(The Royal Flower of Japan)
In the years following WWII, the governments and industrial elements of Germany and Japan made unprecedented efforts to create a working relationship with their like counterparts in the United States. The Japanese government also began a campaign of education showing their citizens that America had a receptive open door by sponsoring trade shows and cultural events illustrating the willingness to start a new chapter in commerce and other exchanges between the two countries.
This writer experienced a coincident twist resulting in the following story and which I would like to share as it was my good luck to be hired by a start-up motion picture company headed by a former RKO film editor, Philip Martin, Jr., who had purchased the RKO Long Island City studio equipment when the Supreme Court ruled that theatres could no longer be owned by motion picture studios. One of our first major projects was for NHK (Japanese National Broadcasting), a series of 15-minute productions for Japanese television with subjects including sports, culture and commercial efforts being undertaken in the US market. As the series was intended for a Japanese audience, they featured a well known on-camera TV personalty, Mario Tateno.
On one particular day, for a culture segment, the crew and the narrator were on a roof in a Boston neighborhood, a sudden gust of wind blew the narrator’s script across the roof and into the street below, where some of the pages were picked up by some children playing, who were looking at the pages and turning them around with quizzical looks on their faces, when one of the crew shouted down “Surrender or be destroyed.” Mario Tateno was not amused and it took a while for him to agree to continue.
It was shortly after the destruction of two of Japan’s major cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki that the inner circle of the Royal Palace had agreed along with the Emperor that efforts must be begun to stop the war before any more loss of life and property that was obvious should hostilities continue. It was agreed that only a direct message from the Emperor to his subjects would ensure the cease of war operations and activities with arrangements being made for the Emperor to make a recording of his decision that would be broadcast over the national radio network (NHK) at the appropriate time.
However, the military establishment, by and large, had no desire or intention of agreeing with any surrender plans and were doing everything possible to stop the Emperor’s plans. In their efforts, the military was able to sidetrack the extra copy of the Emperor’s recorded speech, leaving them with a no stone unturned search for the original recording. Seizing any NHK employee they could find, they would be questioned at bayonet point, and more. Finally, in an upstairs studio, they found a lone announcer, who just happened to be the one who had announced the attack on Pearl Harbor by Japan on Dec. 8, 1941, to the Japanese people. He was thrown to the floor, questioned roughly, until he was able to convince them he knew nothing of the recording.
The announcer was Mario Tateno.