Not all the Japanese are unaware of how things are going. Today a Japanese admitted to me that the situation looked “hopeless”. The Americans, he said, were betting huge sums and Japan had no chips left. We were playing poker, which explains his choice of metaphor.
No, he said, the Japanese did not mind their sons and husbands being marooned and doomed on Luzon as on the other bloody islands of the south; that was a sacred duty cheerfully fulfilled. All the same, what was the use? He had already forgotten those sanguine expectations he had told me about one year ago, expectations of Chiang’s surrender after the victories in central China, expectations of “annihilating” the Americans once they came within range of the tokotai. This was no longer a 50-50 affair lacking only the mediation of Stalin for a negotiated peace. It was now 30-70, he judged, and it was, more than ever, time for peace. But no, not surrender. He could not bring himself to say it.
Afterward I had another chat with a Japanese newspaperman, To him too the situation appeared irretrievable and the future unpredictable. The young people were deeply Asian in outlook, he thought; they hated the America and England for whom their fathers and grandfathers still, in their hearts, had a haunting fear and respect. (Yvonne tells us that the little boy who lives next door to her sticks out his tongue every time they meet and calls her “dirty foreigner”). But nobody knew what time would bring. Would the youngsters hold out to the end, hurling the empire with them into national suicide? Or would the old men smother this fierce frenzy with their knowing pessimism, the instinct of age to save what there was left to save, to compromise, to fix, to bargain, to keep a penny rather than to risk and loose it all?