Shattered in war, starving in defeat, the Jap today toadies to his American "overlords," but hopes to regain domination of the East

WILLIAM D. BAYLES March 15 1946

Shattered in war, starving in defeat, the Jap today toadies to his American "overlords," but hopes to regain domination of the East

WILLIAM D. BAYLES March 15 1946 in Defeat

Shattered in war, starving in defeat, the Jap today toadies to his American "overlords," but hopes to regain domination of the East


IN TOKYO’S burned-out main street, the Ginza, a little Japanese in a conglomeration of rags shuffled up to us. My companion was an American Air Force major. Pointing to his pilot’s wings, the panese asked, “You B-29 flier?” The major said he as. The Japanese grinned. “You kill my wife, two daughters. My home go p-o-o-f. Whole city go p-o-o-f.”

"We said nothing; an answer was hard to find. But we didn’t need one. “You great war man,” the little Japanese said, patted my companion admiringly on the arm, grinned toothily, bowed and shuffled off.

Perhaps this incident is insignificant, but it illustrates the amazing incongruities and contradictions that characterize life in occupied Japan. The Japanese Army, undefeated in the field and still feeling its strength, is mostly back home, and officers and men in full uniform fill the streets. Marines from Iwo Jima and Okinawa, who a few months ago were killing Japs by the thousand and watching their buddies die by the hundred, share the same sidewalks, streetcars and

trains with their late enemies, the only apparent difference being that both are now disarmed.

Becausr of practically impassable dirt roads many parts of the country have not yet seen an American soldier, and Japanese troops are in full control. The Japanese police, a terror organization if the world ever saw one, operate in full force, and are more important in Japanese eyes than the occupying Army. When a black-uniformed Tokyo policeman with jangling sword walks through Hibiya Park at twilight, Japanese girls sitting with G. I.’s scurry away, and no amount of American assurance will convince them that they are safe from their own police.

The “liberation” brought to Japan by General MacArthur has not freed the people either from their police or the military caste. An American doing some investigation work in Japan made the mistake of hiring an ex-major-general as his interpreter and liaison man. I accompanied him to one interview with an important Japanese businessman. The ex-major-general, a grim little man dressed in a poor quality civilian suit with

trouser legs stuffed into his yellow military boots and wearing his military cap, led us to the building designated for the interview. We wore shown into an office where the man we wanted to see stood flanked by several of his assistants. While they were still deep in their bows, the major-general barked, “I, General Yamamoto, visit you and bring two foreigners. You will answer questions.”

Throughout the interview the major-general wielded the whip and the Japanese cowered. He interpreted what he thought should be interpreted, barked warnings at the businessman and his staff, and occasionally he changed a reply in interpreting it. It left both of us impressed with the power of the Japanese military hierarchy even in defeat.

No Frat Ban

ASIDR from the officers, who generally stride arro. gantly along in their dirty brown uniforms and refrain from looking at American soldiers or U. S. equipment rolling through the streets, everyone is curious and almost everyone is friendly. Fraternization is unimpeded by regulations or curfews, and Japanese girls eagerly seek G. I. boy friends, not only for the cigarettes and chocolate bars they get, but because it enhances a girl’s prestige in her locality to have an American soldier visit her. There have been reports of returned Japanese soldiers taking girls to task for their lack of loyalty, but no beatings or head shavings have been reported. In rural districts crowds of youngsters in picture-book clothes shout gleefully at jeeps plowing through muddy roads, hold up their fingers in a V sign, and ask for “chung goom.” To stop a jeep in a village is almost fatal. Within minutes it is surrounded by a chattering, grinning mob of curious people, and their desire to be helpful is often overwhelming.

The topic of chief interest wherever one goes is still the atomic bomb. Intelligent Japanese bring up the subject at odd moments and a«k bluntly, “How you make atomic bomb?” On a Tokyo street corner a postwar organization calling itself “The Association for International Friendship

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Through Language” recently erected a large instructional billboard with questions and answers in Japanese and English. The first question: “Who is

world’s most awesome personage?” Answer: “His

Imperial Majesty, Emperor Hirohito.” The second question: “Who is world’s most powerful being?”

Answer: “The atomic bomb.”

The Four Freedoms made less of an impact. Most of the people have little faith in promises of freedom of any kind as long as the police and militarists are left* in control, but a few brash orators occasionally hold forth in Tokyo squares, and their words and gestures reveal the same uncontrolled violence that characterized the actions of Japanese soldiers. None that I have listened to has had any kind of political program, but all demand more killing and destruction. They want to see more heads roll, this time the heads of the Japanese who lost the war and the wielders of power wherever they are found. Listening to the bloodcurdling threats and demands screamed at them by half-hysterical orators, the crowd that can always be depended on in Japan for any attraction looks as impassive as a herd of Holstein cattle.

Recently I observed a different application of the Four Freedoms. A poster announced a “Grand, Concert of Forbidden Music on Two Xylophones.” The forbidden music included selections from Bizet, Dvorak and Morton Gould.

Throughout Japan the scene today is peaceful and more hopeful than anyone dared anticipate a few months ago. The Japanese warrior has again become a docile little fellow, eager to please. There have been no reports of violence and the occasional rowdyism of a few American sailors and G.I.’s bring forth only polite protests at headquarters. In the Nipponese mind the Americans have been fitted into the category of overlords. They subdued the Japanese war lords and the emperor made public obeisance to them. Therefore Mr. Moto, the Japanese man in the street, accords them the same unquestioning subservience that he otherwise reserves for swashbuckling military figures and the members of the sacred royalty. It fits entirely within the framework of his thinking that Japanese generals left in command of outlying territories should have 10 Japanese civilians slaughtered as reprisal for the plundering of a stranded jeep, or that Tokyo police should chase Japanese pedestrians helter-skelter to make way for a group of U. S. sailors strolling through Hibiya Park.

Not only has Mr. Moto been able to rationalize defeat, but he has even managed to twist it into a kind of left-handed honor. “The United States,” a professor of history at the Imperial University told me, “is the foremost white nation. The Japanese are foremost among the Asiatics. To be defeated by the Americans is therefore an honor.” The professor evidently looked on the war as a kind of tournament in which the United States was the final victor and Japan the runner-up.

All Smiles at Hiroshima

IF RESENTMENT against the Americans for the wholesale destruction and appalling casualties inflicted on Japanese cities and their inhabitants exists in Mr. Moto’s mind, it is hidden behind the smile that camouflages his face when he talks with Americans. It was reported in the American press that following the atomic bomb explosions at Hiroshima and Nagasaki the survivors were so incensed that no American would dare enter the town for at least 10 years. I went to Hiroshima and encountered smiles and an entirely human eagerness to tell the bomb story. In makeshift hospitals people with horrible burns, faces and bodies that were a mass of festering sores and scabs, mangled limbs, and injuries from which they were slowly dying grouped around me, each eager to give his personal account of the morning when a lone B-29 hummed high in the sky and released a parachute. As they vied with one another in adding details to the story, the victims smiled through their bandages and scabs as though it had all been a highly amusing incident. The bomb, a badly burned doctor said, was “a magnificent object of destruction.”

Behind Mr. Moto’s smile stands a little Asiatic who has probably suffered more than the man in the street of any other nation. Most of Japan’s principal cities are flat in the most literal sense of the word. Flying over them one sees fire-reddened, dead areas crisscrossed by streets. The view is different from that of Europe’s blitzed cities, because no walls are standing and practically no bomb craters are visible. Fire was the destructive agent in Japan. In Tokyo, Yokohama, Osaka and other towns with modern office buildings, the business centres mostly

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withstood the fires, but mile on mile of the congested wooden tenements and small business houses are gone, burned to cinders. In a single attack on Tokyo, on March 9, 1945, 272,000 houses were burned and 79,000 people killed.

Mr. Moto Is Starving

His home and possessions gone, Mr. Moto resorted to rags and castoff military clothing, adopted wooden clogs for shoes, and slept in basements, shacks built of salvaged material, or the subway stations. He still lives that way, scrounging for scraps of food, carrying his worldly possessions in a colored kerchief or knapsack, and sleeping in the open or packing sardinelike in whatever shelter he can find. His wife haunts the back street kitchen entrance of U. S. Army messes or wanders aimlessly along rural roads, hunting roots, greens, slugs or anything else edible, usually with a baby strapped on her back and two or three youngsters trailing behind her. Members of the Moto families of Tokyo are dying off at the rate of several thousand every night, and estimates of the death toll this winter in all Japan run from 10 to 15 millions. In comparison Europe’s plight could be described as mildly disturbing.

Observers who have studied conditions in the various war theatres say that as a victim of exploitation the I Japanese civilian hasn’t a close rival. In the wartime Japanese Government the civilian hadn’t even a voice. Generals and admirals occupied all the top control posts and divided things among themselves. The civilians got scraps or nothing at all. Servicemen received five cups of rice a day, civilians two. Soy paste and soy sauce, the two other staples of Japanese diet, were rationed in the same proportion. When more salt was needed for filling artillery sliells, civilians were left without a grain. The same was true of gasoline, textiles, flour, tobacco and tea. Sugar and even the bottles of sake on store ¡ shelves were requisitioned for the I production of aviation fuel.

The nitrogen production was diverted entirely to war purposes, leaving no fertilizer for the overworked rice paddies. As a result this year’s yield is 30% of normal, and millions will surely starve. Farmers were even recruited I during the final year of the war for

industry, with no regard for the deteriorating food situation. The military stores were adequate and that was all that mattered.

Lathes, drills and other piecework machines were moved into private homes, and each family was given a production quota which the police and local mayors persuaded them to meet. Today the acres of ruins of Japanese cities are dotted with these machines. In addition to their normal heavy work on the land farmers were also required to do piecework. The machines have now been moved out of their houses and stand along the roads. Students of 12 years and older were sent to factories, where they worked 12-hour shifts for 30 days, then had a day off.

To keep the nation buckled to the war machine the Government maintained a block and cell system of espionage and terrorization modelled after the Nazi system in Germany. It was called “Japanese neighborism,” and its aim is nicely described in propaganda pamphlets as “self-vigilance and the development of the proper social philosophy and ethics.”

in return for Mr. Moto’s efforts the war lords gave him nothing, not even protection. Gas masks were not manufactured for civilians because it was assumed that the Americans would not use gas. No air raid shelters were provided by the Government, but when the fire raids began to scourge the towns the civilians were permitted to lift sections of the 12-inch concrete slabs used for sidewalk construction and to dig shallow trenches into which they could crawl. After serious air attacks these trenches were filled with the corpses of Japanese who had been either suffocated or baked by the raging fires that swept whole sections of the city.

Planned Race Suicide

In the end, when it became obvious that the Americans would invade the home islands, the war lords committed the entire country to a nation-wide kamikaze plan. The whole Air Force, Army, the remaining units of the fleet, and the civilian population were to be thrown at the enemy in a colossal mass suicide. This explains the confiscation of the entire salt supply and deliberate ruination of the rice paddies through nonfertilization. The present winter was to have been Japan’s last as a nation. But things turned out otherwise, and while the war lords live in retired comfort and still maintain their position, Mr. Moto starves. An

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educated Japanese from the Foreign Ministry remarked to me with a smile, “The Government placed low value on human life.”

It is extremely difficult to get Mr. Moto to say what he thinks of the war or the occupying forces. Softened by cigarettes and chocolate bars, hotel chambermaids and office boys have told me that the American soldier was so completely different from what they had been led by their own propaganda to expect that their first reaction to the G.l. was one of complete surprise. Japanese war propaganda that I have seen depicted the G.l. as a redheaded, bloated gangster with a bottle of whisky in one hand and a six-shooter in the other, carousing his way through the country and ravishing fragile Japanese art and scenery. Characteristically no reference is made to killing or raping. War is war, and in the Orient women are regarded as legitimate spoils.

The closest I could come to obtaining a military opinion on our troops was from my Imperial University acquaintance, who served as a desk colonel in the Munitions Ministry. “The Japanese officer and soldier acknowledge your equipment,” he said, “but in the qualities of soldierism we believe our men excel.” The qualities of soldierism he defined as “patience, stamina, discipline, andscornofdeath.” “The invasion of our home islands would have brought an enlightening test of soldierism,” he said. “Unhappily it did not occur.”

A reminder of the atrocities committed by Japanese soldiers does not phase the Japanese at home; they are definitely not their brothers’ keepers. When an educated Japanese woman complained mildly to me that U. S. sailors annoyed her by whistling at her in the street, 1 asked her if she was aware of what happened in Shanghai, Hong Kong and Manila when Japanese troops sacked the cities and made every woman and girl they could find their victims.

“I don’t think the bad manners of U. S. troops can be justified by your statements on the bad manners of Japanese soldiers,” she said with annoyance. “Am I to blame for the actions of Japanese soldiers? Surely the Americans do not intend to punish us for actions that occurred in war. That would be uncultured.”

The G. I. Takes the Raps

Numerous similar conversations have convinced me that the Japanese feel absolutely no moral guilt for the war or any act in it, and any inconvenience Japan is now made to endure is considered the price exacted for defeat and not a penalty for the ravishing of peaceful countries.

In Tokyo, where the MacArthur determination to maintain the pretense of a successful control organization and smoothly functioning city is painfully evident, the lid is kept tightly closed on the many forces that are seething under the surface. The general plan seems to be a suppression of all except the traditional line of policy in the hope that ardors stirred by the war will eventually cool and Japan will continue to exist under the old system. Such a policy is difficult to justify in the light of publicized American war aims, but numerous soldiers scattered over the Pacific area are now convinced that war aims, like war promises, last only until victory.

The MacArthur policy is unpopular with them because under it the G.l. takes the rap in ways unbecoming to a conqueror. He is billeted in dilapidated, unheated buildings without warm water for baths or adequate sanitation,

because to oust Japanese from some of the hotels and modernly equipped buildings would disrupt the scene of enforced tranquility. One detachment of occupation troops, housed in tents, can look across their enclosure fence at the grand homes of important Japanese.

In Tokyo practically all places of entertainment are off limits to troops— for medical reasons, it is claimed. If the American soldier wants to sample Japanese entertainment he is compelled to arrange for it illicitly at cutthroat prices.

$6.95 Kimonos—$300

As in France, the G. I. in Japan has been made the victim of an inflation manoeuvre. He is paid at the rate of 15 yen to a U. S. dollar, though the “black market” exchange rate (obtainable in practically any bank in Tokyo) ranges from 50 to 70. Prices have skyrocketed since the occupation, with no apparent Japanese attempt to control them. Kimonos of the $6.95 variety are being sold for up to 2,000 yen, and a night of forbidden pleasure in Tokyo will cost a G. I. just about a month’s pay. Prostitutes’ prices have soared from 15 to 150 yen.

An economic investigator has given me these black market prices of staple commodities: Rice has risen from

50 cen per sho (3.18 pints) to 50 yen (500 cen) in Tokyo today; flour from 69 cen to 90 yen; sugar from 3.50 yen per kamme (8.27 lb.) to 1,397. Twenty cigarettes used to cost 60 cen, now cost 19 yen; three quarters of a pound of tea, which once cost less than two yen, sells now for 19.

The Japanese deliberately inaugurated the inflation and flooded the country with paper money partly as a manoeuvre to save their gold and silver from confiscation. According to unverified reports they launched it by handing the workers in most of the war plants a bonus of an entire year’s wages when surrender became imminent. With typical ingenuity the G.l. has managed to get around what he calls the “leanover-backward policy of everything for the Japs.” He sells his PX ration of cigarettes at about 30 yen a package, his chocolate bars at 20 yen, and soap, razor blades and peanuts at comparable prices.

In his quest for diversion the G. I., despite G HQ restrictions, is not doing too badly. The principal amusement area of Tokyo is off limits, with M. P.’s guarding the streets leading to it, but Japanese entrepreneurs have been equal to the situation and now organize parties in private houses scattered throughout Tokyo’s suburbs. A group of a dozen enlisted men or officers assembles at a designated spot to be taken in cars to a house where bevies of giggling geisha girls, in traditional costumes and coiffures, kneel and bow in the entrance. Shoes are removed and the party proceeds to a big room where large silk cushions have been placed in a large U on the mat-covered floor. The men sit, a geisha attaches herself to each, squatting beside or in front of him, food comprising mostly fish in all its undefinable forms is brought in on individual trays, hot saki is poured into minute cups, and the meal begins amid noisy levity.

The girls may not eat, but they gladly drink and smoke. Their task is to serve the male, which they do by mixing his food with the assortment of sauces, pouring his drink, and in the case of Americans, usually feeding him because few are adept at eating with chopsticks. As the meal proceeds other geishas play twangy music on stringed instruments and do stylized dances in the centre of the room. Courses are

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served until all count of their number is lost, and the saki stirs up pleasant vapors in the brain. Most of the houses provide a gramophone and at least one dance record, but stocking feet on straw mats hinder movement and most of the girls are pretty unwieldy, though they are all eager to dance “Ameereekan.” A common scene in the late evening hours is a flushed and happy G. 1. stretched out on the floor with his head in one geisha’s lap while another fans him. The price of a geisha party is about 200 yen a man or a few packs of cigarettes.

The chief organizer (unofficial!) of geisha entertainment for the U. S. services is Mr. Masaji Watanabe, a six-foot Japanese with a fat round face and grey porcupine hair. Mr. Watanabe controls all of the principal geisha houses, most of the brothels and a fair number of the beer halls and restaurants of Tokyo. Each Saturday afternoon Mr. Watanabe puts on an advertising campaign on a street corner of the Ginza, displaying a large sign captioned, “U. S. A. Boy, are you Lonly?” Four or five geisha girls in their bright kimonos stand around and giggle prettily behind their fans, and Mr. Watanabe’s staff of Englishspeaking assistants mingle with the soldiers and sailors who congregate. On his business card Mr. Watanabe describes himself as “Chief of the Main Office, Recreation and Amusements Association.”

Japs Play Waiting Game

The economic picture of Japan is obscured for the moment, though obviously full of possibilities. The political leaders and big industrialists have shown an almost enthusiastic eagerness to co-operate with GHQ planners. When American criticism was levelled at the Japanese aristocracy, Prince Konoye, one of the foremost aristocrats, promptly resigned all his titles, and the Imperial Diet, just as promptly, accepted his resignation. Subsequently, Konoye committed suicide. Other aristocrats have also resigned until concern is now being expressed at headquarters lest the collapse of the aristocracy leave the field open for undesirable political developments. When the intention of breaking up the huge monopolies of the Zaibatzu was announced, the Mitsubishis, Mitsuisand other powerful family combines vied with one another in committing what looked like economichara-kiri. The Japanese thinking behind the move was perhaps revealed in the remark of a member of the Mitsui

clan with whom I discussed the dissolution order. “Our great director meetings will be regretted,” he said, “but we shall not lose our friendships and we can still have visits together.” He knew, as did the I. G. Farben directors in Germany, that a mammoth interlinked combine such as the Mitsui or 1. G. Farben can be destroyed only if the directing brains are exterminated and the physical properties torn out of the ground and demolished piecemeal. To this extent the U. S. military authorities are not willing to go; so the Japanese can afford to play a waiting game without being too unhappy about future prospects.

A number of Japanese have expressed to me their conviction that in five years Japan will again be the leading nation of Asia. They reason that the economic awakening of the South Pacific islands that has resulted from the war will open vast new markets for manufactured goods. And they know that no nation is better situated geographically for cashing in than Japan. To own the rich lands to the south was in their eyes a laudable ideal, but economic conquest also has its advantages. For this reason the Japanese are ardent supporters of the independence struggles of the Indonesians.

“Asia for the Asiatics” is as potent a slogan in Japan today as it was in 1941. Mass meetings are held frequently in Tokyo parks, where speakers violently denounce Western interference and demand liberty for all Asiatics. Recently General Mac-Arthur arrived at his own headquarters to find splashed across the front of the building a large poster containing the strident demand, “Asia for the Asiatics. We stand behind our Philippine and Indonesian brothers.” The newspapers have interpreted the freedom of speech grandly conferred on them as the right to campaign against white interference in Asia.

On the whole the Japanese are not unhappy about their future. “We have not extricated ourselves from the Greater Asia War without benefits,” my Imperial University acquaintance assured me in one of our numerous discussions. “Because you do not want possessions in Asia, and because the British, Dutch and French are now too weak to maintain their control, the peoples of Asia will gain in peace what we failed to give them in war. And the magnificent air fields you have built on Iwo Jima, Okinawa, Saipan and elsewhere will facilitate commerce. You and we together can be partners in this wonderful action of peaceful business practices.”