On Pearl Harbor Day in Japan (Dec. 8 because of the international dateline), the Japanese equivalent of PBS will air a program that features an interview with Roger B. Jeans, the Otey Professor Emeritus of East Asian History at Washington and Lee.
A Japanese TV crew from NHK, the Japan Broadcasting Corp., came to Lexington this week and interviewed Roger at W&L’s Reeves Center. They spent two and a half hours discussing Terasaki Hidenari, a Japanese diplomat and intelligence officer who is the subject of Roger’s 2009 book Teraski Hidenari, Pearl Harbor, and Occupied Japan: A Bridge to Reality. (Following Japanese usage, the diplomat's surname, Terasaki, comes first when using his full name.)
“I was stunned when I got an e-mail saying Japanese TV wanted to interview me about Terasaki,” said Roger. “The program is part of a historical series, and is about Japanese and American diplomats in Washington on the eve of Pearl Harbor. Terasaki is a perfect example of that.”
Terasaki arrived in Washington in March 1941. His mission was to collect political and strategic intelligence as well as to act as the chief of Japanese propaganda in the United States. A man of peace who was married to an American, Terasaki also cultivated American isolationists and pacifists in an effort to keep the United States out of the war in the Pacific.
“The FBI had him under surveillance, and they wiretapped him,” said Roger. “The Americans had broken the Japanese diplomatic code, so when the Japanese embassy sent cables to the minister of foreign affairs in Tokyo, we snagged them out of the air, decoded and translated them. So every time Terasaki reported, everybody knew about it.”
After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Terasaki was among 40 people interned inside the Japanese embassy with unfriendly crowds outside. “After that, they moved him to the Homestead and then transferred him to the Greenbrier,” said Roger. (The Homestead resort is to the west of Lexington; the Greenbrier resort is just over the West Virginia line.) “He was shipped back to Japan in June 1942 in a prisoner exchange.”