02 November 2005

Diary of a Tokyo Civilian After Surrender, August 1945

August 16, 1945

The expressions on people's faces haven't changed much at all. When one meets people, instead of uttering the usual greetings, they blurt out, "What's happened is terrible."

This morning there was an air-raid warning and alert. At the company, we were told that female employees would be on vacation until there was a better sense of what would happen next. Whether I'm in the mountains or wherever, I just want to stay in touch. Apparently, government offices will tell us what procedures to follow. What in the world are they thinking of doing? I expect there is a mountain of serious problems, but what are the officials managing the country getting so excited about?

Haven't they lost their power and been defeated? The military is calling for complete resistance and appealing to all citizens. This is a very difficult problem. The true nature of a people is apparent when they lose a war, rather than when they win, and the day has arrived when we should reveal Japan's greatness.

Now that we've been defeated in war, I'm eager that our national identity as a people not be completely ruined.

August 17, 1945

Clear. Beginning today and for some time, it was OK to stay home from the company, but because I was the only one who knew how to handle mail transfers, I went to work. There were reports that the young military men haven't accepted the peace and were still active, and wild rumors circulated. We were fearful of what couldn't be foreseen, perhaps because we were hearing that everything was in chaos and that people were uneasy about the evacuation of women and girls and because as a people we had never experienced defeat. [There were widespread fears of rape by the victorious American troops.]

Today leaflets were dropped from friendly aircraft.

At Kanda Station I saw a flier plastered on a wall that read, "Both the army and navy are fine and believe that the people will endure," and people had signed their names. As far as the feelings of military people were concerned, I thought this was not unexpected, but we already had had a statement from the emperor. If we are to build the future, don't we have to begin clearing a path today? Dying is cheap. In the long history of the state, this defeat probably will not amount to very much, whereas the reconstruction that was about to begin could end up as a great achievement.

What was there to say? We did our best and were defeated. Only those who did not work as hard as they might have would feel any regret.

Take C, for example. While he was in the city, he was angry about everything and said he wanted to go off, even to the mountains, and I was surprised by the narrowness of his perspective. That may be a purist position to take vis-à-vis the country, but it was only his personal philosophy, one that was too beautiful, and it really hadn't taken root or spread. C's philosophy made me feel the need to broaden my vision.
SOURCE: Leaves from an Autumn of Emergencies: Selections from the Wartime Diaries of Ordinary Japanese, by Samuel Hideo Yamashita (U. Hawai‘i Press, 2005), pp. 218-219

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