The first impression of calm is wearing off. Underneath all this outward placidity Tokyo is seething with rumour, plot, and counter-plot. It appears new that the average Japanese is saying nothing, not only because he is dazed, knocked silly by a blow on the head, carried through the routine of every-day wartime life by that curious momentum that animates a chicken with its head cut off, but also because he is afraid; he does not know what is the correct thing to do or say because he has not yet been told; he hesitates to rejoice openly, for instance, because the war may suddenly start all over again and he will look foolish, unpatriotic, marked for suspicion.
The emperor’s rescript is being challenged by some sections of the army and navy; the old cry is being raised that the emperor was “misled” by corrupt and cowardly advisers. Navy planes dropped handbills yesterday over Tokyo, saying that the fight would go on. The special attack corps is said to have refused to surrender; they are standing by their planes; they long ago made up their minds to die and they will not be cheated of their glory. The rumour persists that the tokotai took off against orders and attacked Okinawa after the rescript had been promulgated.
The cabinet resignd yesterday afternoon, imediately after Suzuki had gone off the air. The war minister General Korechika Anami killed himself at his official residence the night before the rescript was radiocast “to express his sincere regret to His Majesty the Emperor for not having been able to fulfill his duties in assisting His Majesty.” Tozyo and Araki are also said to have committed suicide in protest against the surrender. other Japanese are reportedly killing themselves before the Imperial Palace. Already the miltary police has taken over Tokyo.
Meantime the sequence of events leading immediately up to the surrender has been made public. On the 9th a supreme war council was held in the imperial palace from 10:30 a.m. till 1:30 p.m. and from 2:30 p.m. till 5:30 p.m. This was followed by an extraordinary cabinet meeting at the official residence of the prime minister from 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. As a result of these meetings a conference “in the imperial presence” was held in the palace from 11:55 p.m.
till 3 a.m. on the following day. The conference was attended by the emperor, the prime minister, the president of the privy council, the war minister and chief of the army general staff, the navy minister and chief of the navy general staff, and the foreign minister. At this council the decision was reached to accept the Potsdam ultimatum.
Another extraordinary cabinet meeting was thereupon called at the premier’s official residence from 3:10 a.m. till 4 a.m. of the 10th. A conference of senior statesmen (former premiers) was opened at 1 p.m. an then at 2 p.m. the cabinet deliberated on the manner of making the decision known to the people.
On the 11th at 7 a.m. notification of the acceptance of the Potsdam terms was sent through the Swiss government. The war minister then issued his proclamation that “for the maintenance of the divine state” the army would “definitely and resolutely fight”. The president of the board of information in turn issued the preparatory statement: “The worst condition has now come.” Both these official announcements hewed close to the line of the condition attached to surrender, namely, the maintenance of the imperial institution, “the national polity”.
On the 12th Suzuki appeared at the imperial palace at 2:08 p.m., carrying the American reply. He stayed till 2:44 p.m. He then called an extraordinary cabinet meeting at 3 p.m. and discussed the new terms with the ministers till 5:30 p.m. Simultaneously a conference of the imperial princes was taking place at the palace.
At 8 a.m. on the 13th the formal text of the Allied reply was received and the supreme war council met to consider it from 8:50 a.m. till 3 p.m. The fundamental question of “safeguarding the basic character of the empire” was discussed. During a recess in the morning the chiefs of the army and navy general staffs had also reported to the imperial palace. Apparently the American demand that the emperor be subject to the authority of the Allied Supreme Commander and that the freely expressed will of the Japanese people would determine the future form of government sharply divided the leaders. A cabinet meeting was called from 4 p.m. till 7 p.m but no “complete agreement” was reached.
On the 14th Suzuki proceeded to the palace twice and was told “the imperial wish” to call a conference in the presence of the emperor. At 10 a.m. the field marshals and fleet admirals of the empire met at the imperial palace. At 10:45 a.m. they gave way to the full cabinet, the military and naval command, and the president of the privy council. It was at this “unprecedented” conference, held in the presence of the emperor who was attended by his chief aide-de-camp, that the final decision was taken. The Times account reads:
“When all these officers took their seats the conference began. Opinions were expressed by them as to the decision on the final attitude of Japan toward the reply sent by the allied nations. It is said with awe and trepidation that His Imperial Majesty calmly listened to the opinions expressed by his officers out of their truest sincerity of loyalty and mind to save the empire. It is reported that His Imperial Majesty was gracious enough to say the following at the conference:
“‘As a result of carefully pondering over the general trends of the world as well as Japan’s situation, We should like to carry on the policy that has been already fixed, by enduring the unendurable and suffering what is insufferable, to atone Ourselves before the hallowed spirits of our Imperial Ancestors and to save the millions of Our subjects. You may have opinions of your own but the answer of the Allied Nations, We believe, recognizes the sovereignty of the Emperor and all of you should understand this as We believe. Whatever may happen to Us, We cannot hear to see the nation suffer from further hardships.‘
“All those in attendence,” concludes the Times, “upon hearing these benevolent imperial words, burst into tears in spite of the august presence. This historic conference came to an end at noon.”
The cabinet met thrice more, from 1 p.m. till 3:20 p.m., from 7:20 p.m. till 8:30 p.m. and from 9 p.m. till ll p.m. All the necessary procedures were completed and the imperial rescript was thereupon promulgated, with the imperial seal and sign manual, on the night of the 14th.
So far the official account in the Times. Rumour and the actual experience of friends, however, add an ominous postscript. When the rescript was signed shortly after 11 p.m. on the 14th, several officers from the general staff, believing that the emperor had been “misled” and determined to intercept the rescript before it could be promulgated, broke into the imperial compound.
When the lieutenant-general in command of the imperial guard refused to cooperate with them, they shot him dead, locked up his staff officer, forged divisional orders, and called out the imperial guard to surround the palace. It was about 1 a.m. in the morning of the 15th.
The officers then searched the palace for the rescript. They imprisoned the chief aide-de-camp to the emperor but they could not find either the minister of the imperial household or the lord privy seal. Balked there, some of the conspirators rushed to Radio Tokyo. The rescript was scheduled to be promulgated in the morning and the studio announcers and technicians were staying up all night rushing translations, technical arrangements, and other preparations. But if they could not seize the rescript itself, the rioters were determined that it should never be heard by the nation. All the radio employees were confident to the man studio (Studio No.1) and kept under guard by sentries with drawn bayonets. The station was also put off the the air.
In the meantime however a loyal officer of the imperial guards had managed to slip through the cordon around the palace. He notified the eastern army commander who was in charge of the area around the capital. He was a former supreme commander in the Philippines, ailing old Tanaka of the flowing moustache who had been shipped back to Japan so gravely ill that he had been given his full generalship almost as a posthumous promotion. But in those tense hours before dawn of the 15th Tanaka won his yellow flag beyond all cavil. Armed only with a revolver and accompanied only by one aide, the old man rushed to the palace, overawed the rebels, roundly upbraided them, shamed them so that the ring-leaders then and there committed suicide.
The mlitary police then took over the survivors and liberated Radio Tokyo.
None of these breathless events were known to the people of Tokyo when the 15th dawned. Extraordinary preparations had been made for the imperial broadcast. Special lines had been laid out to the devastated areas and loudspeakers provided. Long before the scheduled hour the crowd began to gather in front of the radio station until the broad avenue was filled to the edge of the park.
Inside the station, in the same studio where the radio employees had been so recently confined, the audience was also gathering, government officials mostly, headed by the navy minister and the president of the board of information. Whether as a result of the riot the night before or in accordance with the program, the emperor would not broadcast directly.
Instead the people in Studio No.1. saw only at the end of the spacious hall a golden screen with the imperial chrysanthemum. Behind it waited an announcer and a technician to operate the special turntable carrying the recording of the imperial voice. Thus was the illusion kept of a divine disembodied presence bestowing upon the empire and the world the benisons of peace.
when the rescript had been read, there was a reverential pause. Then through their tears, the crowd gave three banzais: ten thousand years, ten thousand years, ten thousand years to His Imperial Majesty. Suzuki’s address was prose to this elaborate poetry. Reviewing the course of the war he said that the imperial forces had “endured difficulties and privations beyond imagining”; they had made up for the deficient arms with “unequalled spirit”. But since Saipan the tide of war had turned definitely against Japan; a “powerful” American airforce had wrought “damage” on the factories and communications on the mainland; an atomic bomb had been discovered and employed, so destructive that it had wiped out “the greater part of one city and several thousands of the city’s residents were either killed or wounded”. To have continued the conflict would have endangered the very foundations of the empire and the very existence of the Japanese race. Not a word did Suzuki say about the U.S.S.R.
Now that the end had come, he continued, it would undoubtedly be painful. The fighting spirit of the forces was “still high” and the people were also “resolved to die”. But the emperor in his benevolence had decided. His subjects had no choice but to apologize and to obey. Certainly it was the duty of every subject to “foster the eternal prosperity and glory of the imperial family” whether that duty called for death or for surrender.
The end of the war, he warned, would not “lessen the burden and suffering of the people. The empire would lose “much of its territory”; “the glorious army” would disappear. But “we must develop the permanent racial life of Japan, transcending all past feelings and forgetting all selfish thoughts. There is up other way for us but to foster the new spirit of self-rule, creation, and labor in order to build a new Japan, and devote ourselves to the development of technique and science, the lack of which was found to be our greatest fault in the present war. we must build up a civilization that will contribute to the civilization of humanity. This,” concluded Suzuki, “is the only way to reply to the
unlimited benevolence of His Majesty the Emperor“.
At 3:20 that afternoon the old man who had after all proved to be old enough to commit political suicide by sponsoring the surrender, tendered the resignations of his cabinet. This morning his successor was appointed, the imperial prince who had been expected to lead the Japanese in the last charge and who will instead lead them now on the long road back. Contrary to popular expectation however the prince was not one of the emperor’s brothers but Neruhiko Higashi-kuni, once commander-in-chief in China, whose influence
on the army may now be needed to compel surrender.
That may not be such an easy task. If it is amazing that a nation could turn so meekly from war to peace, from the attitude of defiance to the death to that of humble submission, without warning or preparation, all in those few minutes that it took the emperor to promulgate his will, it is perhaps equally amazing that in this defeated, thoroughly crushed nation, there is danger of revolution, not for peace, but against peace.
Nor is it only the hotheads and the hotbloods, the scowling samurai of the naked sword, who howl for war. Today I heard only two civilian Japanese express their thoughts on the peace and both of them opposed it. One was a Japanese professor, brought up and educated in the U.S.A., one of the most intelligent and tolerant Japanese I have met. He talked earnestly and in all seriousness of an atomic bomb that Japan too was perfecting. At any rate, atomic bomb or not, he thought Japan should have fought to the end.
The other Japanese was at the other end of the scale, intellectually, socially, economically. She was our own maid, Kubota-san. She had two sons in the imperial forces and they were both alive. Was she not happy, I asked her. Soon they would be coming home.
“Happy?” she echoed. “I don’t know. I would have been happier if they had died for the emperor. when they come back to me now, how shall I face the mothers of those who died, the mothers of the men from the tokotai? It would have been better if they had died.”
What can one say to her? In the gaunt groves of the Yasukuni, before the shrines of the war-dead, the mothers and the widows kneel today. They say that already many of these women have committed suicide. They do not want to survive their loves and their defeat.