11th March 1945

The diet was opened today as scheduled in spite of an air-raid signal that drove the members down to the basement. In the words of Vargas, who was present, it was worse than a baseball game. The Commons allowed Koiso to finish his main address with only a few interruptions but Sugiyama, speaking as war minister, was overwhelmed with boos and catcalls. Yonai, the navy minister, made a short frank speech ending with the cautious and modest promise that the navy would do its best; he was the only cabinet member applauded. Odachi, the home minister who is in charge of air-raid protection, could not even finish his speech. At every official assurance members called out: “It’s a lie! Resign! Get out!” They shouted, pounded on their desks, howled insults, and when the premier himself again took the floor to answer an interpellation with the usual promise that a committee was being formed to study the situation, the house let out one outraged roar against: “Committees! Committees! Always Committees!” Loudest, most raucous of all were the representatives of the burnt areas in Tokyo; many of them lost their own houses in the last raid.

The session as a whole was one more instance of the peculiar incomprehensible unpredictable “national polity” of Japan. In no other country perhaps could a similar paradox be possible of a puppet parliament being allowed to insult and shout down an absolute military government and, at the same time, of a theoretically responsible government remaining in office after being thus attacked. But it is easy to see whence the diet has derived its daring anger. The main stations in Tokyo are crammed with refugees, some of them badly burnt red, their hands scaled black and crimson. All carry on their backs a few salvaged possessions. They call to one another in the dirty confusion of the depot, asking about relatives and neighbors still missing, asking the still more demanding question of a new home to be found somewhere before nightfall. One of our students, waiting for his train, had a few oranges with him for the trip. He was so moved that he gave them to a hungry child. Yet one does not usually give away food in Tokyo.