The Japanese mother-in-law of a Filipino in Tokyo is trying to let her house and sell her furniture — too late. The peak of the prices has passed; everyone is trying to get out of Tokyo now and to get rid of household possessions. Only kitchen utensils and bedclothes continue to rise in value, when they can be found at all. But she keeps waiting, delaying, postponing the date of her family’s evacuation from the capital. She believes firmly that if only she waits, delays, and postpones long enough someone will pay her a fabulous price for her old piano.
She should be told that food, particularly sugar, is the only commodity that bring fortunes in the black market these days. Vargas told me today that he had been approached recently by one of our interpreters with a strange proposition. There were some 100 sacks of black-market sugar to be had somewhere and a group of rich Japanese were eager to buy the lot. But due to government restrictions they could not withdraw the required amount from their banks. The proposition was that Vargas should advance the sum (more than half a million) to be repaid within a few days, presumably after sugar had been disposed of in small lots. What he was supposed to get out of it, Vargas did not bother to find out.
At any rate, he remarked, the Japanese tycoons were going to almost any lengths to get their frozen assets out of the banks. Some, he had heard, applied for permission to withdraw heavy sums on the excuse that the money would be spent on constructing or expanding plants needed for the war effort. Once permission was granted however, the money was hoarded. “There’s a lot of fooling around,” Vargas concluded. “But they are only fooling themselves.”