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.

10th March 1945

Shortly after midnight we were awakened by explosions nearby. We tried the lights but they would not go on so that we had apparently slept through the alert and alarm. The explosions had sounded near enough to make us uneasy and we dressed hastily in the dark. We had grown so used to the alarms that for some time we had neglected to lay out our clothes and shoes before going to bed. We had not even left our candle at arm’s length. But we managed to grope our way down to the basement quickly enough. It was pitch-dark and almost no one spoke but the crowd made itself felt; it stirred, sighed, breathed rapidly, pressing itself into the deepest corners like a frightened whispering hunted thing. I left Anita there and went up and out.

The neighborhood association officials were running about softly in the dim foyer, readying pails and staves. I did not want to look like a spectator and took one of the hooked staves in my hand. It gave me an official look and one of the officials thanked me with fine courtesy for nothing at all. The skies were already covered with smoke. It was a night of wind and cloud, and the bloody mists, streaked with gray and black, went scudding swiftly overhead. There were fires in the familiar directions, downtown and the imperial palace, but they seemed far enough away and I went back in to wander through the deserted corridors.

Suddenly there was a rush of feet and cries. Fire had broken out — inexplicably I had heard nothing — almost next door in the army post-exchange. Hurrying along the empty sidewalks, under the burning clouds, sharp smoke in my eyes, I had for a moment a queer dreamy sensation of having been left alone in the middle of this great deserted city going up in flames. I ran on quickly until I saw a small group of neighborhood officials hovering uncertainly at the edges of a blazing army store-house. There was no-one else around; everyone was standing guard over his own house. The fire was already out of control. The small red neighborhood association hand-pump never looked so pathetically futile as now that it sent out its thin thread of water into the leaping flames. A girl in an army smock started to pull out a packing case that had been left on the edge of the warehouse but it was a hopeless task. The wind was howling and leaping madly from one side to the other. A red hand flicked carelessly toward the girl and she staggered back.

There were only three small rickety shops separating the Nonomiya from the fire and it seemed to be a question of luck whether they would go or not. The wind kept changing, twisting blindly now here, now there. Then it made up its mind. The stationery shop started to steam and smoke. We made some half-hearted efforts to save it but even the owner soon, began, throwing the bedclothes out of the window. There was now no water to be had; the pressure had almost completely disappeared. The army had built three range water reservoirs for the waterhouse’s protection but they had been wedged in, with what now seemed incredible stupidity, between the shop-fronts and the flank of the apartment house. It was impossible to get through. We stood and stared at the flames for some time, uncertain as to what to do next. The fire-engines were wailing all around us but none were coming our way.

“We should pull down these shops and make a fire-break,” somebody suggested.

“With what?” was the obvious reply.

I looked at the hooked staff in my hand and threw it away. The glass in the stationery shop was cracking and we helplessly watched the fire run along the shelves. Soon the office next-door would go and lastly the pet shop. It was curiously empty. The gaily-colored birds were not in their cages and as I went through I wondered vaguely whether the owner took them home every night or whether he had opened their cages when the fire began to spread. It was a shallow shop and from a narrow balcony in the back I could put out my hand and touch the wall of the Nonomiya.

Still nobody believed that the Nonomiya would burn; the seven-story apartment-house, with its clean modern lines alternately painted in wide blue and white stripes, never looked so safe and strong. It rose like a calm square tower from the empty crimson hill.

The neighborhood association leaders were having a hasty conference in the lobby. They had an air of alert confidence too. Orders were issued and they were answered with smart “Hai, hai, hai.” They seemed to say: Well, we have done everything we could do for these pesky neighbors; now we are on our own and this place won’t burn, thank God. They nodded to me briskly and I felt a little ashamed that I had already became uneasy. It was difficult to find Anita in the basement; the place was crowded with women whispering softly to one another in the expectant darkness. When I finally located her I said it would be wiser to do a little packing, not much because it did not look so very bad, but still, the fire was almost next door. We were groping our way out when we heard the voice of the reception clerk calling out in a sobbing hysterical wail for her father, the apartment janitor; they lived in the neighborhood and her father had the key to her trunk.

“Otosan, otosan!”

There was something urgent in her voice that made us quicken our own steps. Once in our apartment we drew back the curtains and there was no need of light. Below our front windows was a sea of flames, reflected ironically in those useless isolated reservoirs. From the back window we could see a great ring of flames all around us; it seemed that Tokyo was bounded with fire and smoke. Just across us, in the center of the ring, there was a vast blue spout of gas, cold, clean, and pure in the heart of that burring sky.

I told Anita to pack a suitcase with essentials while I went down to see if I could help. In the corridor I met our neighbor the factory owner. He was as chirpy as usual. “No need to worry,” he grinned, helpfully flashing his light as we walked. “It looks all right.” There was nothing much to do downstairs. There was still no water. We trudged about conscientiously but helplessly. Then for the first time I became aware of the bombers flying overhead. I was too excited to feel afraid. They were very low but it was impossible to see them through the murk; one could only hear them, prowling and growling watchfully in the darkness, now shouting loud challenges and threats, now fading into distant rumbling full of menace and disdain. Staring up into the mysterious void surcharged with the sound of formless nameless death, I could understand for the first time how the Japanese could look on the destruction of their homes, not as the planned vengeance of a human foe, but as a natural catastrophe, an unpredictable earthquake, an incomprehensible typhoon, “divine punishment”.

As the fire spread, more and more people began to appear in the streets but they made little noise. They ran about softly, like melancholy shadows, bent under great ghostly bundles, appearing and disappearing in the vague thickening mists of smoke. Once more I felt alone, deserted, and I ran back quickly into the apartment house, through the foggy lobby down into the basement. There was no one there. I ran up again out into the street. A gust of wind swept back the smoke and I saw a group of people huddled at the next corner. Someone was waving. It was Anita.

“We were told to take shelter here. Where have you been?”

Fortunately the embassy was nearby. We decided to take our suitcases there for safety. We had scarcely set out when we heard rapid steps behind us.

“Wait for me. Oh, please take me with you!”

It was Yvonne, hysterical, her face streaked with soot.

We went on again. The fire had circled around the calm graceful tower of the Nonomiya and almost the whole of Kudan hill was blazing. We panted our way up the steep slope amid swirling smoke and flying cinders. The pale silent people ran noiselessly around us or sat quietly on the sidewalks, watching their spectral burdens. Only one man spoke to us. He came out of the smoke suddenly.

“It is not safe to go up,” he warned.

But when we went on, he did not stop us. Like a character in some shadow play who had spoken his line, he fell back into the crimson smoke.

The embassy too was still safe. I left Anita and Yvonne and went back to the apartment house with two of our boys. I decided it would be better after all to try to get everything out. Surprisingly the lobby was now full of people. Apparently the refugees from the neighborhood had come to exactly the opposite conclusion. Somehow they imparted, an air of security and confidence. The people from the neighboring office had dragged their two cash registers to the front door of the Nonomiya and were now sitting on them. Nevertheless we decided to go up and get out as much as we could. The fire next-door was flush with the Nonomiya’s flank. The glare was dazzling as we ran up the staircase, passed the cracked windows. The corridors were muddy and treacherous with abandoned water-hose. One of the rooms had apparently caught fire during my absence but the abortive conflagration had been put out. Our own apartment still seemed pretty safe and we were able to make two more round-trips to the embassy.

The third time it was too late. Once more the fire had smashed one of the lower windows and had leaped in eagerly; this time too swiftly to be stopped. It ran along the linoleum carpets and the wood paneling, sneaked in under closed doors, snatched at curtains and bedspreads. We were driven back from the staircase by the glare and the heat. Now, at the last minute, the few tenants left made an effort to save their belongings. It was already too late. But still it was eerily quiet except for the crackle of flames and the crash of timber. For once the excitable Japanese did not shout and they did not weep. They fell back from the fire with timid reluctance, staring fixedly into the devouring flames. Now the windows of the apartment were lit up one by one; behind the glass, still whole, the rooms were bright and gay; from the burning hill the burning tower rose in harmonious climax.

We lingered for a moment to watch. From a doorway a German woman in a glistening fur-coat tugged at me by the sleeve.

“Excuse me. Have you come from the apartment? How is the fourth floor?”

“I’m afraid it’s burning.”

She smiled uncertainly and thanked me. “It must have been like this in Berlin.”

In the embassy I found Anita and Yvonne sit in the fitful dark amid suitcases and bundles. Yvonne was babbling nervously about, her panic.

“I saved only one suitcase,” she giggled. “And it has my summer clothes.”

She paused and then lifted up a covered cage in her hand. She had not forgotten her pet bird. But she had sacrificed a French manuscript of which she had been making copies for the author. The manuscript represented 20 years of research in Japanese literature, It was the only copy.

“Oh, he’ll never forgive me,” she wailed, belatedly remembering the author. And then, with an uncertain smile: “I had better not tell him I saved my bird. He would never understand.”

I found the ambassador in the embassy tower. There were three Japanese policemen with him who had suddenly appeared for his “protection”. On this highest point of Kudan hill one could submerge individual cares in the humbling spectacles of general catastrophe. We were surrounded by concentric circles of fire that the wind whipped faster and faster in their racing orbits. Tokyo was burning and it seamed a little silly to say anything.

I suppose everyone in Tokyo that night imagined himself in the very center of those circular hells. I know we did, looking down on the flames that lurched and lunged up the slope toward us. Soon the tall schoolhouses around the embassy were blazing too. As telephone poles crashed down with fiery explosions, there was a little fear that the garage, with its deposit of gasoline, would go up. But a high wall and a spacious garden saved the building and shortly before dawn we felt we were safe.

I went out into the street again and made a round of burning Kudan. Already sentries with fixed bayonets were on guard on street-corners but they did not stop me. One little fire-engine had finally found its way to one of the cheap apartment houses nearby but it could do nothing much. It was pretty hopeless to try to save these woodland-paper doll-houses, crowded elbow to elbow and caught In the teeth of a raging wind. There were still burning incendiary shells on the streets although the all-clear had sounded sometime during the chaos that was now dying down. Bright blobs of flame were scattered all along the slope and on the sidewalks one stumbled on empty dented shells. But nobody bothered about them now. There was nothing left to burn except the asphalt of the pavement. A monotonous crashing of tile and tin followed me as I went back up the hill. All around me the city lay beaten flat in its ashes.

The students in the girls’ college opposite the gates of the embassy were doggedly trying to save the building when I returned. Someone said that three of the girls had been caught in the basement. The faces of their schoolmates gave no clue to this tragedy: blank and expressionless in their grimy mompei, they were lined up in a pail brigade from the ornamental pool in the embassy gardens to their college entrance, passing the buckets along with soft encouraging “hai, hai, hai,” down the line.

Vargas had planned to leave for Karuizawa in the morning and the fire did not change his mind. Baggage and provisions were loaded on and the schoolgirls at the gate stopped for a while to stare at the sleek black limousine rolling smoothly and disdainfully down past the smoking ruins. “Hai, hai, hai,” — was there a note of envy, hatred, threat, pride, resignation, or the gentle melancholy gladness that a traveler in the desert feels even for the momentary illusion, the sweet swindle, of peace and security flashed by a mirage? The voices were a soft monotone and they gave no sign.

We had not had any sleep and we were too tired to have any now. But we went to bed for a rest after seeing Yvonne off to her consulate. Later a number of officials called to inquire and express regrets. The German rector of the Jesuit university, making a round of Catholic colleges on his bicycle, was among the first. He had watched the B-29’s break through and come over, one or two at a time, from here and there, flying low, much below the anti-aircraft fire. They had cleverly kept the circles of fire going, narrowing them, it seemed, closer and closer. His neighbors had fought the advancing fire together, stern and pitiless to one another. Those who left the fire-fighting units to try to save something out of their homes were fittingly punished; what they had saved was tossed back into the flames. Only once had they paused in their grim task. A B-29 was hit over their heads and, clapping and jumping, they had set up a wild pathetic cheer.

Later the embassy butler arrived. He shambled in, gaunt, unshaven, clutching a blackened empty pail. He had saved nothing else. The embassy laundress had also lost her house. She stalked in like a heartbroken ghost. She said she had managed to save a bundle of clothes but the neighborhood association officials had slapped her down for her selfishness and had thrown the bundle into the fire. That was the story she told. Others said she had been hysterical and it had been necessary to slap her back into her senses. She had thrown herself into a half-burning shelter, clutching an odd wooden shoe.

Yvonne returned shortly after lunch, if possible more excited than ever. She had been to see the French consul and that dignitary had announced to her dramatically: “I am no longer French consul-general!” The Japanese, she insisted had “declared war” on Indo-China. It was all very confusing, she admitted. All she knew for certain was that she was not supposed to have any dealings with other foreigners. And ah yes, when she had gone to the district police station to report, the first thing they had told her was: “You spent the night at the Philippine embassy, no?” Somehow we did not seem to care very much whether Japan had “declared war” on Indo-China or on Monaco. We were more interested in Yvonne’s story that, hounded and nagged by the disconsolate author whose manuscript she had lost, she had managed to climb up to her apartment on the seventh floor of the Nonomiya. Apparently all the floors had been gutted but the fires had been put out by mid-morning.

We decided to go up to see our own apartment. We found the ground floor totally undamaged. Two of the apartments, we were also told, had escaped by some chance. Not ours. We went slowly up the staircase, stripped to its concrete foundations and already cold under the feet although the stench of smoke and wet embers was heavy. There was nothing left in the apartment, of course, except a few cups and saucers and two pots which we carefully put aside. The wind was whipping through the broken windows from the lugubrious ruins outside. Afterward we sent someone to fetch the pots and the china but when he got there, half an hour later, they were gone.

Night fell with charitable haste to cover, the ravaged city. There was no electricity, water, or gas in the embassy and we had dinner at the house of a colleague. It seemed magically peaceful and comfortable there after a long dismal walk past the rocky desert of ruins, with the homeless stretched out on a stray straw-mat or two under the gaunt burnt trees. Strangely enough it was not so much these dumb shivering victims who struck the highest note of emptiness and desolation as the sound of countless water faucets spouting unheeded in the wilderness of tangled, debris and the naked gas pipes burning at the mouth with a delicate blue flame, and no one to bother to turn them off.

9th March 1945

This morning I saw the girls who work in the army offices and hotels on Kudan hill lined up in front of the Yasukuni gates. Across the street from them a group of officers were delivering a lecture, apparently on fire-fighting because there were three or four paper screens set up along the sidewalk and, as I passed by, a soldier was opening a tin cylinder smelling strongly of gasoline. I was tempted to stop and watch but I received so many inquiring glances that I moved on.

The vernaculars carried a photograph of the wife and daughter of the Japanese commander on Yiojima. They were praying in the snow outside the inner shrine of the Yasukuni and the caption said that they had prayed that some of the snow on the streets of Tokyo might find its way to the arid caves of Japan’s newest volcanic battlefield.

But it will take more than prayers to reassure the people. The outspoken Yomiuri lashed out today with an editorial teetering dangerously oh the rim of discontent. “The situation at Yiojima is growing ever more pressing. It is no longer the time to talk of favorable or divine opportunities. Frankly speaking, we have been driven into a corner in spite of the valiant fighting of the men at the front and all our efforts at home. Where should we look for the reason of all this? Certainly it is not merely accidental. It is no longer permissible to use the material resources of the enemy as an excuse. The production capacity of America was known from the outset and it has not shown any surprising increase of late…. All our information and preparation concerning this point must be supposed to have been completed from the time of the imperial, rescript declaring war…” The paper then goes on; “It is being said that even though the enemy may land on these shores, we can surely win if we encounter him with the fierce determination of each one of us killing one enemy soldier… But can we rely safely on that determination alone? That is what the people are sincerely feeling…. We must reflect on the past and present and thoroughly probe the reasons why things have come to this pass. Without finding and eradicating the reasons, we cannot face the enemy landing and turn the divine opportunity into reality.”

Meantime even official circles are beginning to think that the Yomiuri’s unspoken “reason” is that the people are not united behind the war. Yesterday Premier Koiso invited Admiral Seizo Kobayashi, president of the Imperial Rule Assistance Political Association (the government party), and some 300 others engaged in organizing a new political party, to his official residence. Admiral Kobayashi struck his breast penitently and confessed: “The political association heretofore in existence aimed chiefly at the management of the diet and was lacking in its efforts to connect the people directly to war politics. Now is the time for us to give up the old ways and set up a sure-victory no-defeat structure at once. Herein lies the reason for our proposal for the creation of a great political association…. What is badly needed today is that the whole people should become subjects of the imperial land in a thorough-going sense, irrespective of vocations, and offer their lives for the sake of the state. Our forefathers at every national crisis forgot their small differences and worked for their great objectives, overcoming difficulties in a firm blood league. We are confident that when the people understand our objective, they will gladly join this great political association.”

To a people accustomed to reading between the lines, like the Japanese, the implications are ominous, not only in the admiral’s confiteor but also in the Yomiuri’s quo-vadimus. The impression one gathers from it all is that the Japanese, fantastic as it sounds, are indifferent to the war, divided by petty quarrels, bewildered, by the disaster that is overwhelming them; they have lost touch with the government and lost faith; they are content to stand apart from a tragic adventure which they cannot understand and in which they have no hand, absorbed in the intimate problem of the next meal, the next incomprehensible air-raid, while the vast wave of ruin looms darkly over their bent unseeing heads.

Even the generals are no exception. General Kuroda, the former Japanese commander in the Philippines, had dinner with Vargas last night. Flushed with drink, this bibulous garrulous old man, who spent his term in the Philippines on the golf course and in bars, complained bitterly about being relieved by Yamashita. “I know the Filipinos better than Yamashita.” “Yamashita talks too much.” “We were classmates and he was not so bright.”

When Vargas brought out a bottle of pre-war American whiskey, Kuroda chuckled gratefully and then leaned over. “You know,” he giggled, “we two are in the best place after all. You could have been president but they did not want you. I should have been commander-in-chief but they did not want me. Who’s sorry now, eh? Eh?”

When Kuroda staggered home, he was still clutching the bottle.