Monday, August 15, 2005

Tainichi sensou kinen-bi

Japanese citizens listen to the Emperor broadcast the news that Japan had accepted the Potsdam declaration

In Japan, August 15 is known as Shusen kinenbi 終戦記念日。(literally, end of the war memorial day.) This year is the 60th anniversary of the end of taiheiyou dai sensou.太平洋大戦争。(The Pacific War). At noon, August 15 1945 Showa (Emperor Hirohito) made the following broadcast:

To our good and loyal subjects: After pondering deeply the general trends of the world and the actual conditions obtaining in our empire today, we have decided to effect a settlement of the present situation by resorting to an extraordinary measure. We have ordered our Government to communicate to the Governments of the United States, Great Britain, China and the Soviet Union that our empire accepts the provisions of their joint declaration.

To strive for the common prosperity and happiness of all nations as well as the security and well-being of our subjects is the solemn obligation which has been handed down by our imperial ancestors and which we lay close to the heart. Indeed, we declared war on America and Britain out of our sincere desire to insure Japan's self-preservation and the stabilization of East Asia, it being far from our thought either to infringe upon the sovereignty of other nations or to embark upon territorial aggrandizement.

But now the war has lasted for nearly four years. Despite the best that has been done by everyone--the gallant fighting of our military and naval forces, the diligence and assiduity of out servants of the State and the devoted service of our 100,000,000 people--the war situation has developed not necessarily to Japan's advantage, while the general trends of the world have all turned against her interest. Moreover, the enemy has begun to employ a new and most cruel bomb, the power of which to do damage is, indeed, incalculable, taking the toll of many innocent lives. Should we continue to fight, it would not only result in an ultimate collapse and obliteration of the Japanese nation, but also it would lead to the total extinction of human civilization.

Such being the case, how are we to save the millions of our subjects, nor to atone ourselves before the hallowed spirits of our imperial ancestors? This is the reason why we have ordered the acceptance of the provisions of the joint declaration of the powers. We cannot but express the deepest sense of regret to our allied nations of East Asia, who have consistently cooperated with the Empire toward the emancipation of East Asia.

The thought of those officers and men as well as others who have fallen in the fields of battle, those who died at their posts of duty, or those who met death [otherwise] and all their bereaved families, pains our heart night and day. The welfare of the wounded and the war sufferers and of those who lost their homes and livelihood is the object of our profound solicitude.

The hardships and sufferings to which our nation is to be subjected hereafter will be certainly great. We are keenly aware of the inmost feelings of all of you, our subjects. However, it is according to the dictates of time and fate that we have resolved to pave the way for a grand peace for all the generations to come by enduring the [unavoidable] and suffering what is unsufferable.

Having been able to save and maintain the structure of the Imperial State, we are always with you, our good and loyal subjects, relying upon your sincerity and integrity. Beware most strictly of any outbursts of emotion that may engender needless complications, of any fraternal contention and strife that may create confusion, lead you astray and cause you to lose the confidence of the world.

Let the entire nation continue as one family from generation to generation, ever firm in its faith of the imperishableness of its divine land, and mindful of its heavy burden of responsibilities, and the long road before it. Unite your total strength to be devoted to the construction for the future. Cultivate the ways of rectitude, nobility of spirit, and work with resolution so that you may enhance the innate glory of the Imperial State and keep pace with the progress of the world.

There is an interesting account of Japan's longest day here. I find it interesting that Japan had actually been in surrender negotiations for some time prior to the Hiroshima bombing. However, sadly for Japan, they labored under an illusion that the Soviet Union might bring them some salvation:

Japan was waiting for Russia to respond to their request for negotiations before making any moves. They hoped for a reply around August 6 or 7. Instead, on August 6th an atomic bomb was dropped on the population of Hiroshima. And on the night of August 8th, Russia declared war on Japan (IMTFE, pg. 31,172).

During this time (Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal) Kido continued to discuss the need for peace with the emperor and members of the government. On August 12th he steered Prime Minister Suzuki back to favoring surrender when Suzuki wavered (IMTFE, pg. 31,184 - 31,186).

Kido's final effort for peace was probably also his most harrowing. On the morning of August 14th he received word that U.S. planes were dropping leaflets on Japan containing the U.S. and Japanese peace proposals. Fearing a backlash by the Japanese military, Kido rushed to advise the emperor, in Kido's words, "to command the government without further loss of time to go through the formalities for terminating the war". The emperor agreed and sent Kido to make arrangements with Suzuki for the government to meet. The government surrendered that day at the emperor's request (IMTFE, pg. 31,189 - 31,190; Statements, Kido, no. 61541; see also Butow, pg. 205-209, Sigal, pg. 267-271).

Click here to see some fascinating correspondence between Japan and the United States regarding the surrender.

Still, when the news was announced the reaction of the Japanese people was shock:

It was August 15, 1945, shortly before noon. What followed would never be forgotten.

Aihara Yu was twenty-eight years old then, a farmer's wife in rural Shizuoka prefecture. Through the decades to come, the day would replay itself in her memory like an old
filmstrip, a staccato newsreel in black and white.

She was working outdoors when a messenger arrived breathless from the village. It had been announced that the emperor would be making a personal broadcast at noon, he exclaimed before rushing off. Everyone was to come and listen.

The news that America, the land of the enemy, had disappeared into the sea would hardly have been more startling. The emperor was to speak! In the two decades since he had ascended the Chrysanthemum Throne, Emperor Hirohito had never once spoken directly to all his subjects. Until now the sovereign's words had been handed down in the form
of imperial rescripts all as printed texts, pronouncements humbly read by others. Half a century later, Aihara could still recall every detail. She rushed to the village, repeating over and over to herself a line from the Imperial Rescript on Education, which everyone knew by heart from daily recitation during their school years. "Should any emergency arise," it went, "offer yourselves courageously to the State." She knew the country's situation was desperate and could only imagine that the emperor was going to exhort every Japanese to make even greater efforts to support the war. A— to be prepared, indeed, to fight to the bitter end.

The villagers had gathered around the single local radio over which the single state-run station was received. Reception was poor. Static crackled around the emperor's words, and the words themselves were difficult to grasp. The emperor's voice was high pitched and his enunciation stilted. He did not speak in colloquial Japanese, but in a highly formal language studded with ornamental classical phrases. Aihara was just exchanging puzzled glances with others in the crowd when a man who had recently arrived from bombed-out Tokyo spoke up almost, she recalled, as if to himself. "This means," he whispered,
"that Japan has lost."

Or as Douglas MacArthur said 3 weeks later:

Today the guns are silent. A great tragedy has ended. A great victory has been won....

As I look back upon the long, tortuous trail from those grim days of Bataan and Corregidor, when an entire world lived in fear, when democracy was on the defensive everywhere, when modern civilization trembled in the balance, I thank a merciful God that he has given us the faith, the courage and the power from which to mold victory. We have known the bitterness of defeat and the exultation of triumph, and from both we have learned there can be no turning back. We must go forward to preserve in peace what we won in war.

A new era is upon us. Even the lesson of victory itself brings with it profound concern, both for our future security and the survival of civilization. The destructiveness of the war potential, through progressive advances in scientific discovery, has in fact now reached a point which revises the traditional concepts of war.

Men since the beginning of time have sought peace.... Military alliances, balances of power, leagues of nations, all in turn failed, leaving the only path to be by way of the crucible of war. We have had our last chance. If we do not now devise some greater and more equitable system, Armageddon will be at our door. The problem basically is theological and involves a spiritual recrudescence and improvement of human character that will synchronize with our almost matchless advances in science, art, literature and all material and cultural development of the past two thousand years. It must be of the spirit if we are to save the flesh.



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