The version of the surrender, now being propagated by the recalcitrant army group, falls in with the classic conception of a struggle for the control of the emperor. The disgruntled warlords proclaim that the big-money interests, frightened by ruinous bombing, started to work for peace as early as Koiso’s time. They availed themselves of a former Japanese ambassador to Britain, Yoshida, who conducted secret negotiations through the Soviets in Gora. The military police thereupon arrested Yoshida while Matsudaira, the former imperial household minister who was supposed to be misleading the emperor, was forced to resign on the occasion of the burning of the imperial palace through the neglect and inefficiency of that ministry. The army thought the conspiracy was now crushed. But it merely went underground. Through unofficial palace advisers, it continued to work on the emperor, unsuspected by the army. The end, hastened by the atomic bomb and the Russian declaration of war, came too swiftly to be counteracted and the rescript on peace was signed and promulgated before the bitter-enders could organize themselves for anything more serious than the abortive palace putsch of the night of the 14th. The present cabinet, according these circles, is dominated completely by the big trusts, particularly through Prince Konoe who is the real premier. They plan to disarm the obedient majority in the armed forces, isolate the intransigents, and finally compel them to bow to the imperial rescript through public opinion and brute force. To give the cabinet time to maneuver, the surrender envoy to Manila has been instructed to ask for a postponement of three months for the projected full-scale occupation of Japan; in the meantime token forces in selected isolated areas would be received to satisfy American public opinion.
The plan, according to the militarists, eventually calls for the abdication of the emperor and the enthronement of his minor son, the crown prince, under the regency of Prince Mikasa. But the most significant thing about the story is its conclusion. The army men who spread it believe that the imperial institution has outlived its purposes; naturally, they do not trust it any more. They say, with unconscious irony, that the days are over when one man could make peace.
Meantime the new cabinet, whether big-money or not, has taken office following the imperial investiture yesterday. The new premier has behind him all the weight of imperial prestige and authority. Not only is he an imperial prince, father-in-law of the emperor’s daughter, but he was chosen directly by the emperor himself without recourse to the customary advice of the privy council and elder statesmen. In his first statement the Premier Prince also emphasized this close connection with the imperial will. When he received the command to form a new government on the 16th, he said he was told by the emperor: “Respect the imperial constitution, endeavor to maintain control and order in the fighting services, and exert all efforts to cope with the situation.”
Everyone agrees that these are the main duties of the new cabinet: to make peace, to save the throne, and to maintain peace and order. But there is some doubt as to the caliber of the men who have been chosen to carry out these delicate tasks. The Asahi says frankly today that the original plans to form a small super-cabinet of unquestioned leaders have had to be abandoned. “Due to the haste required, only those who happened to be in Tokyo at the time were considered as candidates (for office).” The prime minister has also had to assume the war portfolio concurrently, possibly because no army man could be found to bear the onus of surrender. In keeping with tradition he has been reverted to active status as a general to enable him to hold the post.
The Japanese have no illusions about what awaits them. The terms of the Potsdam ultimatum were published in the press at the time they were issued and they have now been reprinted. The Mainichi, in pointing out that the surrender will have three stages: an order to lay down arms, an armistice, and the peace treaty, minces no words and says bluntly that between the second and the third stage “the sovereignty of the empire will not be restore in full and His Majesty’s exercise of prerogatives will be restricted.” Only after the armies of occupation have been withdrawn and the peace treaty signed, it says, will the empire once more become “an independent nation.”
Indeed the press as well as the government are more intent on making the people understand the truth than on hiding it from them. The Nippon Sangyo-Keizai asked yesterday: “Candidly speaking, are not the people still unaware of the fact of defeat? Accordingly, don’t they have a vague idea of the coming situation? First of all, we must look the grim situation in the face….”