30 October 2005

Diary of a Tokyo Christian, 9 August 1945

August 9, 1945, Thursday

This morning Nobukazu went off to Gôra and returned in the evening. When he finished dinner, he had to leave again--this time to board a nine o'clock train to Karuizawa, his school's evacuation site. And so after he finished dinner, he left the house. It was about seven.

The same sort of strange bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima three days ago was dropped on Nagasaki today, and it was wiped out. This bomb possesses extraordinary power. Photographs showed that Chinese ideographs written in black on signs at train stations had burned, and it was explained that white things wouldn't burn. Up to now, we've been ordered not to wear white garments, not even when it was hot, because they were easy for enemy planes to see. Now we're warned not to wear black garments because they burn easily.

So what in the world is safe for us to wear? We don't know anymore. The thought of a single aircraft destroying a large city in an instant is driving us to nervous breakdowns, and I feel as though we have no choice but to die or go crazy. I can't help but hate those responsible for placing human beings in this situation and continuing the war. At this point, continuing the war will save neither us nor our country. When one comes to this point and when those responsible realize that they have no escape and contemplate the punishments they will surely receive, I believe they will continue the war because they simply don't know whether or not fighting until the last Japanese falls is a good idea. In this country, where human morality is based on the relationship between masters and followers, we submit to our leaders' will and simply do as we are told. Because ours is a country in which each person lacks any kind of individuality and because our citizenry doesn't realize that they themselves have the power to revere their own individuality, we have fought this unprofitable war right up to the present, muttering all the while, "We will win, we will win." At the very start of the war, Japanese declared in unison, "Today we take pride in our good fortune to be born a Japanese." I myself could only lament "my misfortune at being born a Japanese today."

If Japanese had not been cursed by this sort of feudalistic thinking, I believe we could have expected our country to have ended the war sooner than Germany or Italy did. At the beginning of the war, I predicted that we would lose in the way that we have and worried about it. My arguing that we should have stopped the war at Singapore was an earnest and heartfelt plea. Those of us who thought this way were called traitors; our beliefs were regarded as unthinkable; and we were seen as potential spies. I blamed this on the ignorance fostered by feudalistic thinking. No matter what, I can't accept the fact that my own life has been taken from me for the sake of the lawless promoters of this feudalistic way of thinking, and I am not happy about it.
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. 186-187

The diarist, Takahashi Aiko, was born in Tokyo in 1894, but her family immigrated to the United States in 1916 or 1917. There she met Takahashi Shôta, a physician practicing in Little Tokyo in Los Angeles. They married in 1922 and had two children, Nobukazu and Emii. In 1932, the family returned to Tokyo, where Dr. Takahashi opened a practice. During the war they lived in Hiroo, "a fashionable area in central Tokyo not far from Sacred Heart Girls High School, where their daughter was a student. Takahashi and her husband may have chosen Sacred Heart because they were Christians" (p. 161).

UPDATE: The Marmot and Coming Anarchy have long and relatively well-informed comment threads about questions of effectiveness and war-criminality with regard to both fire bombing, atomic bombing, and other attempts to win the war as well as end it.

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