Reflections of Japanese Student Soldiers
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.
Chapter 1: Sasaki Hachiro
“What is patriotism? . . . the killing of millions of people and depriving billions of people of basic human freedom . . . ?”
Chapter 2: Hayashi Tadao
“All will crumble / Japan will meet its finale”
Chapter 3: Takushima Norimitsu
“Why must we fight? We no longer have any purpose for fighting.”
Chapter 4: Matsunaga Shigeo and Matsunaga Tatsuki
“War is another name for murder. . . .”
Chapter 5: Hayashi Ichizo
“We are assigned the location of our death.”
Chapter 6: Nakao Takenori
“Am I to simply die without any meaning to my life?”