This little trail of thought starts with my old friends at ALD. I dropped in there in search of something to read over my lunch, and right at the top of the list was this article making a comparison between Japan’s kamikaze pilots of WW2 and the modern day suicide bombers. I want to return to that as it deserves a sleep or two to digest.
But in the side bar to that article was this
- a fascinating discussion on the “last words” of General Yamashita Tomoyuki including a translation of the document he left.
If we leave out the history that must go with his execution, his “four things” are in retrospect equally applicable today as then (with the possible exhortations in favour of what is now the international La Leche League). So I shall leave out the last of the four…
Facing death, I have four things to say to you, the people of the nation of Japan as it resurrects.
First, is about carrying out one's duty. From ancient times, this topic has repeatedly been discussed by scholars, yet it remains most difficult to achieve. Without a sense of duty, a democratic and cooperative society cannot exist. Duty has to be fulfilled as a result of self-regulating and naturally motivated action. I feel some misgivings in thinking about this, considering that you are suddenly to be liberated from the social restraints under which you have long lived.
I often discussed this with my junior officers. The moral decay of our military was so grave that the Imperial Code of Military Conduct as well as the Field Service Code were simply dead letters. Therefore, we had to remind people of this all the time, even in the military where obedience was strongly demanded and defying orders was not allowed at all. In this war, it was far from true that officers under my command carried out their duties satisfactorily.
They were unable to fulfill even the duties that were imposed upon them. Therefore I have some concern over your ability to fulfill your duty voluntarily and independently, after being released from long-standing social restraints. I wonder if you'll be dazzled by suddenly bestowed freedom, and whether some may fail to carry out your duty as required in relations with others, as you've received basically the same education as military men. In a free society, you should nurture your own ability to make moral judgments in order to carry out your duties. Duties can only be carried out correctly by a socially mature person with an independent mind and with culture and dignity.
The fundamental reason why the world has lost confidence in our nation, and why we have so many war-crime suspects who left ugly scars on our history, was this lack of morals. I would like you to cultivate and accept the common moral judgment of the world, and become a people who fulfill duties on your own responsibility. You are expected to be independent and carve out your own future. No one can avoid this responsibility and choose an easy way. Only through that path can eternal peace be attained in the world.
Second, I would like you to promote education in science. No one can deny that the level of Japan's modern science, apart from certain minor areas, is well below world standards. If you travel outside Japan, the first thing you notice is the unscientific way of life of the Japanese. To search for truth with Japan's irrational and cliquish mentality is like searching for fish among the trees.
We soldiers had great difficulties in securing the necessary materials to fight and to make up for the lack of scientific knowledge. We tried to fight against the superior forces of the United States and to win the war by throwing away the priceless lives of our nation as substitutes for bullets and bombs. Various methods of horrendous suicide attack were invented. We exposed our pilots to danger by stripping vital equipment from the planes in order to just slightly improve their mobility. This shows how little knowledge we had for conducting war. We made the greatest mistake -- unprecedented in world history -- by trying to make up for the lack of materials and scientific knowledge with human bodies.
My present state of mind is quite different from that at the time of surrender. In the car on the way to Baguio from Kiangan, Mr. Robert MacMillan, a journalist of the magazine Youth asked, what I thought was the fundamental reason for Japan's defeat. Something suppressed for a long time in my sub-consciousness suddenly burst out and I instantly responded "science," before referring to other important issues. This was because my long-lasting frustration and intense anger were loosened all at once when the war was over.
I am not saying that this is the only reason, but it was clearly one important reason for Japan's defeat. If there will be another war somewhere in the world (although I hope there won't be), it is expected end in a short time through the use of horrific scientific weapons. The foolish methods of war that Japan adopted will be regarded as the illusions of an idiot. Human beings throughout the world, I presume, will make efforts to prevent such a terrible war -- not just the Japanese who thoroughly endured the horror of this war. This is the task that is given to humanity.
The atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were horrendous weapons. Never before have so many people been killed instantly in the long history of slaughtering human beings. As I have been in prison, I have not had enough time to study the A-bomb, but I think that no weapon will be invented to defend against atomic weapons. It used to be said that it would always be possible to fight against a new method of attack. This is still true. If there is any method to defend against atomic bombs -- the weapon that has made obsolete all past warfare -- it would simply be to create nations all over the world that would never contemplate the use of such weapons.
A defeated officer like me reflects sadly that if we had had superior scientific knowledge and sufficient scientific weapons, we would not have killed so many of our own men. Instead we could have sent them back home to use the knowledge as the foundation to rebuild a glorious and peaceful country. However, the science that I mean is not science that leads mankind to destruction. It is science that will develop natural resources still to be tapped, that will make human life rich, and will be used for peaceful purposes to free human beings from misery and poverty.
Third, I want to mention the education of women. I have heard that Japanese women have been liberated from the feudal state authorities and been given the privilege of suffrage. From my experience of living in foreign countries for a long time, I can say that the position of modern Japanese women is inferior to that of women in the west.
I am slightly apprehensive about the fact that freedom for Japanese women is a generous gift from the Occupation Forces, not one that they struggled to acquire themselves. A gift is often enjoyed as an object of appreciation and not actually put to direct use. The highest virtues for Japanese women used to be "obedience" and "fidelity." That was no different from "obedient allegiance" in the military. A person who respects such castrated and slave-like virtues has been called a "chaste woman" or praised as a "loyal and brave soldier." In such values, there is no freedom of action or freedom of thought, and they are not the virtues by which one can self-examine autonomously. My hope is that you will break out of your old shell, enrich your education, and become new active Japanese women, while maintaining only the good elements of existing values. The driving force for peace is the heart of women. Please utilize your newly gained freedom effectively and appropriately. Your freedom should not be violated or taken away by anyone. As free women, you should be united with women throughout the world and give full play to your unique abilities as women. If not, you will be squandering all the privileges that you have been given.
I am not going to do any kind of analysis. I admire (leaving aside all of the history) his foresight. The parts of his memo that I have highlighted should stand today, as a clear commentary to all of us on our part in this world and its history.