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 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.