In this breathing-spell before invasion, it is strange, looking around, to see how imperceptibly and yet how inevitably these people and their country, through the small gradual deteriorations of every day, have come to the edge of the pit. One scarcely notices from one week to another, even from one month to the next, how greatly things have changed; how one almost never sees a pretty girl anymore these days; how tired and red-eyed the men are in the trains, the choking trains where shabby bristly men fall asleep on the shoulders of the stranger next to them; how one has grown not to expect the fish and vegetable rations, how many smokers wait patiently for a fortunate passerby to strike a rare matchstick.
I note at random that the wife of a German I know surreptitiously eats handfuls of pine-needles from the hotel garden “because they are full of vitamins, you know”; that a pound of butter costs 120 yen; that one can get a hand-knitted sweater for five tins of jam or marmalade; that one excellent American noiseless portable typewriter is being offered for 2,000 cigarettes; that a marquis and a viscount, prosecuted for smuggling out platinum, have returned their titles; that street-vendors in Tokyo have been ordered to take shelter even during a precautionary alarm because of the single raider that dropped a bomb midtown the other day; that, possibly for the same reason, the long queues before the movie houses have disappeared.
The papers report that the vice-ministers have asked the people to gather five million koku of acorns (on koku is about five bushels) “to be turned into food”.
Ships’ crews have been organized into a “volunteer fighting corps of their own under the navy.
“The problem of milk has at last found its solution,” [illegible]. It is an artificial milk, tentatively called Asahi, invented by Choshichi Miyamoto of Syogaimachi, Fushimi, Kyoto. “Peanuts are pulverized and dried. Then they are treated chemically and reduced to fluid under high pressure. From the fluid, solid objects are eliminated by a special vaporizing method and the resultant fluid is as white as real milk.” But when the plant is completed it is expected to turn out only 50 koku a day.
One pound of bread or rolls per person at 28 sen a pound, equivalent to 300 grams of rice to be subtracted from the ordinary rice ration, will be distributed in Tokyo from the beginning of this month.
Writing in the Asahi the head announcer of the Japan Broadcasting Corporation says that “air-raid broadcasts have increased in number. In the beginning there were only two or three air-raid broadcasts concerning a single enemy plane but this has increased to 30 on the average. There was one air-raid broadcast every two minutes when enemy deck-planes raided Japan on the 10th July. The air-raid broadcasts totaled 300 and lasted for 10 hours at a time.”
Another paper reveals that Viscount Keizo Shibusawa, governor of the Bank of Japan, had opened up his private residence in Shiba-ku, Tokyo, to 37 homeless air-raid sufferers since April. He first took in nine assistant police inspectors. Later were added a high bank official and his son, three office girls, a shipyard manager and his girls, one dressmaker, four officers, the widow of a military man, five schoolboys, three maids, and the entire family of the steward. They all eat together and have access to the viscount’s library. “All the members of the household,” the news-story says, “have certain duties allotted to them. For instance, the nine assistant police inspectors are responsible for air-raid defense, the three maids cook, the widow distributes rations, the steward and the schoolboys take care of the truck-garden (converted from the tennis court and lawn).” Nobody knows what the officers do.
Step by step, one gets used to things from which a year ago, the Japanese would have shrunk with repugnance: living in a damp trench under a sheet of rust iron; drinking peanut juice “as white as milk”; sleeping uneasily in their working clothes. If the warlords’ bargain falls through, they can all presumably accustom themselves permanently to being dead.