701.9411/1126: Telegram

The Ambassador in Japan (Grew) to the Secretary of State

148. Department’s 72, March 25, 4 p.m.

The United States press news despatch of March 23 is highly exaggerated. It is true that plans have been formulated by a committee of the Foreign Office for the ceremonial reception of the ashes of former Ambassador Saito in Yokohoma on April 17 and for the official funeral service in Tokyo on April 18th and also for the subsequent entertainment of the officers and crew of the Astoria while in port, but these plans, apart from the appointment of a committee of the Foreign Office instead of the Navy Ministry, are similar to those customarily arranged for the entertainment of any visiting foreign war ships. These plans from the beginning were formulated by the Japanese and we were not consulted with regard to them nor was our opinion asked.
The statement in the Department’s 50, March 1, 4 p.m., that “further details will be worked out here between the Department and the Japanese Embassy”, and the advice received by the Naval Attaché that the Astoria would remain in Yokohama 9 days led to the apparently obvious assumption that the schedule had been so arranged after consultation with the Japanese Embassy as to permit of the customary entertainment. Permit me respectfully to observe: (a) that no indication of the Department’s views and wishes with regard to the avoidance of entertainment was given us; and (b) that if the Naval Attaché or I had been consulted from Washington at any point in the preparatory stages in the procedure we would have pointed out that a program of entertainment in Japan would be inevitable unless discouraged at the beginning. In Japanese eyes and according to Japanese custom such entertainment after a funeral in no way robs the funeral of its solemnity.
The ceremonial duties of the Astoria will technically have been fulfilled upon the completion of the funeral service in Tokyo on April 18th. In view however of the extensive plans already made for entertainment I believe that the minimum requirements of courtesy and the avoidance of serious embarrassment can be assured only if the Department will approve of the fulfilling by Captain Turner and his officers of three important engagements; (a) a dinner at the Embassy on April 17 for the purpose of introducing Captain Turner to high Japanese officials; (b) a luncheon to be given by the Minister for Foreign Affairs on April 19 followed by proposed radio broadcasts by Captain Turner and the Foreign Minister; and (c) a dinner to be [Page 459] given by the Navy Minister on the same evening. Please instruct me urgently as to the Department’s wishes with regard to these three engagements. If they are not to be fulfilled I think that the Astoria had better depart from Yokohama immediately after the funeral on the 18th.
It is my intention to meet the ashes on the pier at Yokohama where there will be an imposing ceremony and to place a wreath on the urn at the [time?] and also to attend the funeral service in Tokyo.
No gifts for the officers and crew of the Astoria have been accepted at the Embassy and only in the case of the necklaces mentioned in the news despatch was provisional custody offered on the ground that such provisional custody could not have been refused without giving marked offense. The donor does not reside in Tokyo and he desired to leave the necklaces in the safe of the Naval Attaché until Captain Turner arrived, and could be consulted. In spite of the absence of any naval regulations to the contrary, we did not believe that Captain Turner would accept them and we had expected to return them to the donor with polite explanation after the arrival of the ship. The action of the donor in choosing to give publicity to the matter was totally unexpected. As soon as this publicity occurred we had determined to return them to the donor on our own initiative and this has now been done. I am requesting the United Press to rectify the inaccurate news by wireless.
In connection with the question of gifts I quote the following paragraph from a memorandum to me from the Naval Attaché

“On March 24th the junior aide to the Navy Minister inquired if the Astoria would accept presents for the Captain’s, wardroom and warrant officers messes in the form of framed silk embroidery pictures of marine subjects. The offer was transmitted by cable to the Astoria. Reply was received this morning that the ship would be glad to accept them. In view of the recent telegram from the State Department the Japanese Navy Department has not been informed of the willingness of the Astoria to accept its offer.”

In view of the fact that the plans for entertainment are now far advanced, any radical change in the program would be fraught with embarrassment. All or nearly all of the proposed entertainment on the program already elaborated are within “the scope of official courtesies” and the Japanese regard them as “in keeping with the ceremonial character of the visit.” I am not aware that the Astoria is regarded in any responsible Japanese quarter as being on any diplomatic or naval “mission” or that it carries any “delegation.” The Japanese who attach extraordinary importance to the paying of respect for the dead, have become excited over the visit of the Astoria, primarily for the reason that the American Government, by rendering [Page 460] the late Ambassador an unprecedented honor at this juncture in relations between the two nations, is believed to have chosen a means to show good will which would be especially appreciated by the Japanese as a magnanimous attitude. Considering the emotional and sentimental temperament of the Japanese their present reaction was to be expected. Disappointment, embarrassment, and a possible degree of irritation are likely to result from a change of plans on the part of the Astoria no matter how carefully we endeavor to explain the reasons therefor. The constructive effect of our friendly gesture already obvious in Japan may be largely negatived.
With the foregoing picture of the situation I hope that the Department will cable me its further wishes as specifically and urgently as possible.