16th August 1945

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.

15th August 1945

The war is over. At noon today the emperor personally broadcast his rescript proclaiming peace. The Times, which ran the complete text under a modest three-column head (His Majesty Issues Rescript to Restore Peace), was held until the broadcast was over and we did not get the English translation until late in the afternoon. Dated “the 14th day of the 8th month of the 20th year of Radiant Peace”, it read:

“To our good and loyal subjects:

“After pondering deeply the general trends of the world and the actual conditions obtaining in Our Empire today, We have decided to effect a settlement of the present situation by resorting to an extraordinary measure.

“We have ordered Our Government to communicate to the governments of the United States, Great Britain, China, and the Soviet Union, that Our Empire accepts the provisions of their Joint Declaration.

“To strive for the common prosperity and happiness of all nations as well as the security and well-being of Our subjects is the solemn obligation which has been handed down by Our Imperial Ancestors and which We lay close to heart. Indeed We declared war on America and Britain out of Our sincere desire to ensure Japan’s self-preservation and the stabilization of East Asia, it being far
from Our thought either to infringe upon the sovereignty of other nations or to embark upon territorial aggrandizement. But now the war has lasted for nearly four years. Despite the best that has been done by everyone — the gallant fighting of military and naval forces, the diligence and assiduity of Our servants of the State, and the devoted service of Our one hundred million people, the war situation has developed not necessarily to Japan’s advantage, while the general trends of the world have all turned against her interest. Moreover the enemy has begun to employ a new and most cruel bomb, the power of which to do damage is indeed incalculable, taking the toll of many innocent lives. Should we continue to fight, it would not only result in an ultimate collapse and obliteration of the Japanese nation but would also lead to the total extinction of human civilization. Such being the case, how are We to save the millions of Our subjects or to atone Ourselves before the hallowed spirits of Our Imperial Ancestors? This is the reason why we have ordered the acceptance of the provisions of the Joint Declaration of the Powers.

“We cannot but express the deepest sense of regret to our Allied nations of East Asia, who have consistently cooperated with the Empire toward the emancipation of East Asia. The thought of those officers and men as well as others who have fallen on the fields of battle, those who died at their posts of duty, or those who met with untimely death, and all their bereaved families, pains Our heart night and day. The welfare of the wounded and the war-sufferers and those who have lost their home and livelihood are the objects of Our profound solicitude. The hardships and sufferings to which Our nation is to be subjected hereafter will be certainly great. We are keenly aware of the inmost feelings of all ye, Our subjects. However it is according to the dictate of time and fate that We have resolved to pave the way for a grand peace for
all the generations to come by enduring the unendurable and suffering the insufferable.

“Having been able to safeguard and maintain the structure of the Imperial State, We are always with ye, Our good and loyal subjects, relying upon your sincerity and integrity. Beware most strictly of any outbursts of emotion which may engender needless complications, or any fraternal contention or strife which may create confusion, lead ye astray, and cause ye to lose the confidence of the world. Let the entire nation continue as one family from generation to generation, ever firm in its faith in the imperishableness of its divine land, and mindful of its heavy burden of responsibilities and the long road before it. Unite your total strength to be devoted to the construction for the future. Cultivate the ways of rectitude, foster nobility of spirit, and work with resolution so that ye may enhance the innate glory of the Imperial State and keep pace with the progress of the world.”

It was difficult to tell today from any other day. There were more people than usual in the tea lounge but they talked of every-day things. The maids and the waitresses shuffled along the corridors with unhurried pace. Their faces were drained of emotion and they averted their eyes. Somehow one did not feel like intruding into their thoughts.

The hotel radio was kept in the bird-room, behind the cashier’s little enclosure. Originally it had been a powerful American set encased in an ornate wooden cabinet. But sometime during the war the machine had been torn out, possibly to prevent anyone from listening to the forbidden shortwave, and now it rested, a tangle of tubes and wires, on a coffee table next to the disembowelled cabinet. It was now a very bad radio, connected by a complicated and clumsy network to a cheap round amplifier, but it was the only one in the hotel.

Around it now, in the neat little room with its three birdcages overlooking the ornamental fish-pond, the Japanese began to gather. The Germans, the Italians, the Thai, the Chinese, and the Burmans, kept to themselves in whispering groups along the corridor outside or, just beyond hearing distance, in the tea lounge and the lobby. But the Japanese crowded around the radio. The local chief of the military police was one of the first to arrive, a crop-haired, gold-toothed man with a Hitler moustache. He was not smiling now. The representative of the foreign office came next, tall, thin, and rabbit-faced. He did not speak to the kempei, although they were standing side by side at the foot of the stairs leading to the hotel theater.

Then, as noon drew near, the maids and the boy-sans and the waitresses, the cashier and her assistant, the reception clerks and the cooks, the embassy stenographers and interpreters, took their places around the wretched little mess of dull glass and steel which would soon enshrine the voice of the God-Emperor. In their stiff shy way they crowded upon each other; almost it seemed that they were huddling together for comfort, for some measure of assurance in the face of destiny.

There was complete silence as the clocks ticked toward noon. It was stifling. The windows had been closed to keep out the noise of the children playing by the pond outside. The waiting was oppressive and we watched the plump gleaming fish sliding smoothly against one another as they crowded obediently around the large black rock where the children stood, feeding them crumbs.

A Japanese woman married to an Italian tiptoed in. She was leading her two-year-old son by the hand. He was inclined to be difficult and to amuse him she showed him how to play with the song-birds caged beside the window. There was a smell elevator attached to the side of the cage and one placed a tender leaf or a pinch of golden seed in the straw basket at the end of the string.
Then the birds would hop to a tiny platform, thrust their delicate beaks through the bamboo bars, and pull the basket up.

A nine-year-old Italian boy sidled in, a tough bright youngster. A few days ago his mother had quarreled with the wife of another Italian, a New Yorker. The New Yorker’s husband had promptly smashed the other husband in the face, sending him to bed for a week. I wondered vaguely how the boy felt about his father now.

The radio was crackling and in sympathy there was a shuffling of slippers, a rustle of silk. A high-frequency note pierced through the furry undertones of static, held itself tinnily, faded, and then rose to the precise point of the exact time. Set your watches, ladies and gentlemen; mark the time, all ye good and loyal subjects, ye wrinkled horny-handed farmers with your foreheads on the straw mats, ye pale and bloated maidens in the baggy trousers, all ye stalwarts with the merry blossom on your backs, ye flea-bitten sore-scratching children playing with the empty shell case, ye tear-less widows by the wooden boxes from the far frontiers of war, ye scowling, weeping, breast beating warlords and sealords, mark the time; mark the time and wake, all ye miserable and wretched, ye bristly red-eyed welders, sleeping on each other’s shoulders; ye wan distracted mothers, bent with the equalling babies on your backs, dozing in the ration lines; mark the time, all ye good, loyal, bullied, cheated, gagged and handcuffed, starved, ragged, grateful subjects, mark the time. It is midnight at noon.

The Kimigayo stole in after the whispered awe of the announcer; it had never sounded so significant and fitting. It  was a band playing and the words were not sung:

Thousands of years of happy reign be thine;

Rule on, my lord, till what are pebbles now

By age united to mighty rocks shall grow

Whose venerable sides the moss doth line.

But the music might have been written for this hour of defeat; some dark foreboding in the heart of the ancient and forgotten troubadour who, a thousand years ago, had sung it for a German band-master to adapt, had haunted the simple melody with plaintive lamentation, with a grave and solemn anguish over the vanquished dead.

It was a perfect prelude to the voice of the emperor which came through now without an introduction. It was a calm and deliberate voice, a little distant, with a trace of weariness. As the intricate cadences of the courtly phrases drifted through the room into the sunlit garden outside, I looked around me covertly. It
was the first time that the Japanese had heard their “Manifest god”. All were expressionless as they stood, stiffly upright, their hands at their sides with the palms turned backward, head and shoulders bent low with reverence. Not a sound came from them. Perhaps it was blasphemy to weep.

When the rescript had been read, a younger more vigorous voice came through. It was the old Premier Admiral Baron, explaining the circumstances that had led to the surrender, the long wreck-strewn burning road that had led to the ruin of the empire. Then it was, and only then, that the Japanese wept. But they wept quietly, the sobs of the women were muffled in their sleeves, and
the tears of the men ran undried along their pale cheeks. Somehow it was painful even for a stranger, painful even to hear the Italians and the Germans outside in the corridors, debating heatedly whether the rescript had proclaimed peace or resistance to the death.

The broadcast was finished at a quarter to one. The Japanese went away silently, moving with bowed heads and reddened eyes through the clumps of foreigners already planning how they would rush home. It was incredible how swiftly normality, or at least the air of normality, was restored; indeed it had scarcely been disturbed. Lunch was a little late but it was served without a hitch.

In the afternoon I decided to go to Tokyo. I felt I had to see whether the Japanese had taken the end of their world with similar serenity. Before taking my train I went outdoors for a swim. The pool was deserted except for four Japanese boys frolicking noisily in the water. They kept to themselves but they did not seem depressed. Perhaps they had not yet heard. But outside in the
village it was the same. A group of school-girls in pigtails were skipping rope outside the hotel. A military policeman was feeding his carrier-pigeons. The crowd waiting for the electric tram had its usual air of preoccupation with bundles and tickets and seats.

The train to Tokyo was an hour late. As I waited on the  platform at Odawara two Japanese came up and spoke to me. It was the first tangible proof I had the the war was really over. One of them was a slatternly woman, dirty, unkempt, loose-mouthed, shifty-eyed. She asked me where she could get some medicine for her sick baby. when I said I did not know, she lingered a while and then, laughing, jumped down from the platform, and drank rapidly from a public fountain.

The other was a quiet—spoken man in a frayed national uniform. He squatted beside me and, while he unrolled his gaiters with a calm decisive hand, asked what nationality I was. Then he offered me some pipe-tobacco which he extracted from a smudged and much-folded envelope.

I refused politely.

“It’s excellent tobacco,” he offered it a second time.

When I refused again, he nodded briefly. He put the package away and then added in an impressive reproving tone: “It was American tobacco, you know.”

The train was packed to the windows with tired silent people and their huge bundles of black-market sweet potatoes, fruit, rice, two or three fish. If anything the atmosphere seemed less tense than usual. There were no longer any raids or strafing attacks to be feared. The lights were going on in the stations and in the countryside as we went by. In almost every official building there were also small bonfires, papers that were being burned before the Americans entered.

But nobody talked about war or peace. could it have happened in any other country in the world? Till yesterday, till even noon this day, they had believed, with a faith beyond all doubt, that in this holy war of theirs there could be no surrender, and that without surrender, there could be no defeat. Now the imperial rescript might speak obliquely of “a settlement of the present situation by an extraordinary measure”, of a war situation developing “not necessarily to Japan’s advantage”, of a benevolent solicitude for “innocent lives” and “human civilization”. But not the most polished and elegant circumlocutions could hide the fact of defeat, the “unendurable”, the “insufferable”.

What were now the “inmost feelings” of these good and loyal subjects? The unconquerable was conquered; the divine laid low. In the innermost recesses of the racial memory, no equal could be found for this “dictate of time and fate”. Not even when Hideyoshi’s armies staggered back to the shores of Korea to find their fleets swept from the sea by the “turtle-shell craft“ of Admiral Yi Sun-sin, had the imperial land suffered such a crushing defeat. For this was no momentary reverse, the abandonment of a conquered province, but total and complete defeat, submission of the imperial land itself to the conquering invader. No wind had risen from.the shrines at Ise and Togo lay mouldering in his grave.

For this the young men had frozen on the Manchurian tundra and vanished without a trace in the tall kaoliang; for this the young men had dragged themselves across the yellow plains of China, eaten the Weeds and the snakes of the jungle, burned on the lonely  seas, dived to their death through flaming skies; for this they had sechemed, robbed, lied, intrigued and tortured; what a horrible price of shame, degradation, and self-pollution for this, this bowlful of brown rice mixed with the husks of beans, mulberry leaves and cattle fodder, this torn and grimy mompei and the paper shoes that fall apart in the rain, this acre of ashes, this hole in the earth, this night.

“Beware most strictly of any outbursts of emotion,” O ye good and loyal subjects. “Cultivate the ways of rectitude, foster nobility of spirit,” ye wretched of the earth. The men and women about me spoke softly of the price of pickled radish, an aunt in Hokkaido, an open window where the soot was coming in. A child equalled and when it did not stop the mother opened the top of her mompei and gave him her breast; it was a big child but her milk was cheaper than rice. A tired old man, with many apologies, sank on the strip of seat beside me and loosened the straps of the sack on his back. We were coming into Tokyo station now and a gnarled peasant woman cried: “How bright it is!”

But no one looked up. The passengers went hurriedly and silently along the platform to the exits, afraid, ashamed, of the light.

24th June 1945

Reshaping the administrative structure of Japan to conform with the emergency and the new summary authority demanded by the emergency, Suzuki announced at the present session of the diet that the empire was being divided into eight practically autonomous and self-sufficient regional governments-general. The first conference of their new heads was held in Tokyo last week and today the Times takes the opportunity to summarize the significance of the system. The trend has always been toward larger administrative units, it notes. The 305 prefectures set up in 1871 to take the place of feudal fiefs had been reduced to 46 by 1906. War necessities however have shown that even these 46 are still too many and too small. In partial response to the need for greater coordination regional administrative councils were established in 1943 but the system did not prove successful because it was fundamentally a conference of [illegible]. Under the new system of Governors-general with ample centralized authority will take the place of the councils. They will have cabinet rank, be responsible directly to the cabinet, and will exercise authority in their districts on behalf of all the ministers. In other words, they will be one-man cabinets for their respective regions. The system seems to be similar to that of the commissioner for different regions in the Philippines, established in the closing days of the Laurel regime.

23rd June 1945

Today the wartime emergency measure law went into effect. It was about time, if not too late. The vernaculars were speaking of “gradually mounting losses” in the “death grapple” on Okinawa; more than 500-B-29’s had once again hidden the sun in dust and smoke over the naval base at Kure and the regions under the central army command. There was no exultation in the heart of the who held the unprecedented mandate of the empire; only an oppressive sense of obligation. In this at least the Premier Admiral Baron understood power better than his predecessors the Premiers Generals. On this day he addressed himself, not to the humble docile people who had surrendered power, but to the magnates and potentates who had seized it.

Power was responsibility, he reminded the cabinet in a special statement. The new law placed them above the law but it was an opportunity for service, not for tyranny. Henceforth they should rule their actions by “morality and reason” rather than by law and regulation. By the same token the convolutions of law and the red tape of regulation would henceforth cease to be valid excuses for inefficiency or inaction. Officials would judged strictly on their merits, policies strictly on their utility. Noting with approval that for once their “sermon” had been preached to the government anf not to the people, the Mainichi also doubted: “But how are the brains of the government officials? To what extent can they adjust their brains to the administration of ‘morality and reason’ instead of legal regulations?” The question remained to be answered.

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?

25th-26th May 1945

Tokyo will always remember the night of the 25th May. It started out so quietly. The moon was still out. People told one another that Mr. B-29 would not come tonight, he would be resting from his labors, so it was safe to go for a little walk. It seemed such a pity to waste that moonlight and the playful teasing little wind. I went out to dinner in the suburbs. But we had not yet finished coffee when the alert was sounded; the actual alarm was almost an echo; I had no longer time to make the train home. “Why don’t you stay up with me until morning?” asked my host. He was rather worried and wanted company.

The fires and explosions were rather closer than they had been the last time but we could still sit in the garden edge of his Japanese house, counting the bombers as they came in, one by one. The wind had blown up into a gale by now. The trees about us were in a tumult. The anti-aircraft fire was active and fragments of shell and bomb came whistling overhead. Six or seven buried themselves in the ground about us. There was nothing to be done about them but still quietly and take our chances. The neighborhood was tense. The members of the neighborhood association were patroling their houses and their yards. Only one man was slightly hysterical; he shouted to us to put out our cigarettes although the sky all around us was already bright with fire.

It did not look like a heavier raid than usual. Still it was tiring to sit up through the night and I was more annoyed than disturbed when, after breakfast in the morning, I found I would have to walk back to the embassy, a matter of four or five hours, because the suburban railway line had been cut. But there no help for it. My host was kind enough to accompany me to show me the way it but it turned out that he need not have done it; there was such a steady crowd going to Tokyo that I need only have followed them. Afterward I was glad enough to have his company. The scene of desolation in the dawn of an air-raid had grown so familiar and monotonous that I thought it had lost its power to horrify me. I did not count on the effect of accumulation, horror stretched out  after familiar horror, until the total became a new monstrosity. All the way from Nishi-Ogikuboto Kudan, block after block was razed flat in that utter way that only Japanese blocks can be razed flat, for the closely-packed wood-and-paper houses leave scarcely a stone upon a stone. There was no trace or memory of beauty in this only featureless waste, gray, sultry, pitiless.

Only the overheard talk of the people as we passed by gave it meaning and nearness; without them it might have been a vista of the craters of the moon. They were only snatches of conversation as we went by but they told a story of the human heart. A young girl asked who had started the war. A shabby man with a bristle mumbled over and over to himself: “But this is cruel, too cruel!” and in his accents there was neither hate nor the desire for revenge but only an anguished surprise. Most of them however were concerned with petty tragedies of everyday life. They spoke of some prized possession burnt, of a little hoard of food accumulated at unspeakable sacrifices now gone up in smoke, of where they would spend the night. Once again there would be no light, no water, no gas for all of us, and for those who had been caught in the trap of ruin, there would be no place to sleep, no clothes to wear, no food to eat. We passed a ration center giving out small balls of cold brown rice; another center’s warehouse was burning and the people were snatching out handfuls of burnt beans. There was an incredible, brutal, greedy sense of waste; the beans ran in quick rustling streams into the gutters as the gaunt people snatched at the smoking bags, tore them, fighting over handfulls that spilled and were crushed under their hard scuffling wooden slippers.

Yet by themselves, how admirable and infinitely pathetic was their patience. They were already scouring the ruins of their homes for some pot that could be salvaged and their faces, drawn, streaming with sweat, seared and scarred by smoke, were yet clear of despair. Was it serenity or stupidity? An ox can be a hero.

but perhaps there was something in the Japanese soul that steeled them against catastrophe, some atavistic acceptance of sudden ruin in a land of earthquakes and famine. By the side of the road there were two blackened and twisted corpses, a large one clasping a smaller body. A scrap of bright red and orange cloth had somehow escaped the flames and it fluttered greasily from a charred crease of crusted flesh. I felt that if I had lived there I would not have stayed a moment longer; I would have fled in horror and despair. But what was there to run to? An old woman was hobbling along beside us, leading a howling child by the hand. “Never mind, never mind, darling,” she said, “we are still alive and that is most important.” What had the child lost? I wanted to stop and ask. A doll, a pet, a mother? Whatever it had been, it seemed to that child so infinitely more important than life.

It was hard to find my way home. All the familiar landmarks from Shinjuku to Yotsaya Mitsuke were gone and only the dusty road, cluttered with the wrecks of streetcars, remained in a strange and trackless desert. How many were there that morning, lost like myself in an unexpected wilderness! I turned the corner I had turned to many times and it was almost no surprise to find the house gone with the rest of the neighborhood. There was little trace of it left except for a half-burnt shirt near the air-raid shelter. I was overwhelmed by melancholy. This was a personal, an intimate, square of debris. I understood now why people poked about in the ruin of their homes. I myself felt the irresistible compulsion of their emotion and I kicked desultorily at the fallen tile and the charred sheets of tin, my eyes searching restlessly. What was I looking for? What did I expect to find? Nothing; my old razor, perhaps, which I had bought in a tunnel on Corregidor; or the old shoehorn that always hung at the entrance because shoes must be taken off when going into a Japanese house; anything that might identify this heap of rubble as the place I had known so well and made my own, a sight of recognition from the chaos of universal and anonymous desolation, a scrap of memory.

I felt the eyes of someone upon me and I looked up. The landlord’s daughter, our neighbor, was cooking her breakfast over the ruins of her house and she was watching me. Her eyes were bloodshot but she seemed endowed wuth the same tenacious patience which I had seen everywhere. My colleagues had gone to the embassy for refuge, she said. No, there was no one left here. Her family had gone off somewhere to look for lodging or buy a railway ticket. Abruptly she burst into tears, rose, and caught my hands. “There is nothing left here, nothing left. When shall we see each other again?”

I answered her as reassuringly as I could. Then I said I must go. The sun was out and it was uncomfortable to stumble through the debris, choking with smoke, cinders in my eyes, tired and sleepless. Turning into the main road a solitary car overtook me slowly. I stopped to look and inside I caught a glimpse of sad old man. I recognized the tired sagging face. It was Suzuki the premier. The people on the road did not seem to recognize him or, if they did, they did not seem to care. There were, for once, no armed escorts or guards. Apparently it was not thought necessary to take any precautions against a mob of malcontents or a chance fanatic; how well the Japanese leaders knew their own people. No one cheered as they would have cheered Churchill in London, fingers raised in the V sign; but also no one hooted or raised a clenched fist. The Japanese were too busy with their own troubles; only one or two stared curiously at the shiny automobile as it rolled smoothly past.

There had been no fires near the embassy; there was nothing left to burn. Some incendiaries had fallen into our compound but they had been put out with comparative ease and no visible damage. One incendiary had burst outside the window of the ambassador’s office and the heat outside had dried up the glue on the maps on the walls so that the maps had snapped off their rollers and were on the floor, but that was all. White chemical stains were scattered in the lawn and gravel walks. A few tiles had been bashed in on the roof. But considering everything, the embassy had been very lucky. Vargas, who was out of town, would find little harm done.

I found my colleague Sy-Changco disconsolate. He had placed most of his clothes in the air-raid shelter and covered them up with earth but somehow the fire had crept in and he had lost many of his clothes. The house had gone up in flames only in the closing hours of the fire. Several incendiaries had dropped into the garden but no damage had been done until the house in the corner opposite caught fire and the terrific wind scattered it throughout the neighborhood. Throughout the day refugees trooped into the embassy. We put all of them up for the night but it was difficult to feed them. As usual there was neither light nor water; the gas-range was dead; and all we had to eat was an unsavory mess of Japanese noodles and rice, half-cooked over a wooden fire, and eaten by candle-light.

Vargas was due to return that night and we were to pick him up at the Tokyo station. But we were told that the heart of Tokyo had been destroyed and that Tokyo station had been hit at last; the Imperial Hotel was in flames; there were stories that even the imperial palace had caught fire. We were too tired to go out and see during the day and the small car in the embassy had broken down with the cheap alcohol we were using as fuel. However Vargas had to be fetched and Sy-Changco and I took out the big car. The chauffeur was on leave in Hakone and we had to do the driving ourselves. The alcohol was so bad that the big Buick kept dying under us. It was a weird ride –Maranouchi and the Ginza were a ghostly graveyard with the skeletons of skyscrapers still flickering with flames at the windows. Tokyo station was in ruins and we went on to the next stop at Shinbashi. It was tense and strained work, driving in pitch darkness with dimmed headlights. The streetcars were dangerous with wreckage and heavy streetcar cables dangling overhead. At Shinbashi there was a light burning in the station-master’s office and when we asked about the train from Nara we were told that it would not go beyond the next station, Shinagawa. Off we went again on the main road to Yokohama. There were parties of refugees strung all along the road, some trudging patiently along with huge bundles on their backs; others, more fortunate, jammed into rattling open trucks that the army and the navy had put into an emergency bus line.

The Buick kept stalling and we had to ask the help of passers-by to get it started again as it was too heavy for one man to push while the other worked the gears and clutch. The atmosphere of common disaster made everyone helpful. Two trucks also stopped when we flagged them and took their turns pushing the car but it all came to nothing in the end and we had finally to give up the idea of getting to Shinagawa. Then one of our interpreters came riding by on a bicycle. Vargas had arrived and the interpreter had borrowed the station-master’s bicycle at Shinagawa to fetch the car. We told him what had happened and decided to let him go back to the embassy to see if the small car had been fixed up in the meantime –which as it turned out, it had.

The alert sounded again as we were on our way back to the embassy and somehow, moving through the graveyard that had once been Tokyo, it had the sound of wailing and lamentation, a thin and distant sound and, because most of the sirens had been destroyed, lonely and forlorn. It had a note of remembered sadness, pursuing the ghostly fugitives along the road.

15th May 1945

About 400 B-29’s raided Nagoya yesterday, “for the first time dropping incendiaries on a large scale in the daytime”, while 300 carrier-borne planes were raking Kyushu, following up a larger raid the day before by 900 planes. In Okinawa, reports the Asahi, “a confused battle is raging, with indications that the fighting line has been shifted nearer to Shuri and Naha. Evidently the enemy has come out to launch a general offensive both on land and sea.” In view of this, orders the Asahi, “is the enemy inordinately intending to win the war at one stroke?”

And the paper complains: “We have the favor of heaven, the harmony of men, and the advantage of locale. What we lack, it is regrettable to say, is materials.” Heaven favors the longest assembly-line.

Premier Suzuki knows it. At a conference of prefectural governors yesterday he reminded his hearers that the empire was now fighting along, “that it could not fight without an increase in production, and that there could be no increase “without the people’s trust”.

It is probably the chief disadvantage of a bureaucratic government that it must be taught this basic technique of the politician. Certainly it is startling for one who has lived under other forms of government to hear such elementary instructions as the premier felt compelled to give the governors:

“It is necessary that you should live and work in concert with the people…. With modesty and with the attitude of reflecting on your conduct daily, you are called to recognize straightforwardly the prevailing situation, give consideration to the spirit of the people at work, listen to their enthusiastic will, and respond thereto. The result will be that you will be kinder in your leadership….

“Show a good example to the people and take proper and timely measures as necessity arises, without being influenced by the ups and downs of the war situation. In the course of the performance of your duties you will find obstacles in time-honored customs and complicated regulations, but it is hoped that you will judge the situation on the basis of your responsibility…. and act with dispatch and courage.”

The Premier did not forget to give the governors a certain reassurance. As I often say,” he reminded them, “world war history shows that it is not always the big country that wins and the small country that is defeated. The country that fight it out under a moral order gets the ultimate victory.”

Which is no truer than it is to say that right makes might.

11th May 1945

A small peace clique is now taking shape in Japan. One of its leaders is sopposed to be General Ugaki who has, according to the story, openly announced his readiness to negotiate a peace through his former good friend, Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek. Ugaki has never been on good terms with his army colleagues; the army overthrew him when he was premier because he tried to cut the army budget. Now the military police is keeping an eye on Ugaki. The former Japanese ambassador to London, Yoshida, has already been arrested.

But the mass of the people is still for the war; while the Suzuki cabinet is none too popular, the premier himself has won the hearts of the people with his opening statement calling for victory “even over my dead body”. The army however is definitely out of favor. The present cabinet is a navy cabinet and, as one indication, its war minister stood in the last row in the official photographs. My informant had one more version of the fall of Koiso. The former premier, he said, has resigned because he disagreed with the army chiefs on strategy; that as the core of the official and semi-official explanations hinting at a lack of coordination between the armed forces and the administration. The army wanted to fight in Burma and the Philippines; Koiso, perhaps with an eye on internal conditions, favored withdrawal, at least of the bulk of the air force, to the homeland for defense against the B-29’s. Koiso seems to have won his point in defeat because it is said that the air garrison in Tokyo has been considerably strengthened while the Philippine and Burmese armies have been practically abandoned.

7th May 1945

For the past four days the Japanese government and press have mourned for Hitler and his Reich, Mussolini and his Republic. In the afternoon of the 3rd Suzuki expressed his “profound sympathy”. At the same time Togo called on the German ambassador to express deep condolences. The next day Iguchi, the official spokesman, eulogizing Hitler, declared that “his spirit, his labors, and his ideals will surely live in the hearts and minds of the German people. He will leave an indelible mark in history as one of the greatest leaders of nations, as a man of great vision who peered far ahead into the future, and as a man of action and labored with messianic zeal to create an order in Europe which would ensure stability, peace, and progress.” The press was not slow to follow the official lead. The Mainichi on Hitler and Mussolini: “Two great stars falling from the sky, trailing a magnificent glory behind them….” The Nippon Sangyo Keizai: “Tears of sympathy…” The Times on Hitler: “One of the towering characters of world history..”

But now the mourners are back from the graveyard and they are sitting uneasily in the lawyer’s office, waiting for the will to be read. The new heir does not look too friendly and the estate is bankrupt. Yesterday, calling a press conference hastily, the foreign minister made it clear that if the new Doenitz government was, as reported, making a separate peace with the Anglo-Americans, it was violating the tri-partite pact and Japan was consequently reserving freedom of action. Dutifully echoing the new line Asahi grumbled: “It is very regrettable that Germany has lost her political vision and virtue and ignored international goodfaith….”