Kamikaze Diaries: Reflections of Japanese Student Soldiers

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University of Chicago Press, Mar 1, 2007 - Social Science - 246 pages
“We tried to live with 120 percent intensity, rather than waiting for death. We read and read, trying to understand why we had to die in our early twenties. We felt the clock ticking away towards our death, every sound of the clock shortening our lives.” So wrote Irokawa Daikichi, one of the many kamikaze pilots, or tokkotai, who faced almost certain death in the futile military operations conducted by Japan at the end of World War II.

This moving history presents diaries and correspondence left by members of the tokkotai and other Japanese student soldiers who perished during the war. Outside of Japan, these kamikaze pilots were considered unbridled fanatics and chauvinists who willingly sacrificed their lives for the emperor. But the writings explored here by Emiko Ohnuki-Tierney clearly and eloquently speak otherwise. A significant number of the kamikaze were university students who were drafted and forced to volunteer for this desperate military operation. Such young men were the intellectual elite of modern Japan: steeped in the classics and major works of philosophy, they took Descartes’ “I think, therefore I am” as their motto. And in their diaries and correspondence, as Ohnuki-Tierney shows, these student soldiers wrote long and often heartbreaking soliloquies in which they poured out their anguish and fear, expressed profound ambivalence toward the war, and articulated thoughtful opposition to their nation’s imperialism.

A salutary correction to the many caricatures of the kamikaze, this poignant work will be essential to anyone interested in the history of Japan and World War II.

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User Review  - wandering_star - LibraryThing

One of the main aims of this book is to dispel the myth that kamikaze pilots were fanatical nationalists, eager to die in the name of the Emperor. As it turns out, there were 4000 kamikaze pilots ... Read full review

Kamikaze diaries: reflections of Japanese student soldiers

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

Faced with impending death, Japan's World War II kamikaze pilots grappled with the meaning of their lives and their sacrifice. These struggles are made eloquently clear in this collection of their ... Read full review


1 Sasaki Hachirō
2 Hayashi Tadao
3 Takushima Norimitsu
4 Matsunaga Shigeo and Matsunaga Tatsuki
5 Hayashi Ichizō
6 Nakao Takenori

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Page 31 - Mankind, which in Homer's time was an object of contemplation for the Olympian gods, now is one for itself. Its self-alienation has reached such a degree that it can experience its own destruction as an aesthetic pleasure of the first order.
Page 32 - The Beautiful in nature is connected with the form of the object, which consists in having [definite] boundaries. The Sublime, on the other hand, is to be found in a formless object, so far as in it or by occasion of it boundlessness is represented, and yet its totality is also present to thought.
Page 33 - Sublimity, therefore, does not reside in anything of nature, but only in our mind, in so far as we can become conscious that we are superior to nature within, and therefore also to nature without us (so far as it influences us).
Page 24 - This is why it was such a misfortune, in many ways, for the Middle East to have encountered the modern West for the first time through echoes of the French Revolution. . . . Most revolts against Western imperialism, and its local offshoots, borrowed heavily from Western ideas
Page 14 - The campaign began with the Manchurian Incident of 1931, the establishment of the puppet state of Manchukuo in 1932, and the Shanghai Incident of that same year (Young 1998).

About the author (2007)

Emiko Ohnuki-Tierney is the William F. Vilas Research Professor of Anthropology at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. She is the author of numerous books, including Kamikaze, Cherry Blossoms, and Nationalisms: The Militarization of Aesthetics in Japanese History, also published by the University of Chicago Press.

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