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27th of July, 1945

It was a lovely day in Tokyo today; the sky was a limpid blue, bright and lively with clear sunlight. It was cool for July; agricultural weather experts were worrying in the Times about the young rice. The temperature had not gone higher than 15 degrees; it was really March or early April weather; and the growing rice liked a little warmer sun. But the school-girls in their vegetable patches on the crest of Kudan hill were giggling and pushing one another, their voices high and fresh. A couple of soldiers from the barracks nearby were running after a stray pig; it was a small scrawny pig but it was tricky and elusive and the soldiers, clumsy and ungainly in their new yellow boots, stumbled amid the wreckage of a bandstand with loud excited laughs. In the wide formal park of the Yasukuni shrine visitors from the provinces were eating their lunches under the quiet trees. There was also a group of army clerks stretched silently on the grass. From the foot of the hill came the whine and clatter of streetcars toiling up the slope. It was a pleasant grateful lull in the fortnight of alarms; and the people of Tokyo, the grimy housewives gossiping in the ration queues, the thoughtful students dangling frayed white towels at their belts, the stumbling babies picking at their sores, the clerks and policemen, the technical majors and pathetic drabs, all wrapped in that curious and uniquely Japanese smell of pickled radish, cheap pomade, and soya bean sauce, were chatting and dozing in the sunlight wherever they could find it.

It seemed impertinent to note these things because in a distant German city, one day and half-a-world away, the powers at the gates had announced an ultimatum to Japan. The Tokyo papers hinted at it in subtle innuendoes. A delayed dispatch intercepted by Domei threatened that “immediately following the termination of the Potsdam conference, the Soviet Union, the U.S.A. and Britain are reported to have decided to make a vital joint proposal to Japan. They had no short-wave radios so they did not know but even as they sat in the sweet summer sunlight, the air above these dreamy people of Tokyo was vibrant with a last demand for unconditional surrender. Doubtless in the hidden halls and palaces the warlords were pondering on this message; perhaps even now the ministers of His Imperial Majesty studied one another’s faces with jealousy and suspicion as they debated what course could put the imperial mind at ease. But for this one miraculously peaceful day the mind of the common man in Tokyo was already at ease, in the soothing warmth beside the golden carp that swam silently in the depths of the imperial moats.