Anyone who reads the headlines in the newspapers of this country knows that Japan is in a particularly feverish stage of her ago-long quarrel with China. Anyone travelling in Japan is spared the trouble of reading the headlines to ascertain this fact.
The country is full of preparations for war; troop trains are busy carrying men to the ports for embarkation to Shanghai and the northern war zone, with the railway congestion particularly noticeable in the vicinity of Kobe and Osaka. Long trains of supplies, with some flat cars disclosing the sinister shapes of guns under concealing covers, are drawn up on the tracks in every important station. At every station, no matter how small whenever a group of soldiers departs, there is a group of people singing, cheering, and waving flags to give them a royal send off. These demonstrations are found even in the wee hours of the morning. School children make up a large per cent of any group; in fact, one school boy confided to me that the students hadn't had much of a vacation this year because whenever there were not enough people in a village to give a proper farewell, the students were asked to provide background of flag waving and anthem singing.
The populace in general seems to be taking the whole affair very nonchalantly when they are not in mass demonstrations. The Japanese very deservedly have the reputation of being exceptionally courteous to foreigners. This courtesy is still present under the war situation, although every now and then some overworked official drops the veil for an instant to loose his pent up emotions.
The Japanese press, including the English language newspapers, continues to stress obediently that the present scrap, is the "China Incident," not at all a war in any sense of the word. Large space is given to supposed Russian interference which is prolonging the "Incident." The demand has been voiced several times for strengthening of the Cabinet, which admittedly was not created in a strength sufficient to carry on under the present difficulties. Again and again in the press comes the plea that the nation must achieve more unity, that Japan must present a united front to the world, and that at all costs the present conflict must not be allowed to exhaust her resources before the anticipated trial of strength with her neighbor, Soviet Russia.
There seems to be a real reason for the oft roiterated cry for a more perfect union of national forces; about 50 per cent of the common people appear to be apathetic toward the Japanese imperialistic polic in Asia. Furthermore, the controlled press is quite willing to admit that the Japanese financial position is very precarious at the present time.
Of course the usual tales of the valour of the national defenders find their way into the newspapers day after day. Some of these undoubtedly are true, but others simply surpass belief. The prize one so far is this which appeared in the Japan Times. A party of Japanese soldiers were out on scouting duty, when they observed a much larger party of Chinese, apparently bent on the same mission, approaching them. Concealing themselves, the party of eleven Japanese waited until the right moment came, then rushed forth and threw themselves upon the Chinese, engaging them in hand-to-hand conflict. At the end of the affray, some of the Chinese had taken flight, while the remaining one hundred Chinese were lying slain upon the ground. The dispatch added that the leader of the valorous band of eleven had suffered a sligh cut from a Chinese sword, which was the sum total of the Nipponese injuries.
Malcolm R. Wilkey '40, author of the article on Japan, arrived in Nippon on August 26 and left for home on September 9. He had been on his way to Lignan University in China for a year of study. He is now back at Harvard, regularly enrolled.
When he was in Yokohama, Wilkey says that he was the only Caucasian foreigner at his hotel who was not a refugee from the war area.
Admittedly the Chinese losses are running much higher than those of the Japanese, but not in the exaggerated proportions which appear in the Japanese papers. There are a great number of Japanese women being rapidly trained as nurses and shipped to the war zone; no one supposes that these are intended primarily for the benefit of the wounded Chinese soldiery. By the first of September there were already shiploads of wounded being sent back to Japan in almost every ship that called at Shanghai. When the Nagaski Maru docked at Kobe on September 8, the wounded soldiers carried in the hold of the ship were shifted to the port side for unloading. There was such a number of them that the shift caused the ship to list heavily to port. These men were loaded secretly at Shanghai; when they were carried off the vessel at Kobe, the passengers were forced to go to the other side of the ship, which had its top decks roped off to prevent any of the passengers from viewing the unloading, which took all of two hours.
During September every hotel in the principal cities of Japan was filled with foreign refugees from Shanghai, most of them waiting eagerly for passage to the United States. The newspapers even claimed that large numbers of Chinese were fleeing the war zones to seek shelter in Japan, where they were being received with the most courteous treatment. The truth or falsity of this report was not easily ascertainable.
The refugees from China, especially those from shanghai, had many horrible tales to tell of the sights to be soon in places where there had been actual fighting. According to their reports and a perusal of American newspapers, the worst does not appear in our press; be cause the sheer ghastliness and brutality of what is happening there is too great to appear in the public print.