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21st August, 1945

The situation continues well in hand. The War and Navy Offices have had to warn the armed forces against listening to such exacerbating rumors as that an American fleet has anchored off Tokyo and Osaka and landing already started. There are other stories that three senior statesmen, Hiranuma, president of the privy council, Okada, former premier, and Wakatsuki, another former premier, have been shot by young officers while Tozyo has had to flee. But there is no confirmation to them from any reliable source.

On the contrary, it seems that now the government’s principal problem is to stir up the people rather than calm them down. Even as the new cabinet took office the Asahi already pointed out that it would have to “encourage the people who have been greatly disheartened by defeat and to infuse them with hope for the future.” Yesterday it repeated the admonition. “The entire people of this country,” it said, “seem to be haunted by a sense of unrest, fear, and despair, as if they were on the brink of an abyss…. But candidly speaking, the people’s spiritual collapse is quite reasonable. Our people have always walked in the footsteps of their leaders. Now, suddenly, the earth has cracked before them….”

For some the easiest way out has been suicide. A Japanese newspaperman informed me that one lieutenant-colonel committed suicide before the imperial palace; two or three other officers cut themselves open in their barracks. An Indonesian doctor in a large Japanese hospital told me of other cases of suicide in the past few days. A group of ten men and three women killed themselves with hand-grenades after unsuccessful attempts to kill the Lord Privy Seal. Four others, two men and two girls, used poison. One officer cut his belly open, then pierced his jugular vein, and when he still did not die, called for help. In this connection another Japanese said that when General Anami committed suicide, he too failed to kill himself by cutting his belly open and had to call his aide to shoot him through the head.

But there have been no mass suicides. In spite of rumor, largely born of expectation, few cases before the imperial palace have been confirmed. Possibly this has been due to the emperor’s command, reported through the grapevine, that the people save themselves for the great work of national reconstruction. He had stopped the war, he is reported to have said, to save Japanese lives, not to destroy them.

Most of the Japanese, however, seem to be too dazed, too apathetic, to even try to save themselves. The press, presumably acting under official instructions, has been trying to drum up popular enthusiasm for reconstruction. The vernaculars warn that Japan will have to feed herself on her small rocky islands, that she will be engulfed by reparations in a fatal inflation, that the length of foreign occupation will depend on the ability of the Japanese people to remake their lives.

But the men and women in the streets of Tokyo seem profoundly indifferent to these perils. Watching them it is hard to realize that the war is over. Their faces are just as carefully empty of thought and emotion; only their eyes are quick and restless as they shuffle along the sidewalks. They say there is more money flowing; the soldiers and the workers have been paid off with heavy bonuses; many warehouses have been opened to them to avoid the goods falling into the hands of the Americans.

One can see signs of this everywhere. Gangs of young men swagger about the city, flashing thick wads of the new 100-yen bills. In the devastated areas of Shinjuku and along the gaunt ruins of the Ginza the old night-stalls and sidewalk shops are opening again, selling brand-new army boots and blankets for incredibly cheap prices. None of these little profiteers feels like working; he has done his bit; his pockets are full of money; he wants to enjoy himself now, while he can, perhaps for the first and last time in his life. And he passes, with hungry averted eyes, by the rusting and rotting heaps of war debris.