JPRI Occasional Paper, No. 27 (July 2002)
Postwar Japan - A Reminiscence
By Hans H. Baerwald
Remnants of "Taisho Democracy" were still casting their warm afterglow in 1927, when I was born in Tokyo - to be precise, in the Nagai Yashiki (compound) in Konno-cho, Aoyama 7-chome (now, Shibuya 6-chome). My father had arrived in Kobe in December 1912 as a German businessman, working for Cassella, a company specializing in aniline dyes and related chemical products. In the late summer of 1914, as was the case with all able-bodied German males in Asia, the German Embassy sent him a draft notice - despite his never having handled any military implements - and ordered him to participate in the defense of the garrison in Tsingtao on the Shandong Peninsula, a German "concession" (read, small colony).
His active career as a soldier was mercifully brief - September to November 1914 - since Japan's military might was far superior, an absolute certainty that the German commander fortunately accepted. My father remained a prisoner-of-war of the Japanese Government until the signing of the Versailles Peace Treaty in the spring of 1919. He was first in a temple in Matsuyama, Ehime-ken, and later in the camp known as "Bando," the remnants of which are now located within Naruto-shi, Tokushima-ken. The latter has become famous for having been the site of the first performance of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony on Japanese soil by the camp orchestra of which my father was a member of the first violin section. Both POW camps were located on Shikoku, with which I became well acquainted many years later at the home in Kagawa-ken of former Prime Minister Ohira Masayoshi. I owe Ohira-sensei an immense debt of gratitude for teaching me about the intricacies of Japanese politics, especially the role and inner workings of the Kokkai - Japan's National Assembly, often referred to as the Diet (a misnomer as this implies that it is subordinate to royal power, as was the Diet in 19th century Prussia).
When he was released, my father returned Kobe to re-open the Cassella office and to begin rebuilding his commercial activities before returning to Frankfurt am Main on well-deserved home leave. There he was introduced to a charming, if feisty young woman who became his wife and the mother of my sister and me while they were in Japan. Their honeymoon was a slow journey across the Atlantic, North America (where they visited his older brother and family in New York City), and the Pacific to Tokyo where they lived until November 1940.
The 1920's and first half of the 30's were golden years for the family, despite the dark cloud of military conflicts in which Japan became embroiled - principally in China. Japan's efforts to expand it imperium undermined the brief experiment with parliamentary democracy, which collapsed under the weight of the world depression, the assassinations of political leaders, and the attempted military coup known as the "Ni-niroku Jiken" in 1936.
These domestic and foreign tribulations affected us minimally even though uniformed soldiers and sailors of Japans imperial military became a common sight. Visits to us and our foreign neighbors by the Kempeitai (military police) and Tokko-Keisatsu (Special Higher Thought Police) intruded into what remained of our privacy, but these inspectors were always polite. In sharp contrast was the fundamental transformation brought about by the arrival of Geheime Staatspolizei (Gestapo) agents in the German Embassy in early 1936. From one day to the next, my father became persona non grata among his erstwhile countrymen as he had been born a Jew. All this despite his military service to the Kaiser during World War I and his intensive participation in the OAG (Ostasiatische Gesellschaft für Völkerkunde); he was welcomed more warmly at meetings of The Asiatic Society of Japan.
By autumn of that same year (1936), my sister and I began attending the American School in Japan (ASIJ) - an unbelievable bit of good fortune. It proved to be a most beneficial introduction to our future homeland that loomed on the distant horizon, the United States of America. Meanwhile, my father continued to be employed by I.G. Farben (it had absorbed Cassella) for another two years. He knew Japan, its people and their language, and had many Japanese friends in high places. Ultimately, none of that kept him from being summarily dismissed in late 1938. After that, he devoted himself to assisting central and east European Jewish refugees who streamed into Japan with nothing more than transit visas. Decades later, I learned that among them were those who had benefited from Consul Sugihara's courage.
Once aboard the NYK ocean liner that was to take us to San Francisco, those early years in Japan became a reverie of much joy, some sadness - for my lost childhood and youth that I was leaving behind - as the ship pulled away from the wharf.
American Beginnings (1940-46)
As a child I began "learning by hearing" both German and Japanese. In all probability, my Japanese exceeded my German vocabulary as I spent more time with my baby amah than anyone else initially. The German School in Tokyo (Omori), that I attended for the first three grades of elementary school, taught me German grammar and the "old" German script, which I can no longer read. Of this experience, no memories remain except for riding the elevated trains to and from school under the watchful care of my sister. I stopped learning and using German, except with my parents, after transferring to the American School in Japan in Naka-Meguro beginning with the fourth grade. English was not a problem thanks to Anglo and American friends in the Nagai Compound and a lady from the British Embassy who tutored me. My principal difficulty was spelling. It was also at the ASIJ that I began my lifelong battle to learn Nihongo (Japanese) systematically, a language that the German School did not deign to teach. None of us at ASIJ - to my everlasting regret - took learning Nihongo seriously, but most of us memorized the kana syllabaries and a few (less than one hundred) kanji. That pattern continued for far too long. Hearing and speaking were easy, reading and writing proved to be far more arduous.
My exposure to formal and serious training in Nihongo began at "Cal" (the University of California, Berkeley) during the Spring (wartime) trimester of 1944. Fortunately, two other BIJ's (born in Japan's) - Don Helm and George Moore - were also in the small class. Our instructor was a Korean (all Nisei having been expelled from the west coast) who knew Nihongo well, but whose pronunciation was not to our liking. I remain chagrined by our gratuitous arrogance in having made fun of him and correcting the sounds he made.
The three of us - plus James Cahill, whose upward learning curve soon outpaced the rest of us - had one goal in mind: we wanted to be admitted to the Army's Intensive Japanese Language School as soon as we were drafted. That we achieved, but in my case the circumstances were unusual because the U.S.Army had closed all admissions to that Program after the last class had begun in April 1945. (My 18th birthday was in June.) All I remember is that the Army sent me a formal letter along with my induction notice in early September ordering me to proceed to its Japanese Language School at the University of Michigan. (World War II had ended on August 15th). The sergeant who processed my papers could not believe the contents of the order. However, many phone calls and several days later I was on my way to Ann Arbor to join my good friends.
My first days at the School were rocky. Everyone else had been studying Nihongo INTENSIVELY since April. I had had only four trimesters of regular Japanese language classes at Cal. My first experience with "kakitori" (dictation in class) was a disaster. The sensei happened to have grown up in Tohoku (northeast Honshu) and spoke Nihongo with a heavy "zu-zu-ben" accent that was almost incomprehensible. Moreover, the text of the dictation included many military terms that I had never heard before, as the classes at Cal had emphasized literary Japanese. All I recall now is that my errors - marked in red - overwhelmed what I had somehow managed to write (scribble would be more accurate) correctly. I feared immediate expulsion. Kaiwa (conversation) class saved me, as it had others who had spent some years in prewar Japan. By dint of sheer will and the Army's still-expressed desperate need for anyone who had a smattering of Nihongo, I graduated with my classmates in December 1945.
Those few of us (about twenty) whom the Army had assigned to Japanese language school immediately after our induction next had to endure about two months of "Basic (Military) Training" on the hard red clay of Ft. McClellan, Alabama. It was a less than wholesome experience, especially as it did nothing to further our language skills that the Army kept telling us it needed. A bout of pneumonia delayed my rejoining my comrades for the next stage of our training at the "Military Intelligence Service Language School" (MISLS) located on the spacious grounds of Ft. Snelling, Minnesota. Here we continued having Nihongo classes, supplemented by officer candidate training, which most of us found irrelevant and unnecessary. We received our commissions as 2nd lieutenants based exclusively on our knowledge of Nihongo. A large Nisei contingent also received their Nihongo training at the MISLS, but only a notable handful became officers, an experience with racial prejudice that still rankles me, although it mustÊ be compared with the Navy's systematic exclusion of all Nisei from its contingent of Japanese linguists.
Government Section Years (1946-48)
When, barely nineteen years old, I returned to Japan in late August 1946 , it was a kind of homecoming to my "furusato," combining as the word does the meanings of birth-and-native place. During my absence of almost six years, my earlier national identity had changed from German to American, courtesy of the United States Army that had drafted me in the summer of 1945 and rewarded me three months later with my new and treasured citizenship. But more important than any personal change was the awful and devastating alteration that Japan had undergone. None of the many pictures and newsreels could capture the vast stretches of flatness, dotted with shacks made of cardboard, corrugated tin, and bits of wood for most of the way from the docks of Yokohama to downtown Tokyo. These areas were well-known to me from my childhood as we had taken the same road leading through them to the beaches (Hayama and Zushi) for swimming or to Ofuna for hikes (sampo would be more accurate) through the hills in the general direction of Kamakura.
By contrast, some of downtown Tokyo around the Imperial Palace had been spared, whether by design or miracle remains an unknown to me. I settled into my first billet, the NYK Building - the offices of which had been reconfigured into bedrooms and work-space - at Babasakimon. It served as headquarters for the Allied Translator and Interpreter Section (ATIS) to which all linguists were initially assigned. Some free time allowed me to explore my childhood home in a jeep rented from the motor pool. There were few landmarks to guide me, but somehow I managed to find Akasakamitsuke and thence on to Aoyama-dori and headed in the direction of Shibuya Station. Vehicular traffic was minimal.
Miraculously, the old koban (police box) remained standing (it is now housed in a Jintan Building) behind which was what little remained of the Nagai compound. Two houses, though damaged, still stood; but only the outlined basement of my old home remained. More than any other visual memory, that sight made me fully realize what the fire-bomb raids on Tokyo had accomplished with such destructive effect. It was one of the very few times that I have cried by allowing myself - there was no other choice available - to overcome the ostensibly stern inner control that my German-Japanese upbringing had instilled.
Inevitably, that event has raised many questions for me over the last half century, not the least of them being the circumstances that require peaceful neighborhoods and their civilian inhabitants to be blown to bits and immolated. Total war - the obliteration of any distinction between non-combatants and uniformed (or, now, in mufti) military forces - is a legacy of the 20th century that has already besmirched the 21st. Sadly, it casts a pall over any belief that humankind is on an ever-upward spiral of evolutionary development. In Japan it also raised the question of responsibility, including that of Japan's leaders as well as the ambiguous role of the Showa Emperor. That set of complex questions, although I did not realize it then, became central to the work my superiors subsequently assigned me; I will revisit them below.
My initial few weeks in Japan with ATIS were boring. Our superiors, to keep us busy and out of mischief as well as to burnish our presumed linguistic skills, assigned us delightful chores such as translating and re-translating the new draft Constitution (ultimately, that exercise proved to be useful) or articles from the Japanese press that had already been rendered into English by others. Time was also available to meet old friends of my parents, to do some more exploring and to teach a few English classes to Meiji University students who were unbelievably eager to learn.
Kone (connections) and networking proved their worth. My sister had instructed me to get in touch with her very close friend Beate Sirota who worked in Government Section, about which I knew nothing. We had a pleasant dinner together - we had known each other as school-mates at ASIJ (the American School in Japan), but she had been a couple of grades ahead of me. For once, I was on my best behavior. Beate mentioned that Government Section (GovSec) had a vacancy in its language pool because her fiancé - Joe Gordon, whom she later married - had just returned to America, having completed his required number of service points. Would I be interested in being his replacement, she asked. To whet my appetite, she guardedly mentioned GovSec's role in drafting the new Constitution. My instantaneous response was in the affirmative; anything would have to be better than languishing in ATIS, and working on reforms of the Japanese political system sounded exciting.
A cursory interview conducted by GovSec officials satisfied them and me. However, my transfer out of ATIS became entangled in bureaucratic red tape. General Willoughby, the head of G-2 (Intelligence), jealously guarded his control - ATIS was part of his domain - over all linguists. It was rumored that he wanted to monitor all contacts between MacArthur's GHQ and the Japanese Government by retaining his supervision over all linguists. Luckily, one of his senior special assistants was Colonel David Tait who had been a prewar neighbor in the Nagai Compound and whose son and I had been playmates.
Tait invited me on a double date, a distinct honor; colonels and second lieutenants normally do not interact socially. Miraculously, my transfer into GovSec was approved within a few days. Only later did it become clear that Willoughby and General Courtney Whitney, the Chief of Government Section, were already engaged in a feud over basic Occupation policy and which of them would become MacArthur's closest advisor on Japanese politics in particular and almost everything else as well.
Of all this, I was blissfully
ignorant at the time. Uppermost for me was that kone had worked its magic. I moved from the NYK to the Yuraku (as in nearby Yuraku-cho, or our alternative appelation Doraku, as in pleasure) Building. It too had been converted from an office building into a Bachelor Officers' Quarters with a dining room and large bar plus band for dancing on the first two floors as well as bedrooms on the upper floors. Each floor had its own bathroom facilities. Taking a shower was sometimes a delightful adventure as a young lady might also be doing so to prepare for a night with her boyfriend, or washing up the morning after. Privacy was not a priority. Most of that ended as soon as senior officers were allowed to have their wives join them. They, in turn, became concerned about reports of moral laxity among the lower ranks. The Yuraku Building's location had its advantages as it was almost next door to the Dai-Ichi Seimei, which housed MacArthur's GHQ. If necessary, it was possible to jump out of bed, wash up, have breakfast, run as fast as possible and be at one's desk at the appointed hour of eight a.m. - all within twenty minutes.
The atmosphere in GovSec was electric with excitement, in complete contrast with the languid pace at ATIS. GovSec's mandate was unbelievably broad: to advise the Supreme Commander ". . . as to the status of and policies pertaining to the internal structure of civil government in Japan," particularly with respect to civil-military relations, central-local government relations, popular representation in government institutions, government-business relations, and government personnel policies; and to make recommendations concerning demilitarization, decentralization of governmental authority, elimination of feudal and totalitarian practices, elimination of government-business relations that contributed to war potential, and to insure that personnel administration be in conformity with democratic precepts and efficiency (summary of General Orders No. 10, GHQ, Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers [SCAP], June, 1947). In short, GovSec could and frequently did intervene in almost any facet of Japanese government and politics and was the single most crucial link between the Occupation and Japan's national Government, frequently to the consternation of those who worked in other of GHQ's special staff sections as well as Japan's senior political officials.
GovSec was also unusual in that it remained steadfast in its commitment to the Potsdam Declaration, which spelled out the terms of surrender and - more importantly - the U.S. Government's State-War-Navy Coordinating Committee (SWNCC) and Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) post-surrender policy directives to MacArthur setting forth the Occupation's ultimate goals. Newcomers to GovSec were ordered to read these mindboggling - in terms of their grandiose scope - documents as an introduction (some would say indoctrination) to the work that we were to accomplish. To the best of my knowledge, this assignment was not required in other Occupation agencies thus often leading to their being ignored altogether. Too many commentaries on the Occupation also disparage them and make it appear as if everything that was attempted sprang from the mind of MacArthur, a misrepresentation that he did not discourage as it fed his well-known ego.
To exercise its mandate, GovSec became the primary - but never exclusive - funnel for daily contacts between GHQ and Japan's National Government. This primacy created jealousies within other major staff sections such as G-2's Civil Intelligence Section, Economic and Scientific Section, and Civil Information and Education Section. As the years went by, they - most especially General Willoughby's G-2 - began to retaliate by spreading rumors that GovSec was a haven for "New Dealers," "pinkos," and other radicals. Prime Minister Yoshida Shigeru (in office 1946-47 and 1948-54) joined in propagating this calumny, which found an echo in Washington, D.C., as relations soured between the United States and the Soviet Union, its World War II ally. As a very junior member of GovSec, I was not privileged to become well-acquainted with all its senior military officers and civilian staff, but the allegation that any of them had a hidden agenda that was subversive to the interests of the United States or the Occupation's goals was and is absurd. Nonetheless, the sniping had its pernicious impact by slowly diminishing GovSec's influence and eroding the reformist elan that still prevailed in October 1946, when my assignment in it began.
My specific role was as "language officer" in the variously named sub-unit that was charged with implementing the "Political Purge" - the removal and exclusion of undesirable personnel, as defined in broad categories, from Japan's public service. This program had begun on January 4, 1946, with the issuance of SCAP Directive 550 that set forth the categories of individuals who were to be purged, and its less well-known companion Directive 548 that detailed the criteria governing the abolition of ultranationalist, secret, and terrorist organizations. Both should be viewed as aspects of "The Elimination of the Old Order," which also included the demobilization of Japan's entire Imperial Army and Navy, so that Japan would emerge as pacifist and politically democratic when the Occupation ended.
During its initial phase, the purge and its ancillary directive were limited to those occupying positions of authority at the national level. For example, most incumbent members of the House of Representatives became ineligible to run in the April 1946 election and the leader of the then-named Liberal Party, Hatoyama Ichiro, was designated as a purgee shortly before he was to have become prime minister. He eventually did achieve that goal, but not until nine years later. This kind of political upheaval was met with howls of anguish and protest: the old order did not give up easily, but Japan was prostrate and GHQ was still all-powerful.
Preparations for expanding the
purge to include individuals active in local government and politics, as well
as senior executives of private commercial and industrial corporations, as well
as leaders of public information (the press, book publishing, and film)
companies and the literary world were well underway when I became a participant
at a non-policy-making level. Even so, it was a heady experience to be a kozukai (handyman) in what was supposed to usher in a new leadership of all significant sectors of Japan's economy, politics, and society. My enthusiasm and optimism knew no bounds, in part because of my youth; the world still seems to have an infinity of possibilities when one is nineteen.
Our efforts came to a climax in January 1947 at a large conference of local military government officials who were to oversee the expanded purge at the prefectural (To-Do-Fu-Ken) and large city levels, which also would have their own Japanese screening committees. Our counterpart Japanese officials were briefing its members. Endless complexities in the new regulations abounded and it is more than likely that the respective military government and Japanese participants did not absorb all of them. That possibility, while it may have occurred to me, was trivial in comparison with my conviction that a new day was dawning for the people of Japan, who had suffered so grievously under the old order, which also had extended its imperial reach to Korea,Taiwan and, with its military forces, into mainland China as well as selected regions of Southeast Asia.
My euphoric expectations that fundamental change in the composition of Japan's leadership could be accomplished was short-lived. Four months later, national elections - the first under the new Constitution - loomed for the House of Representatives and the entire membership of the newly-established House of Councillors (replacing the House of Peers). The purge group, briefly called the Public Service Qualification Division (about ten relatively young civilian and military staffers) was charged with reviewing the questionnaires (in Japanese and English) of all candidates whom the Japanese government's Central Screening Committee had approved as being eligible.
Time was of the essence and our working hours seemed to be limitless. Decades later, I mentioned this episode to one of my closest Japanese friends - a political science colleague. We had been having a pleasant evening of dining and drinking at one of his favorite haunts. When I complained about all the hard work of long ago, he became furious. "You have no right to feel sorry for yourself. I was a university student at the time, living from hand-to-mouth while you had uninterrupted electricity and light, plenty of food, heat, comfortable quarters and absolutely no concerns about your own future, including your survival." (This is an abbreviated and paraphrased translation.) His totally uncharacteristic outburst - he was normally the soul of equanimity - was fully justified and a perfect putdown of my puerile yammering.
Even harder and more intensive work began immediately after the April 1947 election. Japan's Socialist Party had won a plurality of seats and its leader - Katayama Tetsu - was therefore in line to become prime minister. His credentials (within the framework of the purge criteria) were impeccable. MacArthur, in his official congratulatory comment, emphasized that Katayama was a Christian and, by implication, a democrat and a pacifist. Some of his potential ministers were less "clean," as was reflected in their occasionally inaccurate and incomplete questionnaires, which we reviewed with special care, and in their own writings, if any were available. We prepared summaries of our - admittedly totally inadequate - findings for senior GovSec officials. In several instances we emphasized potential problems in the prior affiliations and past behavior - all based solely on the purge's criteria - of these candidates for Japan's highest offices, who would be the first to hold political power under the newly adopted Constitution.
By chance, I was the linguist on weekend duty when General Whitney called me into his office as he was expecting JSP Secretary-General Nishio Suehiro, who was to come with the final roster of cabinet ministers. Whitney briefly looked at the list, which included some individuals about whom we had raised purge-related questions, and said: "Thank you, all are approved" - easily translated. The meeting was over almost before it had begun, but I was crestfallen that our group's strenuous efforts had been totally ignored. The usual Saturday evening's party ended with friends carrying me back to my room in the Yuraku Building, without my being able to explain to any of them the "top secret" reasons for my drunken despair.
The Katayama Cabinet's twelve-month tenure was probably the apex of political reform under the aegis of the Occupation. Screening incumbents of and applicants for "public office" (including private sector as well as governmental positions) under the purge had largely been completed by the autumn of 1947. Consequently, our group's activities turned to the vexing question of controlling the activities of those who had been designated as purgees. G-2, with its phalanx of counter-intelligence agents and other specialists in its Civil Intelligence Section, could have assisted. By then, however, General Willoughby had decided that Japanese and GHQ "leftists" posed a much greater threat to the tranquillity of the Occupation than the old order's "rightists" and their many friends in GHQ.
So, little help for our efforts was available from that quarter. Relations between G-2 and GovSec had descended to such depths that my long-time good friend and Yuraku roommate Rick Straus, who by then was working for David Tait in G-2, and I were not allowed to talk with each other about anything relating to our work. Ridiculous, to be sure, but even more so was that we obeyed our respective superiors' edict. All those artificial constraints did not prevent us from having fun, especially on Lake Chuzenji (above Nikko), where our jointly-owned little sailboat and hikes in the surrounding countryside provided much-needed relaxation on many a weekend.
Meanwhile, numerous published stories - dating back to the winter months of 1947 - made clear that this or that purgee was continuing to exercise influence over those who were now in positions of authority, whether in government, politics or business. Some kind of mechanism was essential to control their activities if the purge was not to become a mockery. Prime Minister Yoshida, during whose waning days in office (early 1947) the problem became public, was not an enthusiastic supporter of the purge with the major exception that it might be a useful tool in reducing, if not completely eliminating, the influence of the military and a few of his other political enemies. Nonetheless, he appointed a small number of Naimusho (Interior Ministry, then awaiting its dissolution) police officials to organize a Special Investigation Bureau (Tokubetsu Shinsa-kyoku) to supervise the activities of purgees. It found that no significant violations had occurred.
That changed dramatically when the Katayama cabinet came to power and Suzuki Yoshio became Minister of Justice. He inherited the existing Special Investigation Bureau (SIB) from the now defunct Home Ministry and replaced its director with Takiuchi Reisaku, an associate from his law office. Both of them had been active in pre-war and wartime years as defense counsels for individuals who had been accused of violating the infamous "Peace Preservation Law" (Chian Iji-ho) that had been used so effectively in "thought control" and quelling dissent, often by imprisoning and torturing alleged offenders. Consequently, their commitment to controlling the activities of designated purgees was strong, in total contrast to their predecessors' inactivity.
However, it took several months for the new SIB to begin to function. Office space could not be found, and budgetary funds for its personnel were reportedly not available. By the summer of 1947, Jack Napier - chief of the purge group and my immediate superior - had decided time could be saved by my accompanying Takiuchi-san in his search for some usable rooms. In the meantime, the SIB shared the minimal accommodations of the Central Screening Committee that were in the basement of the Kantei, the Prime Minister's official residence. (I am saddened, for sentimental reasons, by the imminent destruction of the residence but can testify that already fifty-five years ago the working areas - mostly in the basement - were a shambles.) Riding around Tokyo with Takiuchi-san, whose warm spirit and coolness under pressure were admirable, is among my happier memories. Both he and Suzuki Yoshio rank high in my pantheon of heroes.
Slowly but surely, the Tokushin Kyoku (SIB) began to live up to its mandate. Its accomplishments are best measured by what transpired when Yoshida became Prime Minister for the second time in the autumn of 1948. One of his first personnel decisions was to dismiss Takiuchi-san and replace him with a public procurator who had prosecuted the Soviet spy Richard Sorge. By then, it did not make much difference as GHQ's priorities had shifted from an emphasis on reform to recovery. That the former might aid the latter was no longer deemed to be feasible. Officially, the purge had been declared to be completed in July 1948. A new Appeals Board, which had been under GovSec's strictest guidance in its earlier incarnation, began to remove this or that individual from the list of designated purgees, and gradually some entire categories began to be exempted from the complex provisions of the purge.
Over the intervening decades, the "reverse course" has been debated at length. One of my GovSec superiors maintained that MacArthur, in his role as Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers (SCAP), had been resolute in living up to the terms of the Potsdam Declaration and Washington's post-surrender policy directives. That view has merit if primary consideration is given to the demilitarization of Japan. He, and Yoshida as well, resisted President Truman's Peace Treaty emissary John Foster Dulles in demanding that Japan's military forces be reconstituted. However, if the political reforms such as the purge are considered, it becomes crystal clear that a volte face had begun during the Occupation and gradually expanded once Japan regained its sovereignty.
As far as the elimination of the old order is concerned, GHQ's drastic shift in its priorities is also exemplified by the so-called "red purge," which remains far better remembered in Japan than the original "white" purge. By 1949, GHQ became concerned about the increasing political activism and radicalism of Japan's trade union movement that its Labor Division initially had valiantly tried to propagate. Simultaneously, the Japan Communist Party (JCP) had begun to abandon its "lovable" strategy and became increasingly vocal in its criticism of Occupation policies. (All this mostly took place after my departure and therefore does not belong in this reminiscence.)
To deal with these developments, GovSec used the Purge Directive's companion SCAPIN 548 that had ordered the dissolution of organizations which - among other activities - engaged in "resistance or opposition" to the Occupation. In January 1946, no one had anticipated this provision being directed against anyone other than militarists or ultranationalists, as is reflected in the original list of appended societies. To use it as a potential tool against - for example - the JCP would have been inconceivable since most of its leaders had spent the war years in exile or in jail. Moreover, Japan's old order had also done its best to control and often disband nascent trade unions in the 1930's. Nonetheless, four tumultuous years - including the onset of the Cold War - had intervened so that it became possible to justify, at least legally, turning the original goal of the purge on its head.
One final comment about the foregoing: the Occupation lasted for a little over six years, only about half of which - if that - was dedicated to the "reform" of Japan. It is not surprising, therefore, that externally induced alterations in Japan's body politic had conflicting reverberations that have continued to this day. Confusion about what Washington D.C. expects from Japan has been almost a constant in the bilateral relationship. In itself, that circumstance reflects the commitment of at least some Japanese to the ambitious agenda that the American government and its allies had initially ordered SCAP to implement, but that has been mostly forgotten by the original authors.
When I returned to Japan
five-and-a-half years later, the country had undergone several dramatic surface
changes. Many new office buildings, factories, and homes had sprung up.
Western-style clothing, while not yet fashionable, had replaced the earlier
omnipresent mompe. Grocery shops were well-supplied, if not yet opulent in their produce, and shelves in department stores were full of all kinds of goods. More importantly, the Japanese people were energetic and full of purpose; returned veterans - many of them wounded - of Japan's armed forces, who had earlier been ubiquitous in their shabby off-white garments and with their begging bowls, were notable by their almost complete absence.
My young family and I arrived in Yokohama aboard a freighter in the late summer of 1954. My principal purpose was to gather research materials to write a dissertation so that the final requirement of the Ph.D. marathon could be fulfilled. Ultimately, that goal was achieved, but I was also eager to learn about Japanese politics and what had transpired after my departure as an occupationnaire in January 1949. Far more significant to me personally was my inner transformation.
As a bratty botchan in the Nagai Compound, my daily life had been one of privilege
in a gaijin ghetto. During the years in Government Section, I had been a member of an army of occupation and my interaction with the people of Japan - unless for official purposes - had been circumscribed by the "non-fraternization with indigenous personnel" (as ugly as it sounds) policy governing our behavior. I was not alone in my disobedience. By contrast, my eighteen months in Japan as a graduate student was the first of several opportunities to become acquainted with the "real" Japan, including the gradual realization that there are many. If nothing else, it helped strip me of the "post-occupation" syndrome - being convinced that we in the U.S. knew better. For that, above all else, I am grateful.
Good friends had found a home for us in Yokohama's Heirakucho - a garden cottage that had been a chashitsu, or tea-house. Dr. Machida, the proprietor, had hoped to specialize in psychoanalysis, but - not having found many patients as mental illness was officially unrecognized - had become a pediatrician. That was most fortunate for us, our two-year old and our baby who was born the following March. Our living quarters were a bit cramped, a minor inconvenience offset by an authentic o-furo, a tiny study for me, and a spectacular view of Fuji on clear days of which there were many, as air pollution was still minimal.
Suzuki-sensei and Takiuchi-san opened many doors for me and made many useful suggestions about where relevant materials might be found. Among them was an enormous cache of statistical data that the Japanese Government had published. On the other hand, the "purge" questionnaires submitted by applicants for and incumbents in public office were nowhere to be found. After many false leads, we determined that a mysterious fire had consumed them. That was a minor setback in comparison with the enormous help that I received. In addition, the Suzuki Law Office in the old Marunouchi Building became my home away from home while in Tokyo. My debt to both men is incalculable.
As the months went by, I slowly began to expand my narrow vision to include contemporary developments in Japanese politics and how they might be studied. Doing so was technically beyond the scope of the Ford Foundation-funded Foreign Area Fellowship Program (FAFP) research grant that sustained my family and me. Professor Nobutaka Ike of Stanford University, a fellow FAFPer, had found a youthful political science colleague at Tokyo University's Komaba campus, Professor Kyogoku Jun'ichi, who was kind enough to organize a small seminar for the two of us. Our mentor asked penetrating questions and was of enormous assistance in expanding our horizon by addressing basic questions of analysis. We met infrequently, but each session was strenuous and informative as well as exhilarating in comparison with the gathering of data that was intermittent because impenetrable stone walls could not be breached.
The eighteen months in Japan that
the FAFP grant made possible did bear fruit. In 1959, my dissertation was
published by the University of California Press. A former student, good
friend, and distinguished colleague Sodei Rinjiro (now professor emeritus,
Hosei University) translated it into Japanese and Keiso Shobo published it
under the title Shidosha Tsuiho (The Purge of Leaders) in 1970. For years, no one in Japan wanted to touch the subject, except in passing references. I had hoped for many years that a Japanese scholar would be willing to address the purge from a Japanese perspective, which was almost entirely, and most regrettably, absent from my all-too-limited analysis.
This hope has now been fulfilled by Professor Masuda Hiroshi, of Toyo Eiwa Women's University, whose major field of study is Japan's diplomatic history. Over the last decade he has published at least three separate books dealing with the purge and has informed me that he may undertake one more. All of them go far beyond what I wrote when too much of the real story remained hidden in still-classified documents in American and Japanese government archives. Unfortunately, all efforts to find funds to translate any of Masuda-sensei's revelations and underwrite their publication in English have thus far been unsuccessful. Of his books, the translation of Koshoku Tsuiho-ron (Discourse on the Purge of Public Office [holders] ) should have top consideration. It is a magisterial and penetrating analysis of the many controversies that have swirled around this contentious subject and deserves a wider audience than that of foreign specialists in Japanese studies.
In all likelihood, future generations will unearth more heretofore hidden materials and will reinterpret what actually happened and what - in the longer run - it all meant, if anything. That is as it should be. True scholarship is an evolving process and none of us can lay claim to having spoken or written the final word on a given topic. Ultimately, that is what makes participating in the endeavor worthwhile.
HANS BAERWALD , born
in Tokyo in 1927, is a professor emeritus, University of California, Los
Angeles. He received his B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. degrees in Japanese studies and
political science from the University of California, Berkeley. His books
include The Purge of Japanese Leaders
under the Occupation (University of California Press, 1959), Japan's Parliament: An Introduction (Cambridge
University Press, 1974), and Party
Politics in Japan (Allen & Unwin, 1986). He is also a member of the
board of advisers of JPRI and author of Occasional
Paper #3 (May 1995), "Fund-Raising in Japan: A Sasakawa Saga." A slightly different version of this reminiscence was printed in the International House of Japan Bulletin, 22:1 (Spring 2002), pp. 30-47, and is used here with the kind permission of the author and the International House of Japan.