13th August 1945

The American reply to Japan’s peace offer has been announced by San Francisco. Delivered yesterday the 12th it demands that the authority of the emperor and the Japanese government be subject to the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces, presumably General of the Army McArthur. The question is more alive than ever: will the Japanese accept? The tone of the San Francisco bulletins which, with monotonous insistence, emphasize every hour that MacArthur will be the emperor‘s “boss” should warn the Japanese leaders what they can expect.

A Burman wondered why the Japanese, if they were really ready to surrender, had made an issue of the emperor’s prerogative. Now they must either take a clear humiliation, with possibly disastrous consequences to the prestige of the throne or go the whole way to national suicide.

A Thai explained that the Japanese were worried lest the emperor be brought to trial as a war criminal. A more reasonable explanation seemed to be that the Japanese government feared the Potsdam declaration on democracy might mean the forcible overthrow of the throne. At any rate the American reply is that the ultimate form of government in Japan.will be established on the basis of the freely-expressed will of the Japanese people which is a different matter since the Japanese will probably choose to retain the emperor.

A Chinese however doubted that Emperor Hirohito would personally survive defeat. He judged it probable that the present emperor would abdicate and leave the throne to the crown prince who, being still a boy, would not appreciate and suffer the indignities of surrender and who, if his coronation were suitably deferred, would not actually submit as emperor to the dictation of a foreign commander.

Some ambiguous echoes of this momentous debate have been allowed to reach the Japanese people. Commenting on the proclamation of the president of the board of information which only referred to ambiguous “utmost efforts” on the part of the government and called upon the people only to “overcome the present trial” and to protect ” the polity of the empire”, the Asahi today worried “How is His Majesty the Emperor? The concern of the 100 million
people hangs on this question. when we turn our thoughts to it, we feel a pain in our breast. It is this pain that will enable us to bravely overcome the worst and last trial. So long as the loyal subjects have the ruler, the _____ to advance is clear and the glory of the empire will be maintained.”

There has also been a significant series of inspired stories on the crown prince. On the 11th the Times front paged an announcement that it had been decided to establish a separate household for the crown prince and that a grand steward, concurrently grand chamberlain, had been appointed for him. Yesterday the 12th the Times had a longer story, centered on the front-page. ”His Imperial Highness the Crown Prince will shortly be graduated from the primary department of the peers‘ school”; he attained his 13th year this summer; he is enjoying the best of health and “observes strict discipline.”

“His Imperial Highness,” the release continued, ” rises at six in the morning and has never neglected his daily service as well as physical exercise, including fencing with his tutors. From seven in the morning to four in the afternoon His Imperial Highness undergoes school lessons, physical exercises, and training, just like other students. His Imperial Highness even takes part in the cleaning of the school-rooms and partakes of the simples kind of morning meal, consisting of one bowl of rice, soup, and a dish of pickles. His Imperial Highness‘ lunch and dinner are also as simple as ordinary people’s ration meals, with dishes of fish being served only occasionally. His Imperial Highness the Crown Prince has made a remarkable improvement in horse and bicycle riding in recent months and is showing a profound concern in current affairs.”

A Japanese diplomat however explained to us that the stories were strictly routine and not a preparation for the emperor’s abdication. Every crown prince, upon completion or the primary grades in the company of other boys, takes up higher studies by himself under a faculty of tutors. This accounts for the establishment of a separate household at this time.

More tell-tale however than these elusive hints is the mood of the press in general. The hoarse shouts of battle are dying down. The samurai, beaten to his knees, asks only that his head be properly severed and his honor saved. Even two days ago the Yomiuri spoke no longer of “final victory” but of “positive development and progress”. It was afraid no longer of defeat but of revolution. “Whatever difficult situation may come, we should not abandon hope. We should not behave blindly or crumple…. What should be guarded
against most is demoralization, self-abandonment, dejection, nihilism. For this purpose, don’t lose your heads but maintain perfect order. At this juncture no selfish or wayward acts are to be permitted. We should be strictly Japanese and protect the national polity of the empire throughout, mutually helping one another and collaborating among ourselves. It is not the true Japanese way to be absorbed in saving one’s self and one’s family alone. The freedom and the
futue of the race must be taken into full consideration. Collapse is something to be dreaded. In order to evade it, we must maintain our pride as Japanese.”

The Mainichi today is no less resigned. “The life of man has its ups and downs and the same is true of the history of any race…. Not to be disturbed by any turn in the situation, that is the attitude of a great people. In our country we have the imperial family, eternal and everlasting, and with the imperial family as
the center the 100 million people are united… Should our people allow themselves to disturb their domestic unity, they would abandon their glory of eternal life…. when our national fortunes were on the rise, the Japanese people maintained their unity; why not tighten it now that we enter a period or reverses? We should never despair or grow violent. we are a great people.”


11th August 1945

I sneaked up to Gora today to see how the Soviet diplomats were getting along._The village itself was quiet; the streets were almost deserted; the front yard of the hotel where the Russians have been interned was silent and empty; there was not a policeman in sight. The Hakone mountains had never seemed so far away from the war.

Then after lunch the Burmese military attache abruptly told us that Japan had sued for peace. We could not believe the news. And when San Francisco confirmed it, hour after hour, we subconsciously protected ourselves from disillusion by worrying over the condition attached by the Japanese government, namely, that the prerogatives of the emperor as sovereign would not be impaired. would the Americans reject the condition as against the Potsdam declaration? On the other hand, would the Japanese sacrifice their emperor for peace? Once again we tugged and pulled at the puzzle, with the exasperated feeling that the answer was already known.

The Burmese military attache thought that perhaps the Japanese had purposely put a condition that would at the same time appear reasonable and yet be unacceptable in order to solidify public opinion at home and divide it abroad. The suggestion did not sound far-fetched. The emperor was eminently the one condition on which the Japanese could agree, the one condition for which they would all be ready to perish. He was also one condition which could be calculated to divide the Americans who believed so passionately in leaving other people alone to choose their own form of government. What a masterful intrigue if it were true!

But the new bomb floated ominously over these intricate and subtle calculations; what did the cunning of diplomatists and the fanaticism of peasants avail against this imponderable atom dangling from its parachute? While the air crackled with its secret offers, the vernaculars published today the first eyewitness accounts of Hiroshima. The Yomiuri, which also noted briefly that another “new-type bomb” (in the singular) had been dropped on Nagasaki on the 9th, carried the following description by one of its correspondents:

“On the morning of the 8th August I entered the suburbs of Hiroshima in a truck with a group of civilian defense corps members from the city of Kaidaichi… All buildings on the ground had been razed and turned into heaps of debris. All the trees along the road, which once must have had an abundance of green leaves on their branches, were burnt black, bare to the trunk. The city had been turned into such a ruin that we covered our eyes….

“Judging from what I have been told by some of the inhabitants, the bomb may be a sort of high-heat flash-bomb which explodes with strong power and simultaneously emits a high~heat flash. One of the eye-witnesses of the explosion, Ai Miyano, told me: “when I heard the droning sound of an enemy plane I went outside and looked up. I noticed a black object falling lightly through the air. At this moment a red-and-blue flash struck me, causing  me to feel as if I had been burnt by a blast of extreme heat. I grew dizzy.”

“According to others, the enemy plane was seen over the city but it was gone at the time of the explosion. This shows that the new bomb, after being dropped, apparently continues to float in the air until the plane which had dropped it gets outside the range of the explosion….

“Many of the people killed were buried under the falling houses; those who were in the open were burnt by the heat. Only those who sought shelter in air-raid-defense trenches were saved.”

The Times in turn quoted today another eye-witness, Seiichi Miyata of Higashiku, Osaka, who was in Hiroshima at the time of the attack. “When the enemy super-forts appeared over the city,” recalled Miyata, “I was at an hotel some kilometers from the central section. First I heard the faint roar of a plane flying at a high altitude. I went to one of the windows facing south and a friend of mine went to the opposite side. In the meantime the roar of the plane had ceased. Then suddenly a dazzling flash came, as bright as a photographer’s flare covering the whole area. when, in no time, I felt a hot pressure, immediately followed by a deafening detonation. My friend and I rushed into the room and flung ourselves flat on the floor. My friend suffered a burn in the corner of one eye. Fortunately I myself escaped injury.

“Looking around I saw the bedding, that had been put out to dry, torn to bits. Flecks of cotton from the mattresses and quilts were lying about the room. All the glass windows and paper sliding-doors were scattered over the place.

“Later, walking around the streets, I saw that most of the wooden buildings had been demolished, the glass windows of concrete structures smashed, and furniture hurled here and there. At a certain national school, the children, who had been doing physical exercises in the open without much clothes on, suffered severe burns The skin had been torn off and they were in agony although the scorched parts were not bleeding much. some were covered with blisters. Most of the city residents near the area where the bomb was dropped suffered more from burns than from wounds.

“Solid wooden buildings, such as shrines, temples, and hotels, remained intact and those who quickly took shelter in them as soon as they saw the flash, escaped injury. Considering this, it is apparent that speedy action in taking shelter is absolutely necessary…. The effect of the new-type bombs is not so absolute as generally imagined.”

Presumably on the basis of these first-hand experiences the air defense headquarters has issued further instructions on how to deal with the new bomb. There is a frantic reiteration about them that borders on hysteria.

“1. It is very effective to seek safety in an air-raid shelter. It is necessary to repair and strengthen shelters which are covered.

“2. In regard to dress, one should expose as little of the body as possible. Otherwise one will suffer burns.

“3. The use of an air-raid-defense hood and gloves will prevent burns in the head, face, and hands.

“4. If there is no time to seek safety in an air-raid-defense shelter or if there is none in the neighborhood, one should lie flat on the ground or utilize a solid building for protection. But it is important to seek safety in an outside shelter.

“5. If the above points are remembered together with thos -previously announced, the new-type bomb will not prove to be so powerful.”

Meantime the Japanese government has filed a protest against the use of the bomb. The note was sent through the Swiss yesterday. Possibly it is important for the record. At any rate the Japanese can get from it their first accurate idea of the new bomb.

“On the 6th of August,” reads the note, “an American plane dropped a new-type bomb in the city area of Hiroshima and instantly killed and wounded many citizens and destroyed a major portion of the city. The city of Hiroshima is a common ordinary urban community without any particular military defense facilities and, as a whole, does not possess any characteristics which can be called military objectives.

“By the actual damage done, the area which has been hit extends widely. The persons within that area were killed or wounded by the vacuum caused by _____ and the heat radiating from the bombs, whether they were combatants or non-combatants, men or women, old or young. The scope of the  damage done was general as well as great. Moreover, judging from the individual cases of injury, it was unprecedentedly cruel.

“A combatant has no right to use indiscriminately means of doing harm to the enemy. He ought not to use weapons, missiles, or other substances which will give pain to others unnecessarily. These are the fundamental principles of international law. This is the reason why these principles are set forth in Articles 22 and 23 of the regulations concerning laws and customs of land fighting in the document attached to the treaty concerning such laws and customs.

“The American government has stated on more than one occasion since the outbreak of the war that as the use of poison gas or of any inhuman means of warfare is regarded as illegitimate by public opinion in civilized society, it would not use these means unless the other party did the same. The bomb which has been used by America is far more inhuman than poison gas and other weapons whose use is prohibited because they cause harm indiscriminately and because they are cruel.

“America, in disregard of international law and the fundamental principles of humanity, has bombed various cities and towns over a wide area in Japan, and has killed numerous old persons, children, and women. It has demolished and burned shrines, temples, school buildings, hospitals, and houses in general. It has now committed a sin against the culture of the human race by using a bomb which harms more indiscriminately and is more cruel than any weapon  or missile which has been used in the past.

“The Japanese government, in its own name and in the name of the entire human race and of civilization, hereby accuses the American government. At the same time it demands strongly that America refrain from using such inhuman weapons.”

So far the official note. Yesterday the Times accented the protest with unofficial rhetoric. Hiroshima was “no mere excess committed in the heat of battle. It was an act of premeditated wholesale murder.” It was not even murder; it was pure nihilism“, “a crime against God and humanity which strikes at the very basis of moral existence.”

“What more barbarous atrocity can there be than to wipe out at one stroke the population of a whole city without distinction –men, women, and children; the aged, the weak, the infirm; those in positions of authority and those with no power at all; all snuffed out without being given a chance of lifting even a finger in either defense or defiance! The United States may claim… that a policy of utter annihilation is necessitated by Japan’s failure to heed the recent demand for unconditional surrender,” concluded the Times, “but the question of surrendering or not surrendering certainly can have not the slightest relevance to the question of whether it is justifiable to use a method which, under any circumstance, is strictly condemned alike by the principles of international law and of morality.”

Aside from the obvious relish with which the Japanese, standing at last on sure ground, pay back the Americans with their own coin or atrocity charge and moral indignation, the note and the editorial raise a legitimate point. But it is a point as old as war itself, as old as the question of the end justifying the means.

How much does victory justify? Whatever the moralists and the lawyers may say, the brutal fact, of course, is that victory justifies anything. That may not be a moral fact but it is a psychological fact. The Japanese warlords know it as well as any other soldier; if they had discovered the “atomic” bomb, they would not have hesitated to use it in spite of any Article 22 or Article 23. This has been true since men first started killing one another; the ultimate consideration was kill or be killed. Modern wars have been increasingly more horrible not because human nature has grown more corrupt and callous but only because human ingenuity has conceived and fashioned more terrible weapons. He who can, does; he who cannot, dies.

All the fine distinctions and delicate scruples of theologians are swept away by that awful compulsion. The Americans, who recoiled in horror from the bombing of London, were just as ruthless in wiping out Berlin, Hamburg, and a hundred other cities in Germany; when it came to saving the life of one American soldier, what did a hundred thousand krauts matter? The winners are decorated, the losers are shot as war-criminals. Slaughter by your side is military necessity; slaughter by the other side is an atrocity, “inhuman”, “unjustifiable”, “a crime against God.”

The truth is that war itself is an atrocity. War produces only gradations of atrocity. Is a blockade, strangling an entire people in slow death by starvation, any less “indiscriminate” than pattern~bombing or “atomic” disintegration? Does a jagged scrap of bomb-casing, tearing through the intestines, cause less “unnecessary” pain than a blast of heat that tears off the skin? If their condition for peace is rejected, the Japanese warlords will hurl their people into national suicide. Will this be less “cruel” or more “justifiable” than national murder?


8th August 1945

The details of the new bomb are still “under investigation”. One feels that the authorities are just an puzzled and bewildered by the whole thing as anybody else; they are certainly withholding the extent of the damage but do they know any more than the average man about the nature of its cause? was it one bomb or several? Was it an incendiary bomb, an explosive, a combination of both?

The first accounts in the local press are cautious. The Asahi’s is typical. “Shortly after 8 o’clock in the morning of the 6th August,” it reads, “a small number of B-29’s invaded the city of Hiroshima and dropped a small number of bombs. Due to this action a considerable number of houses in the city collapsed and fires were caused at various places. In conducting the attack the enemy seems to have used new-type bombs. These bombs were dropped by parachute and exploded before reaching the ground, it is indicated. The force
of the new bombs is now under investigation but it appears that it cannot be made light of”.

“Because of the possibility that the enemy may again employ this type of bombs,” the Asahi continues after a paragraph on “inhuman cruelty”, “counter-measures against it will be shown by the authorities concerned without any loss of time. In the meantime an early dispersion of cities, an adjustment of the so-called side-cave anti-air-raid shelters, and other air-defense measures should be pushed. Judging from the latest enemy attack, it is dangerous to exceedingly despise an air-raid even though it is done by a small number of planes.”

The Americans have announced that leaflets have already been dropped warning the Japanese of the new bomb’s unprecedented destructive power and the Asahi ends its story by calling on the people “not to be misguided”. Perhaps in preparation for an official declaration on the bomb the Times today, which has not yet carried a story on Hiroshima, editorializes on “The incalculable Reserve”.

“The enemy attacks with a meticulous precision awesome to behold,” begins the Times. “He brings into effective play his slide-rule and compass, his charts and instruments. He apparently knows through photography and a vast and well-laid espionage network the locations and nature of the vital organs which are necessary to the conduct of this war. Even of the things that he does not know, he seems to have the technical craft and equipment with which to calculate the greater part of the same. There is only one thing which completely defies his diabolical calculations and that is the spiritual reserve of the Japanese people.

“Such a reserve has been noted elsewhere in the recent past. Surely Leningrad, Stalingrad, and Moscow could not have been held with guns alone. If material weight alone had been the final criterion in the conflict, Yiojima and Okinawa should have fallen weeks sooner at a far cheaper cost to the enemy. In the Japanese eye the special attack force is not a ‘suicide’ squad, as our materialistic enemy sees it; it is one of the incalculables in its most concrete expression…”

After contrasting Germany and Japan the Times continues: “The present war is likely to be regarded as a conflict between science and the spirit. Fundamentally the present move into Asia is an encroachment of Western science upon Oriental spirit. In this light the unfathomable reserve of the Japanese people takes on significance of a new hue. That spiritual strength becomes not merely the reserve; for Asia it becomes the very ultimate of the
war in the Pacific.

“To the factors of material, money, and men that go to make possible the prosecution of war, science and spirit must also be added. Just as science finds motivation from the brain, so spirit gets inspiration from the heart. As the movements of material and money must await the guiding hand of science, so the action of men must find its root in spirit. While there is the flash of genius in one, there is imperturbable resolution in the other. While one must necessarily have a limit, the other is limitless…”

And the Times concludes: “It is not wishful thinking but a statement of fact that while there remains the possibility that the stupendous weight of material the enemy possesses can be entirely consumed, the spiritual resolve of the Japanese people is not only incalculable but imperishable and inexhaustible.”

There is an exasperating emptiness to these eloquent and elegantly-balanced phrases. It is like listening to a professor belaboring a syllogism while the classroom burns. The man is splitting hairs when a bomb is splitting atoms. Perhaps a year of a hundred years from now philosophers and historians will have the perspective to weigh the relative values of Western science and Oriental spirit. Right now we are more interested in what will happen to us, whether it is safe to take the train to Tokyo tomorrow, whether the new bomb will poison water, whether peace will come.

I know I should be thinking of the implications of a bomb that can wipe out two-thirds of a great city at one fell stroke but somehow the mind refuses to pick up the problem and it lies at my feet ticking with a quiet insistence. The question of peace is the farthest that the mind will reach. Some say: “It’s over. The Japs will have to give up.” Others are not so sure. They mumble about exaggerated propaganda or they cry in despair that the Japanese are crazy; they will die rather than surrender. To them the measured cadences of the Times editorial today have the sinister sound of a man walking to the gallows.

Yes, the Japanese will stick it out, they say. They will burn in their cities, disappear in a sickening flash, and then the gaunt roasted survivors will dig in, in the caves and crevices of mountains, by a last lonely beach. The Yomiuri today quotes von Clausewitz on the requirements for successful guerrilla war-
fare and notes with satisfaction that all are present in Japan. Can the Americans split the Japanese atom? Or will Japanese “spirit” prove tougher than U-235?

Psychological speculation is scant comfort for those of us who are caught here between scientific murder and a suicide complex. Presently the tight groups, heatedly debating peace and war, break up; the mind, frightened by its own reflections, scurries away to its favorite corner and toys with the familiar com-
monplaces of the day’s paper. Let us see now….

The Japanese army in the southern regions has announced its “assent to the establishmnt in the middle of August of a preparatory commission for East Indian independence.”

The cigarette ration has again been cut from five to three per person per day. In case the production of cigarettes becomes impossible the equivalent amount of cut tobacco will be supplied.

A certain factory in Nagano prefecture has succeeded in producing a substitute for Manila hemp from dwarf bamboo creepers; it is cheaper by 20 yen a pound.

A group of scholars has called for donations of materials for an Okinawa museum and library in Tokyo.

Real summer has started, according to the papers. The rice is flowering about 20 days behind schedule but the rising temperature during the past week may save the situation.

(It is pleasant out here in the garden by the miniature waterfall, sparkling and laughing as it tumbles over, while the red, black, and golden fish wheel silently in the quiet pond.)

Let us see now… The classified ads are always good. Wanted to exchange: bicycle, foreign make, 22 inches, in good condition, for men’s shoes, size 10% men or larger size.

For sale: a set of sofa and three armchairs; easel, almost new, in perfect condition; gentleman’s white linen summer suits and also one white waistcoat; Nippon Gakki upright piano, 85 keys; Vacumatic Parker fountainpen, for immediate sale to highest bidder, also ivory mah-jong set.

Wanted to buy: baby’s perambulator, shoes for girl 5-8 years, linguaphone language series for Russian and others, English books on China, razors, sewing machines, accordions.

(The mind drowses contentedly. Whatever happened to that gentleman who was selling shirts, three white second-hand, two black perfectly new? I wonder what they will serve for lunch…)


5th August 1945

The director of the Catholic school in Gora confessed to me that they were living on a day to day basis. What made things worse, he said, was that most of the members of his community were over 60 and received less rations than the ordinary man. He is not fooling himself; he has already bought a cemetery patch nearby.

The Japanese press itself has no illusions. Concluding a series of articles on the war the Yomiuri declares that “frankly speaking, the future of the food problem is very serious.” It makes the following recommendations:

An outright government monopoly of rice and wheat;

Redistribution of factories for the processing of starch (at present they are concentrated in areas like Chiba and Kagoshima);

Cessation of competition among the army, the navy, and the agriculture ministry (representing civilian consumers).

The Yomiuri also thinks it strange that mulberry trees should still cover enough land to grow six to seven million koku of sweet potatoes and wheat. “There can be no question of clothes at a time when there is about to be no food.”

“All in all,” the Yomiuri summarizes it up, “the food problem lies in the psychological attitude of each and everyone in the country. Some persons say that they cannot fight on an empty stomach. But they are the ones who would not be able to fight on a full stomach either.”

A lighter note: Futabayama, the sumo grand champion, is now employed by the state railways. Together with some 20 apprentices he will entertain railway employees with wrestling exhibitions. “We are also ready to carry heavy luggage,” says Futabayama


14th April 1945

On my way back to Miyanoshita I walked past the now familiar landscape of ruin and chaos, all the way from the embassy on Kudan hill to Tokyo station. No streetcars, no elevated trains, no subways were running. In our vicinity there was once more no electricity, gas, or water. In front of the kempei-tai headquarters someone had made a neat pile of rusty iron roofing, and beside it another pile of scorched and twisted bicycle frames, but nobody had come to take them away.

There was a long line of squalor and ragged fear waiting for the trains out of Tokyo. Two days ago the Tokyo metropolitan food section announced that the rationing system will be remodelled on the basis of the abrupt decrease in the capital’s population, which will be officially determined in a survey on the 20th. “There should not be even one single dishonest declaration,” urged the Yomiuri, squarely facing the problem of Tokyo’s “ghost population”, the non-existent residents whose names are used by many to pad their ration rolls.


8th April 1945

After she first flurry over the cabinet change the press has had time to take up an even more significant development, the Soviet notice of abrogation of the non-aggression pact.

The Times, in its role of unofficial spokesman for the foreign office, is grimly optimistic in an editorial entitled “Neutrality: Pact and Fact”. “A formal document like a neutrality pact,” it argues, “does not of itself constitute an activating determinative of neutrality; rather it is the existence of the fact of neutrality which may give rise to such a legal instrument as a neutrality pact as its formal manifestation. With or without such a pact, Japan’s consistent policy of striving for neutrality and amity with all neighboring countries… is too thoroughly grounded in the nation’s inherent fundamental character to admit of any fluctuation. Hence neutrality will be preserved.” But the Times conclude with feeble menace: “Fully alive to the rapidly developing situation in Europe, however, Japan, in keeping with its consistently maintained policy, is fully prepared to cope with any eventuality in the international situation.”

The thesis of the Times is undoubtedly sound and even classic. Treaties do not make situations; it is situations that make treaties. But its hopeful conclusion that Japan can control the situation and preserve neutrality because she wants neutrality is only the worse half of the story. Soviet Russia now wields the initiative and it is Soviet policy that will enforce or destroy neutrality.

The Yomiuri is even more naive. In its editorial yesterday it invited Soviet Russia to step into Nazi Germany’s shoes. “The core of Nippon-Soviet relations” it insinuated blandly, was the fact that the “Soviet Union, which fights in Europe, wants to rebuild Europe and desires to establish there an unshakable national foundation” while “our country, which wants to eliminate the evil hands of exploitation from the lands of East Asia, aims to contribute toward the establishment of eternal world peace on the basis of the stabilization of greater East Asia.”

Once more the thesis is plausible, as plausible as it was in support of the axis with Hitler’s Germany. Japan, like Stalin’s Russia, seeks security in regional hegemony and there is consequently “no great difference in the ultimate aims and world outlook” of both. But once again the thesis stops short of the decisive reality. Japan and the U.S.S.R., unlike Japan and the Third Reich, are neighbors and by themselves threaten each other’s security.

The Mainichi is less tortuous. It is frankly resentful. The anomalous situation which the U.S.S.R. gave as the reason for abrogation “is nothing new”, it complains. “It has been in existence since more than three years ago. Yet throughout the subsequent extremely complicated international situation, our nation has most scrupulously observed the spirit and provisions of the treaty to the letter…. In spite of that… and based on its own will alone, the Soviet government has told us that the neutrality pact will no longer be effective upon its expiration…. Be that as it may,” concludes the Mainichi petulantly. “We do not ask what soviet Russia has up tor sleeve, what sort of tangled affairs there are between Nippon and Soviet Russia, how Soviet Russia is going to solve them, and what kind of measures she has broached to Nippon for their solution. We only wish to clarify our attitude at this opportunity. That is “concludes the Mainichi weakly, “there is no change at all in our desire that friendly Nippon-Soviet relations and the peace of East Asia be maintained during the next one year during which the Nippon-Soviet neutrality treaty remains valid.”

The Japanese are frightened, sorry that they did not scrap the pact when the U.S.S.R. needed it more than Japan, desperately anxious to postpone the inevitable. And the Soviets know it.

An Italian diplomat pointed out to me a curious thing. In Russia’s bad days in 1942 the Soviet diplomats in Japan went slinking in the streets, shabby and with heads hanging. Now all the men are flashily dresses; they walk arrogantly, twirling canes; and all their women wear hats (which nobody else does in Japan). I suppose they deserve it.

A Chinese diplomat told me that one must now pay 6,000 yen to hire a truck one way from Tokyo to Karuizawa; 3,000 yen from Tokyo to Miyanoshita (two hours and a half by train).

In the Fujiya lobby I found another Italian diplomat absorbed in a volume of the Encyclopedia Britannica.

“What are you looking up?” I asked.

“Matches. I can’t get any and I want to see if I can make them myself.”


2nd April 1945

The American landing on the main Okinawa island yesterday has been announced and all the vernaculars are howling for a decisive victory. The Yomiuri is typical: “The coming decisive battle in the Okinawas is one under our complete control of the air and our supremacy at sea… Unless the enemy is smashed now, when can we expect to shift to the offensive? The day of discontinuing our patience has come at last.” While the task-force was pounding Okinawa and hundreds of B-29’s were covering the operation by blasting airfields on nearby Kyushu, some 50 other super-forts raided the western area of Tokyo before dawn this morning. It was a short raid and we went back to bed soon.

Everyone however is tensed for longer and heavier attacks. The house-dispersal program has been pushed through “with unexpected rapidity” although the time limits set were only from five to 15 days. Workers eating in downtown restaurants will be given bags of dried biscuits (one bag, 225 grams, 22 sen) in exchange for regular meal tickets for use in case raids shut down restaurants. “Wiping away tears of determination with their fists”, a group of oyabun (“traditional-type bosses of free-lance labor”) have volunteered to clear the debris from the raided areas in Tokyo. The neighborhood associations in turn will plant pumpkins and potatoes or raise hogs end poultry in the cleared areas without much thought of land ownership or land lease. At least, so the announcements go.

A German at the Fujiya, going to Tokyo one day, found the train packed to the roof as usual and, unable to set a seat, remained standing next to a window. It was not long before a kempei approached him. Why was he staring out of the window and at what? Nothing in particular, he replied, he just had not been able to get a seat. Nevertheless he was asked to open up his valise inspection. Aha, what was this? How did he propose to explain carrying his instrument around? The kempei raised his hand. He was hoIding — a nail file.


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.


9th March 1945

This morning I saw the girls who work in the army offices and hotels on Kudan hill lined up in front of the Yasukuni gates. Across the street from them a group of officers were delivering a lecture, apparently on fire-fighting because there were three or four paper screens set up along the sidewalk and, as I passed by, a soldier was opening a tin cylinder smelling strongly of gasoline. I was tempted to stop and watch but I received so many inquiring glances that I moved on.

The vernaculars carried a photograph of the wife and daughter of the Japanese commander on Yiojima. They were praying in the snow outside the inner shrine of the Yasukuni and the caption said that they had prayed that some of the snow on the streets of Tokyo might find its way to the arid caves of Japan’s newest volcanic battlefield.

But it will take more than prayers to reassure the people. The outspoken Yomiuri lashed out today with an editorial teetering dangerously oh the rim of discontent. “The situation at Yiojima is growing ever more pressing. It is no longer the time to talk of favorable or divine opportunities. Frankly speaking, we have been driven into a corner in spite of the valiant fighting of the men at the front and all our efforts at home. Where should we look for the reason of all this? Certainly it is not merely accidental. It is no longer permissible to use the material resources of the enemy as an excuse. The production capacity of America was known from the outset and it has not shown any surprising increase of late…. All our information and preparation concerning this point must be supposed to have been completed from the time of the imperial, rescript declaring war…” The paper then goes on; “It is being said that even though the enemy may land on these shores, we can surely win if we encounter him with the fierce determination of each one of us killing one enemy soldier… But can we rely safely on that determination alone? That is what the people are sincerely feeling…. We must reflect on the past and present and thoroughly probe the reasons why things have come to this pass. Without finding and eradicating the reasons, we cannot face the enemy landing and turn the divine opportunity into reality.”

Meantime even official circles are beginning to think that the Yomiuri’s unspoken “reason” is that the people are not united behind the war. Yesterday Premier Koiso invited Admiral Seizo Kobayashi, president of the Imperial Rule Assistance Political Association (the government party), and some 300 others engaged in organizing a new political party, to his official residence. Admiral Kobayashi struck his breast penitently and confessed: “The political association heretofore in existence aimed chiefly at the management of the diet and was lacking in its efforts to connect the people directly to war politics. Now is the time for us to give up the old ways and set up a sure-victory no-defeat structure at once. Herein lies the reason for our proposal for the creation of a great political association…. What is badly needed today is that the whole people should become subjects of the imperial land in a thorough-going sense, irrespective of vocations, and offer their lives for the sake of the state. Our forefathers at every national crisis forgot their small differences and worked for their great objectives, overcoming difficulties in a firm blood league. We are confident that when the people understand our objective, they will gladly join this great political association.”

To a people accustomed to reading between the lines, like the Japanese, the implications are ominous, not only in the admiral’s confiteor but also in the Yomiuri’s quo-vadimus. The impression one gathers from it all is that the Japanese, fantastic as it sounds, are indifferent to the war, divided by petty quarrels, bewildered, by the disaster that is overwhelming them; they have lost touch with the government and lost faith; they are content to stand apart from a tragic adventure which they cannot understand and in which they have no hand, absorbed in the intimate problem of the next meal, the next incomprehensible air-raid, while the vast wave of ruin looms darkly over their bent unseeing heads.

Even the generals are no exception. General Kuroda, the former Japanese commander in the Philippines, had dinner with Vargas last night. Flushed with drink, this bibulous garrulous old man, who spent his term in the Philippines on the golf course and in bars, complained bitterly about being relieved by Yamashita. “I know the Filipinos better than Yamashita.” “Yamashita talks too much.” “We were classmates and he was not so bright.”

When Vargas brought out a bottle of pre-war American whiskey, Kuroda chuckled gratefully and then leaned over. “You know,” he giggled, “we two are in the best place after all. You could have been president but they did not want you. I should have been commander-in-chief but they did not want me. Who’s sorry now, eh? Eh?”

When Kuroda staggered home, he was still clutching the bottle.