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27th August, 1945

Tomorrow the first invading conqueror in Japan’s history will land from the skies on Atsugi airfield. How do the Japanese feel? What do they think about it? It is frankly impossible to tell from the expressionless faces of those who go about their business on the streets of Tokyo. One can only gather from the newspapers what they are told to think and feel, and deduce from that whatever one can.

General Shimomura, the new war minister, engaged in an analysis of his own in a broadcast last night. There were those, he said, who had not yet fully comprehended the imperial wishes; those who felt there was no possible excuse for surrender and were determined to continue fighting or commit suicide, those who doubted that the imperial institution and its prosperity could be maintained under the new conditions and believed they should protect it by force, those who were disgusted with the leadership of “negative” old men, those who had fallen into despair and, becoming “gloomy and mean”, were ready for “shameful acts”.

To these and every other Japanese the general addressed the counsel: “We must be careful not to make any disquieting act or utterance or take a hostile attitude. Whatever happens within the limits accepted by the government, we must refrain from any thoughtless act, even though there should occur things which go against the grain of the traditions and customs of the Japanese people…. But I do not mean to say that we should submit to everything. Of course when the other side makes demands beyond agreement, or arbitrary, unjust, and unreasonable demands, the government will endeavor to effect an adjustment with proper measures. You should be calm, trust the government, and avoid any violent act. There may be some who say that they will act according to their own convictions and think that this will not cause any trouble to others. But they are wrong. The manifestation of our united total strength become more than ever necessary at this time. One malcontent may long delay the recovery of the state.”

Toshio Shimeda, speaker of the house, has an angle of his own. “I have been defeated in general elections three times,” he states today. “I know what defeat is like. The thing for the vanquished to do is to make plans to retrieve the defeat. In wars, as in elections, victory depends on chance…. When people are at war they heap abuse on each other. This is quite natural. But once they have laid down their arms, it is equally in the nature of things that the should deal with each other in the manner they did before they came to blows. The victors should put themselves in the position of the vanquished and the vanquished in the position of the victors. Now that we are defeated the thing we have to do is to get over the feeling of bitterness against our former enemy and to concentrate on reconstructing the state.”

Under the caption “On the Eve of the Allied Advance”, the Asahi editorializes today: “It is undeniable that the greatest issue confronting the people is what a situation will be brought about by the advance of the Allied forces and how that situation should be received. Some are very optimistic and others extremely pessimistic…, It is possible that the vanquished in war should prove the victors in peace. We are not denied our way to superiority in learning and in faith. The 100 million people should enter into a life of penance without saying who was wrong. At the same time we sincerely and from the bottom of our hearts hope that the victorious troops of the great American people will make a peaceful entry and make a moral contribution to lasting world peace.”

“Prior to the Landing of the Allied Forces,” the Mainichi in turn stated: “The foreign troops who were our enemies until yesterday will come this time as victors. On greeting them we will be filled with deep emotion but what is important at this juncture is for the people to face the situation composedly and act calmly and properly…. Some of the (American) officers and men may resort to actions contrary to the intention of their superiors. But on such occasions the matter should be left to negotiation between the Japanese and the Allied authorities and the people should maintain calmness, refraining from any hast action…. However there will be many opportunities for contact between the officers and men of the occupation troops and the inhabitants of the area concerned, in their daily life. During the war period of nearly four years we have had but little opportunity of meeting foreigners…. To know them fully and to receive them properly may be said to be one of the most important matters for the future reconstruction of the country.”

Only the Times has taken a wider view. “Among the vanquished peoples”, it writes today, “There must of necessity be some strains of bitterness…. The peoples of the defeated nations have given all for victory and failed. They gave their all, suffered hunger, saw death before their eyes without flinching, only because they believed their cause was right. Now in defeat they must not be made to feel that they have been conquered by sheer might alone, if they are to be converted, as they must be, to a willing and wholehearted cooperation in the establishment of a peaceful world.”

From these carefully guarded voices, these counsels, admonitions, hopes, one can perhaps guess at the thought of the Japanese today. They are relieved; the war is over. They are heartbroken; the war has ended in defeat. They are shocked, overwhelmed by the magnitude of their defeat; never before has a hostile army set foot, unresisted and irresistible, on the imperial land. Finally, they are afraid: afraid that Japan as they and their forefathers knew it is doomed at the hands of an all-powerful conqueror, ignorant of their most cherished traditions; afraid for themselves in the night of the future, afraid not only of the vast changes looming beyond their comprehension but also of the small every-day perils of the contact with a stranger who may be insolent, brutal, greedy, cruel. An appeal issued by the authorities of the Yokosuka naval station today reveals that many women in that landing area “seem to have fled somewhere”. Elsewhere women have gone into hiding in their houses, put on their oldest clothes. The men mask their anger and resentment, their mouths bitter with the pride they must swallow. Two of our students, mistaken for Japanese, were upbraided by a demobilized soldier at a subway station the other day because they were too well-dressed. But above all the Japanese feel vaguely that they have been cheated: their sacrifices have been wasted, a trickle of blood losing itself in ashes; they are immersed in a thick fog of apathy. They have done everything that a man could do and it has availed them nothing. Better now to do nothing at all.

But already a little wind of curiosity is rising. What is he like, this stranger whose distant steps can be heard through the mist? A boy in the train today was studying a frayed old English reader: “This is a dog. Open the window.” An old man on the platform, wearing an American tie, bowed to me courteously and said: “Good morning. How are you? I am very well thank you and you?” What is it like, this new Japan, taking shape now, slowly, uncertainly, where the little wind pushes the mist away? Behind the closed silent shutters of the houses, square and brown like wooden boxes, Japan waits breathlessly at a chink in the door, peering at the future.