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?


6th January 1945

Overcome Mounting Taxation Increase Through Temperance;

Let’s Refrain from Drinking and Making Unnecessary Trips

Thus the Asahi headlines a new increase in taxes, the ninth since the start of the China Affair. The increase has been made in the classified income tax and the luxury taxes on alcoholic drinks, theater entertainment and travel.

An eyewitness story of life in Germany today, published by the Yomiuri, is a muffled protest against this pious preaching of “temperance” in starvation. It gives us one of three reasons why the Germans are holding out the claim that “the Germans have the best music in the world.” The Germans, says the account, don’t have to listen to “sermons” every time they turn on the radio; instead, they get music, good music, and in the same way the Nazis give the Germans circuses as well as bread to make them forget their troubles.

I asked a Japanese once why the Japanese government had forbidden fun; why it had locked up the bars, conscripted the geisha, starved the theaters, rationed the films, arrested anyone who dared to dance; why it had allowed, nay pushed, scolded, and driven the people into a joyless squalor unimaginable in the past. Would it not have been wiser to make it possible for them to forget their troubles once in a while?

No, he answered me, Japanese psychology was different. The Japanese did not want to drown their sorrows; they liked to pick at their wounds and scars. If they were at war, they were at war all the time. They took war seriously; “that is why we win”. Besides how could any true Japanese have fun when the man of the tokotai were riding on bombs and hurling themselves into annihilation?

But the Japanese mentality is not so “different”. Men line up for blocks in this searing cold to get a glass of beer; they will trade their food for rice wine and get drunk on one unaccustomed swallow, to lurch and stumble, shout and bluster, gambol and weep, home to their lousy hovels. The women stuff every train carriage put to the country with their babies and their bundles, they spend stifling hours in the coarse intimacies of packed suffocating subways and streetcars, to visit and gossip with relatives and friends, trying desperately to find one unrationed scrap of happiness to share with one another.