The people were starving; about 200 died of hunger every day. Rice was so scarce that when the Japanese garrisons went out to wash their messkits at roadside faucets, hundreds of Filipinos would gather around them, shouting “service” (one useful English word the Japanese had picked up), and waving thick wads of military notes for which they wanted only the pathetic privilege of washing the mess-kits and scraping together the few grains of rice left in them.

The Japanese, of course, know nothing of the horror they have wrought. They believe their newspapers which picture the Filipinos as grateful to the Japanese and ready in this hour of trial to fight at their side. They themselves, poor devils, are not better off. It is just as difficult to blame them as to pity them.


16th January 1945

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 on to 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 in the theological stratum. The American wants to be a man; the Japanese wants to be a god, or at least the servant of a god.


15th January 1945

All the drums of propaganda are being beaten frantically throughout Japan. Yesterday afternoon, according to an official communiqué, “the enemy dropped several bombs on the sacred precincts of the Toyouke Grand Shrine. Two halls for purification rites and five halls for sacred dances collapsed”. The moral effect can be measured from the fact that, whether for purposes of concealment or in sincere indignation, the communiqué barely mentions the damage done to the great industrial center of Nagoya.

Still, considering the fact that the Toyouke is one (the outer) of the Grand Shrines of Ise, the hysteria is understandable. Ise, which enshrines the sacred sword and mirror constituting two of the three imperial treasures handed down by the divine ancestress, would amount to a combination of Bethlehem, the British Museum, Lenin’s tomb, and Plymouth Rock.

At any rate the “military regret with awe that they could not prevent this outrage” while the “one hundred millions” are supposed to be “burning with indignation at this devilish action of the Americans” and to have become “more determined than ever to chastise the American devils.” An honorary professor of the imperial university is quoted as saying that “the Americans do not hesitate to pollute the gods themselves”. Another Tokyo professor says quite simply that “the enemy is a wild animal”. The poet Noguchi calls the bombing “the greatest challenge of the enemy” while a leading member of the Black Dragon Society calls on the one hundred millions to all join the suicide special-attack corps.

One is left wondering whether religious propaganda is still as effective as all that. At the start of the war in the Philippines a determined effort was made to popularize the slogan “Remember Santo “Domingo”. Nobody remembered Santo Domingo very long. Will the Japanese, who are not more religious than the Filipinos, remember Ise longer?

And yet the era of religious motivations and sensibilities is not yet wholly past. One may still catch fugitive, echoes of a “holy war” from the patriotic outbursts of shamefaced archbishops. Perhaps because men want to look up to something higher than their blood-stained flags, something they can believe is purer, nobler, more deserving of human love and sacrifice, something that will endure and still be there when the new lies are found out in their turn and the new hopes are cheated like the ones before, perhaps because of this men will always shudder and gasp and grow angry, if only for a little while, when their murderous lusts in their mad career stumble against a church or a hall for ritual dances, even though more of their fellowmen are killed in one strafed train, one suburban assembly plant, one tenement of the slums, than in all the empty cathedrals and sacred groves which they “regret with awe”.


14th January 1945

On the way to Mass in the morning we saw a group of youngsters in uniform. They could not have been more than 15 or 16.

The Nippon Sangyo reports that the vegetable ration has been stabilized at 30 momme per head per day but that the fish supply is below schedule. One momme is equal to 3.75 grams but apparently not in wartime.

Yvonne says that when she visits her friend at the internment camp everything has to go through a Japanese Interpreter, not a word being allowed about the war situation or food conditions in Japan. However there have been so many complaints about the food among the internees that the authorities finally explained to them that the Japanese themselves were not getting much more.


13th January 1945

When, the historians get around to studying the question whether this war was premeditated by Japan, they will be puzzled by the fact that Japan apparently started to prepare for it only when it was already lost. Yesterday the 12th January 1945, with the Americans- in the Marianas and the Philippines, the Japanese government announced the following five-point program for “immediate enforcement”:

1. Increased air defence

2. Increased munitions production

3. Increased food production

4. All-out mobilization

5. “Thorough turning of materials into fighting power”

The only policy — and it was only a corollary — that might not just as well have been formulated in 1941 was one to achieve regional self-sufficiency in Japan. The main islands have been divided into regions corresponding with military defense areas and from now on “defense and production will be managed inseparably from each other” within each region as far as possible.

All in all Japanese policy seems to be paralyzed. The Yomiuri today could think up nothing better than to compare the battle of Luzon to one of the numerous history-textbook clashes between Japan’s medieval warlords and to quote a poem of General Nogi, the conqueror of Port Arthur:

Why do we pray for luck in battle?

Impetuosity is the quality proper to warriors.

Fortune will smile upon us more when we are impetuous.

May the eight million wargods give us their divine protection.

It is all scarcely less unreal than the show we went to in the evening at a neighborhood theater, one of the few still open.

We went to see a southern seas revue which one of the Filipinos in Tokyo helped to direct. We purposely missed the first part of the program, a propaganda effort which, judging from the tail-end we caught, was very German-modern. The final tableau showed the deck of a battleship off Leyte; five sailors recited heroic verses to the responses of a chorus of chaste mermaids while later a fiery spirit or god, perched on the mainmast, exhorted them to victory. It was a revelation to find that the Tokyo audience could be just as apathetic as the Manila audience would have been; there was no applause and there was even uncomfortable laughter at the wrong places.

But neither was there any applause for the revue which was tolerably entertaining. The Philippine situation, as could have been expected, was the thin thread holding the various scenes together. References to Leyte, a little belated considering Lingayen, haunted the wheat-field comedy scene in central China, the charming Java scene where Nipponized Indonesians saw a fellow-villager off to the front, the Singapore open-air cafe scene with its electric light signs “Let Us Help the Filipinos”, the Burma air-raid shelter scene and its haunting songs under air-attack, and the final mass tableau with the Philippine “Sun and Stars” in the van (but there was no Japanese flag) and the chorus singing the song for the Creation of the New Philippines.

The Philippine scene itself was naturally the least satisfactory for us. An effort had been made to dress the girls in balintawak but it was disconcerting to note that they had long woolen underwear under the camisa; in general the effect of the costumes was more Mexican than Filipino. The faint plot seemed to revolve around a nurse.

Coming home by streetcar, we asked directions from the man next to us. He gave them and asked: “Are you going back to the Nonomiya apartments?” I asked him why he thought we were staying at the Nonomiya. He stared for a while and then explained lamely that most foreigners at that particular crossing wanted to go there. I hope he enjoyed the show.


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?


11th January 1945

As the Asahi puts it, with typical bombast, “the American troops have at last set their dirty shoes on the soil of Luzon.” the paper thereupon goes to great length to call for “powerful politics” enforced at any cost. But nowhere in the lengthy article does the paper get more definite than the following; “There may be questions pertaining to raw materials, labor, transportation, in addition to other bottlenecks and impediments which, with the progress of the war, are likely to become further accentuated.” The nearest one gets to actual facts is the rather pitiful story that even scouting and training planes in the Philippines have had bombs hooked onto them for suicide dives.