22nd June 1945

Just as my train was going to pull out of Tokyo station a railroad official came up to our crowded coach and shouted a command. A ripple of restlessness ran along the aisle and I wondered what was up until a long file of soldiers, carrying wooden boxes wrapped in white napkins, entered the coach with as much solemnity as they could muster in the press of elbow to elbow. They were bearing the ashes of the war-dead.

Slowly and irregularly, one after the other, the passengers rose to their feet. Most of the men doffed their caps. We waited while the officer in charge of the detachment looked over the seats. Many faces were concealed in reverence; other scarcely hid lines of annoyance and apprehension lest they be forced to give up their seats for which they had stood so long in line.

But when the officer finally made up his mind and pointed to a group of seats in the center of the coach, the unfortunate passengers took it with characteristic discipline and resignation. The soldiers settled down with their ghostly burdens, sitting up straight, stiff, and expressionless.

Conversation was hushed for a while but soon, as the train jerked into motion and rolled along, the passengers forgot their strange companions. Only when the train stopped briefly at the various stations en route were they reminded of their somber distinction. The crowd that stormed the doors and windows of every car for standing room, all back [illegible] when they saw the white boxes. Then they stared or bowed profoundly and ran to the next car.

The soldiers did not move or speak. They stared blankly straight ahead, engrossed in their own thoughts.

20th June 1945

Without comment the papers today quoted the Guam radio on the death of Lieutenant-General Simon B. Buckner on Okinawa.

Tonight Vargas had dinner with an officer of the military police who had been in Manila. The questions which he asked Vargas were unexpected, to say the least. How, in the opinion of Vargas, could the war be brought to an end? What kind of peace proposals would be acceptable to the Americans? How did the Americans feel about the Russians?

19th June 1945

A Filipino and an Indonesian working for the Japanese board of information have been living for some time in a house furnished to them by the Japanese government. They have naturally made some friends among the Japanese, girls and these have often visited them for dinner and a little behind-drawn-curtains dancing.

Apparently the police did not like it. Recently they picked up about seven of these girls. One had only visited the place once; she had left a trunk there for safe-keeping after her house burnt down. The others were all working for Domei news agency, mostly in the interception of American news cables.

They were questioned separately for almost a whole day, far into the night. Had the foreigners asked them any questions concerning the war situation? Had they asked for American radio news? And above all, why had they visited these foreigners? What had they done in their house?

One of the girls cried afterward: “They have the filthiest minds I have ever known.”

18th June 1945

The Asahi today carried a significant article which confessed the bankruptcy of a fundamental policy in Japanese diplomacy. There is no longer much hope, the paper admitted, for an Anglo-American vs. Soviet clash so long as the war against Japan continued. To bring the U.S.S.R. into the war in Asia, Britain had surrendered her traditional policy against the predominance of any one power over Europe while the U.S.A. had adopted a policy of “conditional non-interference” there. The Anglo-Americans would hold the Soviet Union “in high respect” –until the end of the war.

17th June 1945

A Chinese diplomat who has spent a long time in Japan told me today an interesting species of mild sabotage in which he has long indulged. It consists simply in ignoring all subtle hints and veiled suggestions made by the Japanese.

As an instance he cited the case of a former Romanian diplomat in Tokyo who applied for permission to leave the country. For some reason or other he was not in the good graces of the Japanese but of course the latter could not openly obstruct his departure. So they discouraged him by saying it would be extremely hard to secure a visa from the Nanking government but if such a visa could be secured they would have no other objections.

Meantime they called up the Chinese embassy. A Rumanian diplomat, they announced, would soon call at the embassy for a visa. Would the embassy grant it?

Naturally, the embassy replied.

It would not be –er– too much trouble? Too inconvenient perhaps, in view of the “situation” in China?

No, not at all, the embassy insisted.

But how long would the visa take? Perhaps two or three weeks?

No, the embassy replied with invincible obtuseness. For diplomats a special consideration would be made and the visa would be issued in a day.

The Japanese gave up in disgust and the Rumanian, through the courtesy of the Chinese, went on his way.

11th-15th June 1945

“As the earth hardens in the rain, so also the government and the people have grown more united,” wrote the Asahi. It was a rain of fire and steel, a bloody hurricane, that swept the divine land as the diet met in 87th extraordinary session. Flames licked the rubble of the imperial cities. On Okinawa the tragic remnants of a mighty imperial army, lossening their grasp on the ruins of Shuri and Naha, turned heavily, weary with the hopeless combat, upon a new landing in their rear. “It is the eve of the invasion of the mainland,” cried the war minister.

On this ultimate eve the diet was convened. On the 8th it went through the ritual of organization. On the 9th it rose to listen to the emperor, severe in service uniform with the Grand Order of the Chrysanthemum and the First Class Order of the Golden Kite. “Our loyal and heroic officers and men are crushing the formidable enemy…. Our 100 million loyal subjects, braving the ravages of war and bearing the devastation of fire, are devoting themselves to the performance of their duties behind the guns…. We are greatly delighted at all this.”

But the situation of the world had changed “suddenly and unexpectedly”. “There is a steady increase in the rampancy of the enemy, intent on aggression and invasion.” “We rely upon the loyalty and bravery of you, Our people, and share your hardships. and thereby desire to complete the work left by Our ancestors.” “You are to bear Our wishes in mind and deliberate in harmony….”

Not even this grave injunction from the Son of Heaven sufficed to bring harmony to the diet. The session had been called for two days, the 9th and 10th, to consider six emergency measures. Amid a storm of boos and protests the government was compelled to postpone adjournment, first one day to the 11th, then another day to the 12th. It was not till the morning of the 13th that weary old Admiral Suzuki could bow to the empty throne in the hall of deliberation and, having read the imperial rescript, hand it with reverence to the speaker of the house.

Did the diet have a premonition that it would never meet again as the legislature of a great and undefeated empire? Perhaps, for in those four days it fought tenaciously for rights and privileges which had already become memories without significance. It haggled stubbornly with the bumbling government over text and chapter, power and responsibility. It seemed obsessed with the dying desire to appear well before posterity.

The crux of the controversy was the bill providing for wartime emergency measures. No one disputed the emergency. The peers and the deputies knew as well as the premier that “the situation on Okinawa today is very serious and we have come to stage where we have to expect an enemy invasion of the mainland.” They knew as well as the Minister of War that “the general situation in East Asia is not favorable to us” and that late in May the Japanese forces were forced to fall back from the Shuri-Naha line and readjust their front. And they could regret with the minister of the navy that “before the enemy task forces around Okinawa could be annihilated, our land forces were pressed back.”

Nor did the peers and deputies deny that extraordinary measures were required. Starvation must be staved off; arms produced; defenses set up; order maintained. But who would assume responsibility? The executive wished to share it with the legislature while at the same time retaining full authority. Thus it asked the diet to authorize the government to rule by decree and report to a standing committee of the legislature. The diet protested that this was responsibility without authority. If the government wished to retain full authority, then let it exercise the supreme ordinance prerogative of the emperor under Article 31 of the constitution and bear full responsibility. But if the government wished to associate the diet with it in responsibility, then the diet must have more than a report; it must be “consulted”.

On these main lines the debate ran its turbulent course. Was the government asking the abdication of the diet? Was it seeking to overturn the constitution? What was more futile than a “report”? But what was more awkward in an emergency than to “consult”? Negotiation followed interpellation. The new “political party”, the Dai Nippon Seiji Mai, was making its debut and could not begin with a fiasco.

Finally a compromise was reached. The government agreed to “consult” a standing committee of the diet but it reserved the right to act first and talk afterward in case of an unavoidable emergency. The peers and deputies were satisfied and the Times could editorialize with fine fervor: “The effect of this action of the diet is to associate the diet, and with it the people at large, in an inseparably intimate partnership with the government in all measures to cope with the national emergency.”

After they had made their point on the wartime emergency measures law, the peers and the deputies quickly passed the five other bills proposed by the government. The Times summarized succinctly: “Without going into detail the essential effects of these measures can quickly be noted. The passage of the wartime emergency measure bill has given the government full power to put promptly into effect, without further legislative process, whatever measures it considers necessary to deal with urgent matters concerning the production of ammunition and foodstuffs, the disposition of areas affected by disaster, the strengthening of transport and communications, and the administration of banking and financial affairs, in accordance with the emergency situation. In other words the government has been delegaed with extraordinary power to exercise summary authority in keeping with the demands of any situation which may arise.

“The passing of the national volunteer corps bill,” the Times continued, “Has accorded legal status to the volunteer corps  [illegible] government arising from among the people. This measure thus makes possible the formal incorporation of the volunteer corps into the official defense organization of the government, on full war footing if the occassion should ever demand it.

“The bills concerning the application of the army criminal law, the army court martial law, and the naval court martial law to members of the national volunteer corps supplement and complete the legalization of the volunteer corps and subject its members to full military discipline and orders in the event of their being called into active service. The various other bills,” concluded the Times, “although more technical and less extensive in scope, follow in the same pattern.”

Yesterday the 14th June the Premier Admiral Baron could at length afford to face the press.

Why precisely had the government courted the bitter debate over the emergency measures instead of having recourse immediately to the imperial prerogative to rule directly by decree?

Because, replied Suzuki, revealing more than he knew, he did not want to give the impression that the state was run by the armed forces. And, with an ingenuous reference to “enemy propaganda designed to alienate the people from the armed forces”, he betrayed a deep apprehension of its effectiveness.

Tojo resigned after Saipan; Koiso, after Yiojima. What did he propose to do under the present circumstances?

[illegible] repeatedly declared and he declared it again, replied Suzuki, that he would serve to the death. Besides he did not view Yiojima and Okinawa with undue pessimism; Japan, he insisted, had won a “moral victory” on Yiojima that more than made up for the loss of the island while Okinawa –well, Okinawa would not decide the war….

But the interview, which was carried at length in all the vernaculars today, rambled and faltered despite the fine brave words. Now, at this final crisis of the empire, “the cross-roads between rise and fall”, the Premier Admiral Baron found in his hands all the powers that a subject could hold under the God-Emperor. But what was he to do with them?

He stared fiercely into the future, under his gray shaggy eyebrows, this omnipotent old man, and he did not know what to do with his omnipotence. Power must be used; it is futile until it is applied; it explodes in the hands of its possessor if it is not hurled in time against the target. But, he must have thought as he fumbled with the stick of dynamite, what on earth could he do with it now that he had it?

Power, full power, “without further legislative process”, to raze a whole coast, to make a streetcar stop where it had stopped twice, to seize every factory in the empire, to put this school girl in an assembly-line and make that mechanic work 24 hours a day. But what was the use of that when there were materials for only three hours a day and when every factory turned to ashes in air raids?

Where was the diet that could grant him one good solid bar of steel? They had not given him the emergency power to make two and add up to a thousand? Why had they forgotten to invest him with the summary authority to order the mountains to yield rice and the mulberry trees to grow sweet potatoes?

9th June 1945

On the train to Odawara I listened to an old man and an old woman, who happened to be seatmates, strike up a conversation. They were both from Tokyo, it appeared, and both had moved to the country. Eagerly they exchanged confidences and complaints, It seemed the country was insupportable. The people were such boors; conditions were so primitive. The old man climaxed it by uncovering his leg and crying: “Look at all those fleabites! I didn’t know they had so many fleas in the country!” The old woman bent over and chuckled. “Yes, yes. That is the way to keep warm in winter, you know. They just scratch and scratch.”