During our last war against Japanese militarism, there were extremely few influential Japanese living abroad "who were fighting the regime in their native country. The name of Ikuo Oyama was prominently mentioned in the U. S. In the early part of the Pacific war we heard of no other.
This Japanese statesman, who was a veteran of the Japanese Diet and a militant liberal, lived in Chicago as a political refugee and taught at a university. He had fled Japan during the '30s when political repression grew stronger as the war financiers and the militarists pushed onto the Asian continent and carried aggression into Manchuria and China. In the U. S. he worked closely with our government.
After the war, Oyama, who had been the leader of the Worker-Peasant Party, returned to Japan and again became a member of the Japanese parliament. He became a professor at the Waseda University. His colleague in the former party, Senji Yamamoto, who had also been an outspoken anti-militarist in parliament, had been assassinated before Oyama fled Japan. Elder statesman Oyama is known for his contributions in introducing democratic ideas into Japan through his writings and lectures.
When Oyama stopped over here in Honolulu on his way back to his native country after the Japanese surrender, he told guests at a banquet given in his honor that the U. S. government had requested him to go to Japan as a sort of representative for this country. He said he had refused. He wanted to return home as an independent person, to participate in the democratic reconstruction of his country.
He is now a leader of the liberal bloc and one of the most prominent in the peace movement which is opposing rearmament. He is against the unilateral peace with the Western bloc. He recently received the Stalin Peace Prize.
While we were behind barbed wire and watch-towers of Manzanar, while in the military training camps and in India, we Nisei GIs wondered if there were any others like Oyama on the Asian continent.
Then on the Burma front in the late spring of 1944, we heard of Kaji Wataru, a Japanese anti-fascist writer. Ever since that day I wanted to meet him. I wondered how he re-educated the Japanese soldiers who were deeply indoctrinated with the teachings of Emperor worship and bushido. I wondered how he made the Japanese prisoners of war discard their deep contempt for people they regarded as ragged, cowardly and inferior Chinese! soldiers. How long did it take Kaji to convert them from fanatic soldiers who would rather commit suicide than be captured, to willing propagandists for the Chinese army?
In China, I heard his name more frequently. Almost every Chinese intellectual and American correspondent knew him personally in the wartime capital of Chungking.
I Meet the Exiled Left-Wing Writer and His Wife
I remember that morning we met Kaji and his wife, Yuki Ikeda, in the OWI director's office at Chungking. I had imagined that Kaji would be stocky and rugged. Instead, we Nisei met a short and slender man with kindly, doe-like eyes. This was the exiled left-wing writer who had shaken the cockiness of the Japanese military brass in China. I say "had shaken" because when we met him he was virtually a prisoner of Chiang Kai-shek's government which had turned its efforts away from the anti-Japanese war and was preparing for the anti-Communist war which it would engage in after the allies defeated the Japanese.
Yuki Ikeda was very attractive and she conversed brilliantly.
From the first meeting, she impressed me as a sincere person and I soon found out that she was the pillar of Kaji's Japanese prisoner re-education program. She was a stabilizing force, a young mother to men who needed new faith after becoming captives of people they looked down upon as their inferiors. She was a student of world politics, constantly studying and applying her knowledge to practical work.
You Would Not Imagine She Had Undergone Torture
When she smiled and talked you would never imagine that she had been tortured by the Japanese militarists. You would not think that she had fled Japan while very young and danced in the ballrooms of Shanghai to eke out a meager living, all the while suffering from poor health.
I met Kaji and Yuki frequently. One evening shortly after I met them, Kaji and I were at a restaurant when the air raid alarm signal went on. The restaurant owner came to us and asked us to leave, saying that there might be an unpleasant incident since Kaji was a Japanese.
That night I asked Kaji to tell me his experiences. I wanted to know then why the Chiang Kai-shek government to which ha had made vast contributions in the war effort, was not publicizing his activities, particularly the anti-Japanese psychological warfare conducted by him and his converted prisoners.
"We Were Convinced That We Were Ideologically Stronger Than the Japanese Militarists"
To hear the wartime experiences of Kaji and his wife was to get a general picture of China at war.
Kaji told me that he and Yuki fled Shanghai when the Japanese sacked the city. With the help of friends they went to Hong Kong. Again helped by Chinese friends, like China's cultural leader Kuo Mo-jo, they were brought inland to participate in anti-Japanese psychological warfare.
"We were convinced that we were ideologically stronger than the Japanese militarists," Kaji said. "We thus began appealing directly to front-line Japanese soldiers."
Kaji, Yuki and another Japanese, Kazuo Aoyama, were the first to re-educate and use Japanese captives on the front lines in Asia. The task was tremendous for the Japanese were piling up victories on their side.
Kaji Had Faith In Re-Educated Japanese POWs
They made politics their sharp cutting edge and appealed to Japanese prisoners as peasants and workers who had been forced to fight the peasants and workers of China, all for the profits of the war financiers and military rulers. Was raping and pillaging in China their concept of "Asia for the Asiatics" or "Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity"? Such ideas cut deeply underneath the haughtiness and fanaticism of bushido.
"When I went to the front lines with my first group of reeducated prisoners, I had faith in them. I knew they would not escape but direct propaganda attacks against the enemy," Kaji said to me.
The first venture was a success. Kaji and his colleagues used public address system, leaflets and comfort kits with propaganda messages enclosed for Japanese troops. The peasants distributed the leaflets and kits. The Japanese high command took measures to counter Kaji's "contaminating" effort by shifting frontline troops to the rear and having them replaced.
Chiang Was Arrested, Forced To Fight Japan
All this occurred during the Nationalist-Communist united front resistance against the Japanese. This was the period following the nationwide student movement which demanded that Chiang Kai-shek fight Japan. It followed the capture of Chiang at Sian by Young Marshal Chang Hsueh-liang whose troops revolted against the generalissimo's anti-red campaigns. They wanted to fight the Japanese invaders, and this, Chiang was forced to do.
During the united front, it was a people's war. The peasants in the countryside and the merchants in the cities were told what stakes they had in the war. They saw that full participation was necessary in fighting the invaders for they had vital interest in the resistance.
In such an environment of a whole nation fighting a common enemy, Kaji, Yuki and Aoyama conducted their prisoner re-education. They were encouraged to do so.
Nationals, Composed of Rotten Material, Cracked Under Japanese Onslaught
But in the face of the Japanese onslaught the united front cracked. First the Nationalists wavered and subsequently some of their leading elements under Wang Ch'ing-wei went over to the Japanese and set up a puppet government at Nanking. Not only on the military front but on political, ideological fronts they collapsed. The quisling government of Wang Ch'ing-wei, in a very illuminating manner, served both the Japanese and the Nationalists, as an anti-Communist front.
History has proved that from this time on it was the Chinese partisans under Communist leadership that resisted the Japanese. Consequently, they received the brunt of the Japanese attacks. They grew in this anti-Japanese struggle far into the Japanese rear to the China coast and into Manchuria, and the Nationalists practically sat out the war.
Kaji told me that when the united front broke and the Nationalists began suppressing the liberals and anyone who demanded an all-out anti-Japanese war in alliance with the Communist-led guerrillas, his work with the Japanese POWs was stopped. He returned from the war front with his converted psychological warfare workers and at the docks at Chungking many hundreds of Chinese turned out to welcome their Japanese allies and pay them tribute.
Kaji Was a Symbol of China's Resistance
But in a few days the prisoner converts were locked up as dangerous elements, although they had faced the Japanese troops on the firing lines with public address systems. I talked to some of them. I was encouraged that even under Nationalist suppression, they studied and held discussions in preparing themselves for their roles in a democratic Japan. In observing them I felt deeply that the future Japan belongs to peace-loving people like them.
Kaji himself lived like a captive outside Chungking. He was red-baited along with Chinese patriots who wanted to fight Japan. When Americans arrived in China and set up headquarters, the Nationalists made pretenses of using Kaji. They payed him a small subsistence allowance, for Kaji was a symbol of China's resistance. When I met him he was a show-window piece for the Chiang government. And to the credit of Kaji and Yuki they maintained their dignity and did whatever they could for the war effort.
Whenever I met them or went to restaurants with them, they would point out Tai Li agents who kept close watch of them Kaji and Yuki were like aliens in the United States today, aliens who have made contributions to this country as labor leaders and civil rights fighters but in reactionary times, their steadfast views becoming sharply non-conforming, they are hounded and persecuted and threatened with deportation. Only in the case of aliens in the United States, they have made this country their home while Kaji and Yuki wanted to return to Japan after the war. . . .
Chiang Kai-shek's Regime Feared An Elightened Populace
What is the fundamental reason that the Nationalists broke the united resistance with the Communists?" I asked Kaji.
A people's war, he said, brings a new sense of power to the peasantry in rural China. The peasants see they have a stake in the war, that they are fighting in order to better their living conditions. They visualize new hope and not mere empty promises. The warlords, landlords and bureaucrats in the Nationalist regime who survive by squeezing the peasants become alarmed. A new challenge had been created and after the Japanese were driven out, they would utilize their experience to destroy and change the social forms of the past.
The British have the same fear of the colonized natives in Burma and Malaya, the Dutch in Indonesia and the French in Indo-China, Kaji explained to me. In fighting the Japanese they would learn to oppose the western imperial powers.
Tried To Patch Relationship Between Kaji and Aoyama
Kaji frequently said that it was unfortunate that he and Aoyama were on bad terms. At his request I tried to bring the two together, for both were political exiles fighting the Japanese military rulers. Finally I gave up my efforts when I saw that Aoyama was not interested in cooperating with Kaji. I also discovered that Aoyama worked closely with Tai Li agents, popularly referred to as the Chinese Gestapo.
Aoyama operated quite freely in Chungking. He openly said that he was a Communist but the Nationalists left him alone. Kaji, on the other hand, known merely as a left-wing writer was persecuted.
Aoyama had a small printing plant. He came to us at the OWI with an offer to let us have it free. Neil Brown, the administrative officer, negotiated for the OWI and I interpreted for him.
"I don't want a cent," Aoyama told Brown. "I am a Communist so money does not matter."
When I told this to Brown, he frowned. Brown told me to feel out Aoyama further for we knew he was not going to give anything free. Since he was tied up with Tai Li, it was safe for Aoyama to say that he was a Communist.
Aoyama Grinned Condescendingly, Pitied Our Ignorance
He repeated that Communists don't need money so he was not asking any from the OWI. We insisted that he had to have money to live. We wanted to agree on a price for his printing plant. He grinned condescendingly, as though pitying our ignorance.
As we expected, two days later he, sent us a list of his equipment with a price list prevalent in Chungking's black market. Finally when Brown paid for Aoyama's plant, he not only paid the black market price but was forced to hire Aoyama's printers at wages he demanded.
Occasionally Aoyama came to our office with samples of leaflets he had written for the Nationalist propaganda department. He boasted that the Nationalists were dropping hundreds of thousands of leaflets over Japanese lines. We knew differently. Hundreds of thousands of leaflets for use against Japanese troops were stacked in storerooms. Coolies slept on them while Nationalist officials were content with lining their pockets with funds allocated for leaflet projects.