I had scarcely arrived at the embassy in Tokyo yesterday when the chauffeur ushered a Japanese marine into my office, He was a tall awkward fellow who, after many bows, informed me that I was wanted for questioning at a navy court-martial in connection with a Japanese I knew called Fujita. He had a little red notebook in his hand which he continually consulted. After I had assured him three times that I was the man he wanted, he wrote down meticulously the date and the hour of the appointment: 10 o’clock in the morning of the following day.
.As I was being driven to the ad dress the marine had left, I uneasily reviewed in my mind what I had heard about Fujita. He was a civilian employee of the navy, I knew. He had said he was working in a listening-post. Why had he been arrested? Had he circulated American news reports? Could it have been that frank discussion of the war situation which he had delivered at, of all places, a munitions factory?
I recalled with a twinge of apprehension that he and I had had many unreserved conversations in my apartment; he had even given me “confidential” maps from the navy files, maps which were as a matter of fact mere reproductions of those issued by the coast end geodetic survey of the Philippine government. He had also shown me copies or American short-wave newscasts. Had my apartment telephone been tapped? Was there, after all, a dictaphone around?
The appearance of the building which was my destination was somewhat reassuring. It was the house of a former baron, the chauffeur told me. It had not lost its air of decayed gentility; there was a square gravelled yard in front but it had an untidy fringe of weeds; the squat double staircase had once been painted cream, like the front of the house, but now the paint was flaking and discolored.
We had to wait a while before a porter finally answered the chauffeur’s calls. Me took me up the staircase to a small room in the back of the house, overlooking a tangled garden, cluttering up with bamboo poles, a heap of raw cement, a pile of rope. The corridors and anterooms through which we had passed had only increased the general impression of dingy squalor. One always associates the navy with a scrupulous and burnished cleanliness but here the floors were gritty with dust, the windows dark with grime.
I looed around the room where I was now asked to wait, together with the embassy chauffeur who, would act as interpreter.
It was a small bare room, almost completely filled by a long table at which were set 10 or 12 red plush chairs. The walls were covered with a pretentious pattern; on one side hung a blackboard on which some characters had been written. The chauffeur said they meant “secret” and “confidential”.
After about a quarter of an hour a friendly young naval officer came in, together with yesterday’s marine. In his rimmed glasses and neat uniform he looked life a university student. He spoke little English it turned out, and I did not speak enough Japanese. I suggested the services of the chauffeur. Unfortunately the business was “confidential” and, after dismissing him, the officer sent for a dictionary.
We stared at each other across a corner of the long table, each of us, I suppose, busy with our own thoughts, while the marine rummaged in the next room. Finally everything was ready; we ran our fingers tentatively over the pages of our dictionaries; the marine sat down at an appropriate distance with a pencil poised over his red notebook.
This was not a court, he began. He was not a judge or a prosecutor. He was Fujita’s defence counsel. Would I be willing to answer a few questions for his sake? Of course, he reminded me, as a diplomat I could claim immunity from any further connection with the proceeding.
I did not see how I could withdraw without arousing unpleasant suspicions, and a lively curiosity as well well as a desire to help the unfortunate Fujita who, it turned out, was confined in this very building, promoted me to waive immunity.
Thereupon he opened a thick and ragged dossier and unfolded a long list of what I presumed were the charges against Fujita.
“Is it true,” he asked, “that Fajita talked to you concerning military or naval matters?” His voice was fflat a rd expressionless. He seemed to be rather bored, wither like a clerk asking for the name and address of a taxpayer.
”I don’t remember,” I answered, “but I don’t think so. We talked mostly of Manila where we met.”
His expression did. not change and. he went on to particulars. Was it true that Fujita hat told me that the Japanese commander-in-chief in the Philippines ha fled to Taiwan? That the Japanese had suffered a disastrous defeat in the naval battle off the Philippines? that Japanese losses in Leyte totalled 70,000? That Aquino, the Republic’s Speaker of the Assembly, would betray the Japanese? That Japan intended to abandon the Philippines and withdraw from all the southern regions? That only one-fourth of the planes produced in Japan were serviceable? That, in case of the American landing on the mainland, the Japanese had no means of resistance available? That there had been ‘disturbances’ in Chosen? That there might be ‘disturbances’ in Japan? That he himself preferred to live under any foreign government rather than continue under any Japanese regime?
All throughout the use of that curious construction: was it true etc.; was it true that Fujia had told me, etc. As I returned a steady stream of “No’s” and “I don’t remember’s” to this series of leading questions, he grew increasingly puzzled.
“Okashi, ne,” he murmured hunder his breath. “Strange, very strange.”
I began to feel slightly apprehensive. My answers, I knew, would have run false in the ears of any experienced examiner, especially if the true had been mixed with the false among those leading questions. But I had no means of knowing how much the police had discovered or Fujita had confessed, and I decided to continue taking my chances on his obvious inexperience and distaste for this work. At long last we were finished. He thanked me formally. “You were very kind,” he said, “I hope we shall be able to do something for Fujita. He is a good man.” “But,” he added, “he likes to talk.”
He folded the list of charges. “I cannot understand the military police. They claim Fujita told you all these things. You are sure…?” I hastened to reassure him. It was plain he did not like the military police. He told me that the kempei had arrested Fujita and proposed to try him but the navy had stepped in to protect its employee. As a result Fujita would be tried by a naval court of inquiry. The officer had a typical solution for this vexing problem of the military police. “Soon,” he told me confidentially, “we shall have our own military police.”
I rose. “Could you,” he stopped me, with the air of having just remembered, “sign this paper please?”
“But this paper is blank,” I protested.
“I know,” he said ruefully. “I am sorry. This man,” and he pointed to the marine, who was grinning shamefacedly over his red notebook, ” should have taken down your answers during the examination. But he does not understand English.” I laughed and said that I could not possibly sign a blank sheet of paper. If he could send a summary of my statement later to the embassy, I should be glad to sign. He let it go at that. We bowed to each other once more and then I asked him what streetcar to take to get back to Kudan hill, as the embassy car was gone. He went down with me to the gate and gave me the necessary directions. When I went away I saw him studying me behind his glasses, still a little puzzled and uncertain.