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Kamikaze Diaries: Reflections of Japanese Student Soldiers

Kamikaze Diaries: Reflections of Japanese Student Soldiers
Author: Emiko Ohnuki-Tierney
ISBN 13: 9780226619514
ISBN 10: 226619516
Edition: N/A
Publisher: University Of Chicago Press
Publication Date: 2007-04-15
Format: Paperback
Pages: 246
List Price: $17.00

“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 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, and in their diaries and correspondence they often wrote heartbreaking soliloquies in which they poured out their anguish and fear and expressed profound ambivalence toward the war as well as 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.


“Emiko Ohnuki-Tierney’s book is designed to challenge Western perceptions of the kamikaze generation. By assembling brief biographies of some of the young Japanese who perished on suicide missions, and by quoting extensively from their wartime diaries and poetry, she portrays a group of literate,thoughtful people, most of whom hated the war and were reluctant to die.”— Sunday Telegraph (UK)

Library Journal

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 diaries, poetry, and letters, taken from Japanese archival repositories and translated and presented by Ohnuki-Tierney (anthropology, Univ. of Wisconsin, Madison; Kamikaze, Cherry Blossoms, and Nationalisms). Poignant and heartbreaking, her book begins with an introductory chapter on kamikaze and its history and then offers six chapters, each focusing on the diary of a particular pilot. Young, highly educated intellectuals, these men faced brutal conditions in military service and were often forcefully "volunteered" for tokkotai (kamikaze) missions. They wrote in an attempt to settle their ambivalence about dying what often seemed a pointless death, some trying to tell themselves and their families that their death was not for naught ("to die at this moment is an obligation imposed by history"). Others were more blunt ("The idea that one is patriotic and thus would sacrifice oneself is a thought for the stupid masses"). Ohnuki-Tierney refutes simplistic stereotypes and offers readers the human face of what she defines as a "colossal tragedy." Well researched and written, this book is highly recommended for academic and larger public libraries.-Patti C. McCall, Albany Molecular Research, Inc., NY Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.