Japanese Pilot’s Diary, 3 January 1945

January 3, 1945, cloudy then clear, rain in the evening

We’ve had stews for the past three days. Today’s was the most delicious, perhaps because it was made with a miso broth. I couldn’t stomach the strange smell of the herring roe, though. The roe would have been fine if it had been soaked in water for two or three days. Serving things that even the Payroll Department couldn’t eat was just for show and was irresponsible.

Take-yan read my fortune with cards. According to what he said–in the tone of a real diviner–I would be poor and struggle, and my social standing and advancement were uncertain. My future was exceedingly uninteresting. Will Dad die before me and Mom live on? Even if I had a romantic relationship, he told me, I’d be completely rejected and defeated. He says that I absolutely will not be bound to anyone and that a man I would approve of will appear, steal her heart, and steadily captivate her. And apparently I will die young. Well, that can’t be helped, and besides that’s my basic wish. What’s strange is that she’s going to die young, too.

If he’s this sort of diviner, he doesn’t need to borrow any cards. When I laughed and said, “If you offer fortunes like this, your business will fail,” he said, “Because I do it only when asked, I don’t give discounts or do it for free.” He nonchalantly and noisily began to eat a pomelo. He gazed longingly at a second pomelo that was big and looked like a head, and he finished that off, too.

I remember that it was two years ago today that I got a thirty-six-hour pass and went home, together with a student pilot at Yatabe, my chest festooned with seven medals. A send-off party was held, and lots of sake was poured. My older brother Kitaro made a speech. I recall that he pointed out that it was the anniversary of the fall of Manila.

I’d like to reflect on that. It’s been a full three years since the fall of Manila. Hasn’t Manila been transformed into the site of frontline fighting? In that time there was the change of course at Guadalcanal. There was the gyokusai [‘jewel shattering‘ = honorable fight to the death = total annihilation] at Attu Island. The gyokusai at Kwajalein and Rota. The many infuriating results continue: the gyokusai at Tarawa and Makin and more recently the gyokusai at Saipan and Tinian at this time last summer. But we are not defeated. We’re winning. We are definitely winning this war. While everywhere we rout two or three times as many enemy and achieve splendid victories, resistance is hard, quantitatively, and we go off to commit gyokusai, pledging resolutely to save the country for seven lifetimes. Decisive battles are now taking place in the Philippines. At the moment, Japan will make a comeback with this last stand, break the enemy’s nose, and push with irresistible force, push to the end.

Both the army and the navy have formed special-attack units and are continuing the intense and endless battles. I believe that 1945 is the autumn of emergencies when the Yamato race, one million strong, will choose death and make a last stand. I am overcome with emotion as I remember my send-off two years ago.

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. 65-66

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