762.9411/77: Telegram

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

929. My 916, September 29, 11 a.m.64

In view of the present strict censorship of the press and control of public utterances, and in view also of the fact that our most important and reliable Japanese channels of information and opinion have not been available since the advent of “the new structure” in Japan (partly because our former connections appear to have abandoned their hope of improving relations with the United States and partly because contacts with the American or British Embassy are looked at askance by the police authorities), accurate appraisal of public reaction in Japan to the recent signing of the Axis pact is uncertain. We must furthermore guard against accepting as a possible criterion of public opinion the privately but forcibly expressed views of Japanese businessmen whose interests have been thrown out of gear through the orientation of the Foreign Office away from the United States and Great Britain, and who are bitterly opposed to the new trend in general and to the Axis alliance in particular.
Nevertheless our observations since the signing of the pact point to a marked lack of enthusiasm on the part of a large element of Japanese public opinion, both in certain military and in some civilian and government circles. It is commonly believed by competent foreign observers that the Navy, which was not associated with the negotiation of the pact and whose officers were conspicuously absent from the various official functions held in celebration of the signing of the pact, is not only unenthusiastic but perhaps opposed to the present orientation of affairs. It is also held by certain observers that the Premier himself was forced to accept the pact contrary to his wishes and that he may as a result seek an early opportunity to resign. On this point I do not feel at present moment in a position to proffer an opinion.
It may also be significant that the decoration of the city, flag processions, lantern parades, et cetera, which apparently represented at least some measure of spontaneous enthusiasm at the time of the conclusion of the Anti-Comintern Pact in 1937,65 have been noticeably [Page 658] lacking. Indeed today’s Hochi expressed regretful astonishment at this lack of enthusiasm and naїvely adds: “Something must be done to set the people’s blood to boiling. The tripartite pact is a stirring march for Japan, not an elegy”; excise [sic] significance may also be attached to the fact that the issuance of an Imperial rescript66 that the announcement of the pact was thought necessary, the last similar occasion for such a rescript having occurred when Japan withdrew from the League of Nations. Open expressions of opposition to the pact were thus prevented at the beginning.
The Japanese press has avoided reporting any of the strong editorials from prominent newspapers in the United States of the substance and tone of those set forth in Radio Bulletin No. 232, but has published utterances recommending conciliation with Japan by such well known Americans as Roy Howard, Arthur Krock, Congressman Hamilton Fish, Cornelius Whitney, et cetera, while conciliatory passages from Mr. Welles’ recent speech in Cleveland67 were taken out of their context.
With regard to the effect of the pact upon future Japanese tactics I find that the flood of opinions and suppositions that come to us are based purely on speculation and that for the present we in Tokyo can do no more than to watch developments. The conclusion of a non-aggression pact with Soviet Russia, now freely predicted would obviously have an important bearing upon future Japanese moves. I look with a measure of anxiety on the German military mission which is coming to Japan as a result of the pact because, apart from furnishing technical assistance, the mission will undoubtedly carry on intensive propaganda among the Japanese military and will presumably make every effort to incite Japan to push the southward advance and to provoke war with the United States. This factor in the situation seems to me to be potentially more serious than any technical or material support which Germany might furnish.
The attitude of the Japanese Government has been summed up in informal conversations which some of my colleagues have recently had with the Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs.68 When asked what Japan expected to gain from the pact, Mr. Ohashi replied that it was aimed directly against the United States which, ever since the passage of the exclusion clause of the American Immigration Act,69 had followed a policy of hampering Japan’s necessary and inevitable expansion; that Anglo-Saxonism is about to become bankrupt and will be [Page 659] effectively wiped out in favor of world totalitarianism, and that it is therefore natural and necessary that Japan should ally herself with those countries which stand for a new order in world affairs.

Sent to the Department. Repeated to Moscow and Shanghai. Shanghai please repeat by air mail to Chungking.

  1. Foreign Relations, Japan, 1931–1941, vol. ii, p. 169.
  2. Signed at Rome, November 6, 1937, ibid., p. 159.
  3. See telegram No. 911, September 27, midnight, from the Ambassador in Japan, Foreign Relations, Japan, 1931–1941, vol. ii, p. 168.
  4. On September 28; for extract, see ibid., p. 112.
  5. Chuichi Ohashi.
  6. Section 13 (c), Act approved May 26, 1924; 43 Stat. 153. For correspondence regarding this subject, see Foreign Relations, 1924, vol. ii, pp. 333 ff.