29th May 1945

A German fleeing from Yokohama by car arrived in Miyanoshita gibbering with hysteria. From what we could make out Yokohama had been wiped out in a concentrated daylight raid. It was the first big raid on Yokohama; it will probably be the last because there is nothing left to bomb.

“They came from everywhere,” stammered the German. “It was like midnight. We could see nothing. Everything was covered by fire and smoke. There were people all around me burning alive.”

We did not know him so we did not speak to him but only listened from a distance. He was a stumpy red-faced man with soot in his hair and naked fear in his eyes.

19th May 1945

The diplomatic corps in Japan has fallen on evil days. It was dull enough after all the allied representatives were exchanged. Then Italy surrendered and the royalists were thrown into internment camp where, according to the story, the wife of the ambassador had to wash her own clothes. One by one the Axis satellites followed and the Rumanians, the Bulgars, the Finns, went off on their anxious trek home across Soviet Siberia, loaded with dry meat, hard biscuits, and smoked fish. Tokyo started to burn and the neutrals –the Swiss, the Swedes, the Spaniards– fled to the northern mountains of Karuizawa. The Soviets holed up in Gora. Only in Miyanoshita a little of the sparkle survived unheated rooms, language barriers, and mushy noodles every other day.

Now even the Fujiya has fallen into a melancholy stupor.The bridge tables in the lounge are empty. People talk in whispers, looking over their shoulders, along the quaint winding corridors or by the rocky pool, flashing with red and golden carp. It started with the Vichy French after France was liberated; now the blight has fallen on the Nazis and the fascists. They have been instructed by the police to talk only to their own countrymen, French with French, Germans with Germans, Italians with Italians. The tall blond Hungarian countess has already fled, in all her distraught elegance, to her French husband in Maruizawa; there was no one she could talk to in the hotel. It is scarcely a hardship for the Germans and the Italians; their groups are so numerous that they do not lack company. They have other troubles. The German ambassador has been summoned to the foreign office to learn what measures will now be taken “against the German embassy.” The Italians are wringing their hands because their assets have been frozen. How shall they pay their hotel bill if no money is forthcoming from Rome or Tokyo? But they cling to their racial pride; never, never, not even the humblest able-bodied seaman among them, will they ever work for the Japanese, under a Japanese boss, with Japanese at their side.

However it is we who have suffered most from the interdiction on international intercourse. We are only two Filipinos in the hotel; the Chinese and Manchu do not speak English well, if at all; the Thai keep to themselves; the Burmans have been our closest friends but it is impossible to be with them every night. The colonel and his exotic wife are very kind and amusing. We like them immensely; they are the only ones we trust. Still, the colonel has already shown us his collection of ancient decorated Japanese sword-guards, hundreds of them, intricate with entwined cherry-blossoms or chastely romantic with a hooting owl flying across the face of a tiny moon. He is investing his money in them; they are unbreakable, sought after by collectors, better than paper yen. We have also listened to Violet’s (her Burmese name is Lala) experiences with Japanese maids: the one who suddenly ran away in Maruizawa so that she had to push her baby’s pram three miles up a rocky mountain road; the one who stole her husband’s shirts; the flirt who, cribbling lipstick, wandered about in the garden under the window of the room where the Burmese cadets were playing poker, singing inviting love-songs until well past midnight; the police-agent who always took an hour off after lunch to report to kempei headquarters; the lame idiot whom they had engaged precisely because the police could not possibly get anything out of her; the reedy one who started by asking for bread, then wanted butter on it, then jam. A day came when there was neither butter nor jam to be had so Violet gave her bread with Japanese bean paste. “Whoever heard of eating that?” the maid cried and quit.

We have esten so much of the colonel’s private Chinese food and his special stock of chocolate that we are heartily ashamed of ourselves. Tonight we talked to our sole alternative, the Polish couple. He is a a short fleshy man with a great predatory nose. He came out to the east when a white man could make a fortune overnight and he did. Now it is said that he pays the highest income-tax in Manchoukuo. But he had to flee the country shortly before the war. He had received to many anonymous threats of kidnapping. One night a group of masked marauders broke into his mansion in Harbin. A Chinese servant slipped out quietly and locked the bandits in while he went for the police his master was forced to open his private safe and hand over his valuables. Afterward the bandits tried to force the Pole to go with them. They had an eye on a fat ransom. But he managed to hold them off until the police arrived. Were they bandits or political agents? At any rate the tycoon learned his lesson. He sold a half-interest in his holdings to the Japanese and surrendered to them the management and active control of his factories. Then he moved out. He and his wife took the last Japanese ship out of Japan; they were only a day from Hawaii when Pearl Harbor was attacked. The ship turned around and ran for home. He has lived in Fujiya since then. He was here when the Americans and British diplomats waited for the exchange ship that was to take them home. He can even recall the days when that empty wall in the main lounge was covered by a huge map of Greater East Asia, bright with the victorious flags of the imperial forces. Now he mopes in the lobby the the whole day; he misses his great financial fief in Harbin; he cannot even concentrate enough to write another of his treatises in defense of capitalism or, rather, of the entrepreneur and the manager.

I suspect he is not very welcome as a conversationalist. His habits of command and unquestioned superiority, sharpened by an irritable boredom, make him argue when he should chat pleasantly. He is, in his own way, intensely unhappy. He is undoubtedly a brilliant and energetic man; he spent part of his youth in a Russian prison as a Polish nationalist; he made his mark in his early twenties when he was an obscure clerk in the Russian railways by submitting a masterly report on the reorganization of the transportation system; he is not the man to sit idly in an upholstered chair under a potted palm. Besides, hw has known so much wealth that he can no longer adapt himself to the rigors of war. Tonight he talked to me of a decoration he had received in recognition of his contributions to the development of Manchoukuo. The decoration, as wll as an invaluable portrait of the emperor, had originally been granted him in 1940. At the last moment however someone had remembered that he was a Pole, that Poland had ceased to exist, and that there might be complications with Germany and the U.S.S.R. if a Pole were honored as such. Consequently he was given quietly the kudos only recently after the resurrection of Poland and the disappearance of Nazi Germany. He had the in his room now; they were precious possessions. “But,” he laughed, and this time there was no bitterness in his eyes but only a genuinely amused twinkle of discovery, “you know, I cannot get a pound of butter for them.”

13th May 1945

Signs of the times: the fourth and fifth sections of the bureau of political affairs of the foreign office are moving out of Tokyo to the provinces. They deal with European and American affairs.

My informant, a Japanese diplomat, said also there was no question of surrender for Japan. “It would be foolish to give up now,” he said. “We have little left to bargain with.” Was he hoping for a clash between the Anglo-Americans and the Soviets? No, he was not so stupid as that. What was the way out then? He shrugged his shoulders. His face was haggard. They would just have to keep on fighting till there was nothing left in Japan. He was too honest to speak about Japan’s allies in Asia; Japan, he knew, was not fighting at the head of Asia; she was facing Asia, as well as the rest of the world.

Listening to him I remembered the cadets at the Japanese military academy from various countries in Greater East Asia. These boys might be taken for Japanese; they were popular Japanese uniforms and receive the salutes of all Japanese soldiers lower in rank. They get the same rations; lodging; supplies, and equipment as Japanese cadets. As a matter of fact the academy authorities have bent over backwards in some cases to keep them happy. In response to a half-joking complaint of the Indian cadets, who asked that everyone stand at attention when the name of Subhas Chandra Bose was mentioned just as they were required to do when the emperor was named, instructors and students now stiffened up at the names of all the Daitoa heads of state. For the rest of it, they were not too unhappy; they were young enough to like the discipline and special privileges of the army. They were being rushed through military training; they had run through a year’s course in a few months; the academy, they had been told, was above all “the school where men where taught how to die.” Thus tank-busting reduced itself, they were taught, to hurling one’s self upon the armored vehicle, explosive in hand. It was surer that way, and cheaper.

But already they were too old to believe in Japan and Daitoa. They had seen to many things in their native countries. They exhibited the curious recurrent phenomenon of all Japanese attempts at indoctrinating the youth of Asia: at the academy all the other Asians would gang up against the Japanese. This, I thought, was all that remained of Japan’s intoxicating dream of leading the “one billion Asian” to the conquest of the world. How many were they in all? Not more than a hundred boys, running irreverently on the edge of contempt, suspicion, and insubordination, while he who would have been master bowed ingratiatingly at the names of his creatures. All those phantom armies of fanatics, irresistible, innumerable, had dwindled down to this poor raw handful of cynical youngsters who must be coddled lest they sulk in their barracks. Now in this desperate pass Japan was reaping the harvest of arrogance, distrust, tyranny and wanton cruelty. It was no longer mere foreboding. Samson had pulled the temple down over his head and the deadly avalanche had broken all over Asia.

Returning to Miyanoshita in the evening I saw the Burmese military attache for the first time in many weeks. He was feverish with excitement. The secret plans he had confined in me so often had matured. The Burmese national army had gone over to the British. He was in an anguish of impatience and regret. He had been one of the founders of that army. He had trained with it in secret hideouts off the coast of China even before the war. He had marched with it into Burma at the heels of the British. He had shared its disillusionment, its rage, its plane for revenge on the Japanese. Now, at the crucial moment, he was sitting in an hotel room at the foot of Fuji. He was my best friend in Japan. He had shared many secrets and I had always thought I knew all there was to know about him. But now, as he laughed his curious laugh and strode and stamped about the room, he seemed to me for the first time to be a symbol for all of Asia. He had suffered much at the hands of the white man, whom he had hated. Thrown into prison at 19, his career in medicine ruined at the very start, his private life thenceforth harried and hurt by police, he had spent 10 years agitating for the independence of his people. He had believed in Japan as the liberator of Asia and he had been betrayed. Liberation had become a mockery. The liberator, a clumsy and hateful tyrant. And now, if he still hated Britain, he hated Japan even more. Asia had found a new master and a new enemy.

12th May 1945

The spy scare continues to mount. Japan is alone against the world and all foreigners are suspect. Chatting with other Filipinos in the lobby of the Dai-Ichi hotel I was approached by a well-dressed Japanese. He came up with a smile and for a moment I thought I had met him somewhere. But he himself said afterward that he had made mistake; he apologized and then calmly joined our group and asked questions. Who were we? What nationality? What were we waiting for? Where did we live?

Later in the day Anita arrived from Miyanoshita. She had come down together with an Italian acquaintance. He was blonde, red-faced, obviously a foreigner and she looked like a Japanese to the policeman at the streetcar stop near the embassy. It was some time before he was convinced that he had not bagged a brace of spies.

Afterward, explaining and aplogizing for the incident, one or our Japanese interpreter told me two stories of real espionage. An admiral in full uniform had been stopped by the military police while driving in a secret factory district. The admiral was furious but the suspicions of the kempei had been aroused by the fact that his car was not a navy car. They proved to be justified. The man turned out to be an impostor and a spy. In another factory district a man in the uniform of an army lieutenant had asked to board at a farmhouse, explaining that he was assigned for duty in one of the plants nearby. He won the confidence of the old couple on the farm with the story that he was an orphan. Eventually he was even adopted and married to the daughter of the family. He asked many casual questions and they were answered. One day the factory was wiped out by a raid. The daughter, who was working there, was killed. The man never came back.

From another source I heard why the American raids are so accurate. The military police had long puzzled over the fact that the B-29’s were consistently hitting the right targets in a certain factory. They were not fooled, it seemed, by the most ingenious camouflage and the most convincing dummies. They were at a loss until one of the townspeople remarked to a friend that it was funny that his neighbor, the wife of the factory’s technical director, should always be at her sewing-machine, pedaling furiously whenever there was an air-raid. The police were intrigued. One day, at the height of a raid, they surrounded the house. Inside they caught the director transmitting information through a secret radio set while his wife worked at the sewing machine to muffle the noise. The man and his entire family were shot. He was a skilled technician who had come back to Japan on an exchange boat.

Whether these stories are true or not, they form the staple of conversation in diplomatic circles, together with the rations and black-market connections. The wife of one Italian diplomat said she has a stiff leg recently and called masseur. A man showed up and started off by asking questions. Where had she sprained her leg? Why? With whom? Finally he thanked her and left, promising to send a real masseur. At least, she consoles herself now, the police agent did not actually start massaging her leg.

A Portuguese was recently called in by the military police. What had she been talking about on a certain day when she had walked to Roppongi in a black dress and a green hat? She could not remember. It was two years ago.

The Fujiya hotel has a swimming pool and a group of Axis diplomats were sunning themselves around in one morning. In a short while a Japanese strolled up. Calmly he took off his shoes and coat and made himself comfortable in a lounge chair. He was obviously listening to the conversation and the diplomats turned to the innocuous topic of Chinese food. Most of them had been in China and now they reminisced hungrily of Peking duck, sweet and sour sauce, pickled eggs, and thick asparagus soup with chicken. The police agent was obviously puzzled. What was there to report in this series of culinary memoirs? Finally he could stand it no longer. He raised himself, turned, and asked: “Excuse, please. You talk about Chinese cooking, no?

“Yes,” answered one Italian cautiously. “Anything wrong?”

“No, nothing wrong. You like Chinese cooking?”

“Well, yes, we like Chinese cooking and,” he added discreetly, “also Japanese cooking.”

“What kind Chinese cooking?” the policeman suddenly demanded with the air of a hunter who has cornered his prey.

“What kind? You mean, north or south Chinese?”

“No, no. Please answer. What kind Chinese cooking you like? Nanking or Chunking?”

But the Japanese are the worst victims of their own spy-scare. A Japanese in Miyanoshita, who is married to a German lady he met during his studies in Berlin, does not dare walk in the streets of the village with his wife anymore. The same German woman, met the son and daughter of a Japanese marquis on the train from Tokyo the other day. They were old friends and they chatted amiably. As soon as they got off, however, the two Japanese were taken in to kempei headquarters. Why, they were asked, had they been talking to the foreign woman? What had they talked about?

But the boy was too quick-witted for them. “Is there anything to prohibit us from talking to a Japanese subject?” he asked.

“No,” the police agreed. “But this woman….”

This woman is married to a Japanese and therefore she herself is a Japanese subject.”

They were released. But they, like very other Japanese in the vicinity, have now let it be known to their foreign friends that they will have to be excused if they no longer exchange words or even salutes.

The life of a Burmese diplomat, for one, understands perfectly. To amuse herself one day she painted the fingernails of her favorite maid a vivid red. In the afternoon she decided to take a short trip and sent the maid to the railway to buy a ticket.

In a few minutes she was back, weeping copiously and pleading for some polish remover. The station-master had refused to sell a ticket to a Japanese girl with painted fingernails “like the hairy devils”.

6th May 1945

There was quite a heavy downpour today. A French brother laughed after Mass: “It’s a hailstorm. But now it is no longer Heil Hitler but Hail Columbia.” Coming down afterward from Gora to Miyanoshita on the electric tram I noticed, that there were two cars instead of the usual one. The First was packed to the doors; the other, completely empty except for two Soviet diplomats. The Japanese police are now so suspicious of them that they will no longer allow them in the same cars with the rest of us.

1st May 1945

Today the Mainichi brought the first reaction to the surrender of Germany. “In the supposition that this report is true,” the paper writes the following analysis: “In the first place we want to remind our readers that the European war and the war of Greater East Asia are not one and the same thing. In their underlying causes they may have an extremely close resemblance. But they were by no means planned together…. Therefore the end of the European war will not mean the end of the war of Greater East Asia. The second question is what effect the surrender of Germany and Italy will have on our fighting strength. The answer has two parts. The first concerns the amount of support we are losing. Although we are not experts in military affairs, we can easily imagine whet amount and what kind of help we have been receiving from our allies far away in Europe. Consequently it cannot be said that we shall suffer any particular loss in this direction. The other point is this: what are America and Britain going to do with the surplus of fighting strength they have now obtained in Europe? It would be of no use to make any light conjectures. It is possible to imagine certain things…. However, at the present moment, it is better to refrain from doing so….”

Waiting for the tram at Miyanoshita, I came across an Italian acquaintance, a former naval officer, together with a Japanese girl and a Japanese man. The man bowed cordially to the Italian, when the tram finally came around the bend, wishing him a safe trip and a speedy return. He acted like a solicitous old friend. The girl did not say a word to either of the two; she appeared tovbe a complete stranger. She boarded the tram without a look behind her and stood quietly in a corner. Only those who knew them were aware of the fact that the girl was the Italian’s common-law wife, a former barmaid from Kobe. She had come up to the hotel for a short visit to her lover. But Japan was at war with the white man and, although she loved one, she must do so secretly, behind closed shutters. She was not pretty but she knew, as few Japanese girls do, how to wear European clothes. They made her look even lonelier in her corner of the tram, by the smudged window, out of which she was looking with a defiant misery. The man, neither of them knew. He was a military policeman who had conscientiously shadowed them during her entire stay.

The trip to Tokyo was interesting in itself. Yesterday morning 200 bombers and fighters raided Tachikawa, Hiratsuka, and Atsugi for about an hour. Hiratsuka is on the line from Odawara to Tokyo and when we neared it, we were ordered to pull down the blinds. Supervision was not very strict however and I caught a glimpse of the new landscape, flat and streaming under the dusty sun.

15th April 1945

As was to be expected, a Japanese newspaper (in this case the Mainichi) has brought up the inevitable “Roosevelt has died. It was heaven’s punishment. As the incarnation of American imperialism he had a cursed influence on the whole of mankind.” The English edition of the same paper added today: “He was undoubtedly the outstanding criminal of the century.” The Times, like the official statements, was more sober. “Brilliant and spectacular as he was, Roosevelt will be found on sober analysis to have been a clever opportunist who rode on the crest of the wave of the times rather than a creative statesmen who actually shaped the course of events.” The New Deal, said the Times, would have “arisen with or without Roosevelt.” And America, under the drive of a Messianic complex and over-expanded industry, would have entered the war “sooner or later” with or without Roosevelt. “Although he may always be remembered as a brilliant man,” concluded the Times, “he will hardly be honored as a truly great character.”

There was enough bad news yesterday, however, to sour any taste of satisfaction in Japanese mouths. An imperial headquarters communique on Okinawa could list only defensive “successes”. Another communique issued simultaneously revealed that in the heavy raid of the night of the 13th to the morning of the 14th about 170 B-29’s had, among other things, set fire to “parts of the edifices of the imperial palace, the Omiya palace, and the Akasaka detached palace” while the main hall and worship hall of the Meiji shrine had completely burnt down. “It is learned however,” added the Mainichi respectfully,” that Their Majesties, the Emperor, the Empress, and the Empress Dowager are safe and that no damage whatever was suffered by the three sanctuaries of the imperial palace.” Suzuki promptly took to the air last night. After announcing “with awe and trepidation” that Their Majesties were safe, and that “the sacred object of worship at the Meiji shrine is reported to have been removed to safety”, he pledged first determination to avenge these “hideous crimes beyond description”.

A board of information announcement, also issued yesterday, revealed how the Japanese people will be organized on the basis of a cabinet decision made the 23rd March. A “national volunteer force” (also called people’s patriotic corps” depending on the translator) will be established. Apparently the membership will not be drafted; “the welling will of the people” will be “the motive power”. There will be no central command (at first it was expected that the premier would be commander-in-chief). The duties and functions of the corps have not been defined but “if the situation becomes tense, the people’s patriotic corps in the localities that bid fair to become battle theaters” will be “converted into battle units” under the command of the local army, navy, or naval station leaders. Other straws in the wind:

About 100 girls in an airoplane factroy have banded themselves into a “women’s death-defying defense corps”. They are determined to “safeguard aircraft, give first aid and act as messengers in case of emergency.

Members of a reservist society in Akita have decided to refrain from drinking for one year.

Newspapermen from now on cannot resign, be fired, or be transferred without official permission.

The latest rumor has it that the Japanese government may move to the mountains in Miyanoshita.

14th April 1945

On my way back to Miyanoshita I walked past the now familiar landscape of ruin and chaos, all the way from the embassy on Kudan hill to Tokyo station. No streetcars, no elevated trains, no subways were running. In our vicinity there was once more no electricity, gas, or water. In front of the kempei-tai headquarters someone had made a neat pile of rusty iron roofing, and beside it another pile of scorched and twisted bicycle frames, but nobody had come to take them away.

There was a long line of squalor and ragged fear waiting for the trains out of Tokyo. Two days ago the Tokyo metropolitan food section announced that the rationing system will be remodelled on the basis of the abrupt decrease in the capital’s population, which will be officially determined in a survey on the 20th. “There should not be even one single dishonest declaration,” urged the Yomiuri, squarely facing the problem of Tokyo’s “ghost population”, the non-existent residents whose names are used by many to pad their ration rolls.