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19th March 1945

The emperor visited the bombed areas of Tokyo yesterday. The newspapers were reverentially brief and circumspect in announcing the event. No one asked him how he felt and he did not say. Well, how did he feel, looking at the flattened ruins and the rusting debris? Was he angry, frightened, solicitous, sorry? Was he remorseful-sorry, afraid-sorry, pitying-sorry? Or was he just bored? More important perhaps, how did the people feel? Were they resentful, grateful, cynical, overwhelmed by the imperial benevolence, envious, sympathetic? Or were they too indifferent? There were no riots, no cheers, no demonstrations either way.

Yet it may be another of these Japanese paradoxes that it was not the emperor who pitied the people but the people who pitied the emperor. “He has such bad luck,” our maid told me once. She did not blame him for what had happened to Japan. She did not think of him as the Germans might have thought of the last Kaiser, a ruler who had bungled his job, a warlord to whom defeat was unforgivable. Nor did she think of him as the English might think of the king, a slightly more privileged fellow-citizen, stolidly doing his duty and as much in the dark as anyone else. Nor did she think of him as a primitive African tribe might think of their idol, a god to be blamed and cast into the fire. As far as I could understand she thought of him as fellow-Japanese, ruler, god, and also father, and she no more blamed or hated him than anyone would blame or hate a well-beloved parent who was doing the best he could to raise the family right on a job that just did not pay enough. In this way she, the lowest of his subjects, pitied God the Father whose heart, she was sure, was torn and bleeding at the sight of his children, weary and wretched beyond his aid or blame.