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29th of January 1945

I went through the combed area downtown today, riding a streetcar, the only way to get past the police cordon. Several buildings were still smoking and broken glass glittered on the sidewalks. It was hard to see anything else. The car was crowded, especially at the windows, but all the faces that peered out, with eyes half-lidded to conceal the slightest trace of curiosity, were empty of emotion, we might have been passing a blank wall.

But the diet was more outspoken yesterday. It kept asking questions about planes. Finally the director of the aircraft board of the munitions ministry came out with an “explanation.”

Was Japan producing enough aircraft? No, everyone was agreed that there was not enough.

What was the quality of the aircraft produced? Well, it was improving. The number of “unpassed” planes had “markedly diminished”, ever since a unified “production guidance section” had superseded the former separate army and navy supervision.

But what about the complaints against planes that did not fly, the “man-killing” planes? Every plane, argued the director, was tested and passed by the army or the navy before being sent out to the front and “there is virtually no plane which is entirely unfit for use”.

But were the planes getting to the front? Well, there was some trouble but it was not the fault of the planes: pilots were inexperienced and ground crews were insufficiently trained or unfamiliar with the new models,

All in all, the diet could not have found it a very reassuring picture.

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A popular generalization, and one which Japanese themselves are fond of making, is that they are not good linguists. Certainly the outstanding exception I have met is a charming soft-spoken professor in the local Zenrin (literally, Good Neighbor) language school. Some months ago he called, at the embassy to ask in perfect Spanish whether anyone of us would care to teach Tagalog to a class of future emigrants to the Philippines. We were sorry but we were too busy, we told him. Whereupon he announced that he would teach it himself. We were politely sceptical but we let him have a National Language Institute grammar and vocabulary. Today he showed up again to submit some papers for correction. It was amazing. This diffident persistent man could already actually write correct Tagalog, simple sentences perhaps but accurate enough as far as the grammar went. Orally he had only one trouble. He spoke it — with a Spanish accent.