Kamikaze Diaries: Reflections of Japanese Student Soldiers
by Emiko Ohnuki-Tierney
University of Chicago Press, 2006, 227 pages
Emiko Ohnuki-Tierney's latest book, Kamikaze Diaries,
rehashes the same themes and material as her 2002 book, Kamikaze, Cherry
Blossoms, and Nationalisms. She reuses numerous previously published
paragraphs, most slightly edited and rearranged, without specific attribution to her
preceding book other than the book title's inclusion in her six-page section on
References . The University of Chicago Press published both books, so
the publisher has the copyright needed to recycle old material without specific acknowledgment to the prior book. However, it is surprising that a well-known
academic publisher would not warn readers that the latest book contains
considerable portions from the author's earlier book.
The title of Kamikaze Diaries does not accurately
describe the contents. The book's six chapters cover the writings of seven
student soldiers, but only three were kamikaze pilots in Japan's special attack
forces (tokkotai in Japanese) . These include Sasaki Hachiro (Ch. 1),
Hayashi Ichizo (Ch. 5), and Nakao Takenori (Ch. 6). Almost all writings in
Chapters 1 and 6 are dated before the young men joined the special attack
forces and even before they entered the military, but Chapter 6 does include
Nakao's last letter to his parents written six days prior to his death. Chapter
5 contains several writings after Hayashi was assigned to a special attack squadron,
but about half of the writings in this chapter are letters to family members
and friends rather than diary entries as indicated in the book's title.
The book cover for Kamikaze Diaries has some
incorrect and misleading statements. The back cover's second and fourth
endorsement quotations suggest that the book will deal only with writings
of tokkotai pilots who took part in suicide missions, even though less
than half of the soldiers covered in the book were tokkotai pilots. The
third endorsement quotation states that "during World War II, not a single
graduate of their military academies volunteered for one-way bombing
missions" (also implied on pp. 1-2), but in actuality about 160 Naval
Academy and about 180 Army Air Corps Academy graduates died in special attack
missions . The inside front cover starts with a quotation from Irokawa
Daikichi, who is introduced as one of the many kamikaze pilots, or tokkotai.
However, the book's text does not include this quotation, and Irokawa did not
serve as a kamikaze pilot .
The Introduction runs almost 40 pages and covers in summary
fashion the same main points published in Kamikaze, Cherry Blossoms, and
Nationalisms, including tokkotai operations and pilots, student
soldiers' education and beliefs, and militarization of cherry blossoms in
Japanese culture. Ohnuki-Tierney cuts down her discussion on cherry blossoms to
only eight pages, whereas about half of the chapters in Kamikaze, Cherry
Blossoms, and Nationalisms cover this topic. The main section of Kamikaze
Diaries discusses writings of individual student soldiers. Out of the book's
six chapters, only Chapters 3 and 4 introduce student soldiers not covered in
the author's previous book, but both of these chapters do not deal with tokkotai
members. Chapter 4 introduces two brothers, Matsunaga Shigeo and Matsunaga
Tatsuki, who fought with the Japanese Army in China and who died in November
1938 and 1944 (no month given), respectively. Both may have died even before
Vice Admiral Ohnishi organized the first kamikaze squadron in October 1944.
Ohnuki-Tierney's stated purpose in writing this book is to
provide "more first-hand sources that would offer insight into the
thoughts of these young men" (p. xvii), but a long introduction with few
"first-hand sources" precedes the book's six chapters, which contain
the young men's writings. However, even some of these chapters contain
relatively little of their writings in comparison to the author's commentary.
For example, Chapter 1's 31 pages on Sasaki Hachiro include only about seven
pages of his actual writings. This contrasts sharply with the book Listen to
the Voices from the Sea (2000) , which also has English translations of
writings of fallen Japanese student soldiers. This other book's 12-page section
with Sasaki Hachiro's writings (pp. 118-29) has only about a half page of
background and commentary.
Several of the author's claims related to Japan's tokkotai
are incorrect. She states, "None of these manned weapon systems was
equipped with any means of returning to base" (p. 1). Although kaiten
(human torpedoes) and ohka (rocket-powered gliders) could not return to base,
planes and explosive motorboats not only could but frequently did return to
base for various reasons such as bad weather, mechanical problems, or not being
able to locate the enemy. For example, the first kamikaze squadron, led by
Lieutenant Yukio Seki, returned to base four times before its final sortie on
October 25, 1944 . In another example, Ohnuki-Tierney writes that "no
officers above the rank of lieutenant and lieutenant junior grade who were
graduates of the Naval Academy were sent on tokkotai missions" (p. 8).
However, on March 21, 1945, Lieutenant Commander Goro Nonaka, 1933 Naval
Academy graduate (61st class), led 160 men of the First Kamikaze Ohka Special
Attack Unit, Thunder Gods Corps, in a suicide attack . Also, Vice Admiral
Matome Ugaki, 1912 Naval Academy graduate (40th class), led a squadron of 11 Suisei
dive bombers in a suicide attack on August 15, 1945 , but the Japanese
government did not officially recognize this as a tokkotai mission since
he undertook it after the Emperor's order to surrender.
The book has quite a few other errors. The author
incorrectly uses "Demizu" as the name for "Izumi" Naval Air Base in
Kagoshima Prefecture (pp. 105, 118). She introduces a long quotation as a
description of "the night before their final flights" of tokkotai
pilots from Tsuchiura Naval Air Base (p. 9), but no tokkotai pilots made
a final sortie from this air base . The first sentence of the Preamble
mentions the kamikaze pilot named Nakao Teketoku (p. xiii), but Chapter 6 gives
his name as Nakao Takenori (p. 185). Kamikaze, Cherry Blossoms, and
Nationalisms (2002, 218) has a third name, Nakao Taketoku. She states,
"A single cherry blossom was painted in pink on a white background on both
sides of the tokkotai airplane, . . ." (p. 29). In reality, tokkotai
airplanes did not have a cherry blossom painted on each side, but ohka glider
bombs did have this symbol.
The most interesting chapter is the one on Hayashi Ichizo, a
devout Christian with a very close relationship with his mother. His diary,
written at Wonsan Air Base in Korea from January 9 to March 21, 1945, covers
the period right before and after his assignment to a tokkotai squadron
on February 22, 1945. The chapter also includes letters to his mother, brother,
and friends during 1945 up to his sortie toward Okinawa from Kanoya Air Base on
April 12, 1945. The book Listen to the Voices from the Sea also contains
Hayashi's long last letter to his mother written from Wonsan Air Base , but
the chapter in Kamikaze Diaries has several more of his writings and
additional biographical information. Individual sentences in the final letter
to his mother from Wonsan Air Base show both his strong patriotism and firm
Christian belief (pp. 173-4): ". . . I am happy to go as a tokkotai pilot.
. . . I will do a splendid job sinking an enemy aircraft carrier. . . . I read
the Bible every day. . . . I will sing a hymn as I dive on an enemy vessel. . .
Even though Kamikaze Diaries has a captivating
title and some interesting writings by kamikaze pilots, this book has a number
of errors and extensive repetition of material from Ohnuki-Tierney's previous
book. Most chapters do not provide any idea about how young Japanese men felt after
they joined the tokkotai dedicated to suicide attacks, since more than
half of the pilots introduced in the book were not tokkotai members.
Even in the three chapters that discuss tokkotai pilots, the focus is
their intellectual development prior to joining the military rather than a depiction
of life in the military and in a tokkotai squadron.
1. The following listing
identifies paragraphs in Chapter 1 on Sasaki Hachiro that were taken from
Ohnuki-Tierney's 2002 book, Kamikaze, Cherry
Blossoms, and Nationalisms. The author slightly edited the 2002
paragraphs, but the content and sentence order are generally the same for the
2006 39, par. 1 = 2002 193, par. 1 (This can be read as follows:
"The wording, content, and sentences of Paragraph 1 on p. 39 of Kamikaze
Diaries (2006) are mostly the same as those in Paragraph 1 on p. 193 of Kamikaze, Cherry
Blossoms, and Nationalisms (2002). No specific attribution is documented in
Kamikaze Diaries to indicate that this paragraph came from Kamikaze, Cherry
Blossoms, and Nationalisms.")
2006 40, par. 3 (last part) = 2002 194, par. 4
2006 41, par. 1 = 2002 195, par. 1
2006 41, par. 2 = 2002 194, par. 3
2006 42, par. 1 = 2002 195, par. 3
2006 42, par. 5 = 2002 204, par. 2
2006 48, par. 1 (last part) = 2002 199, par. 2
2006 49, par. 1-2 = 2002 202, par. 1-2
2006 49, par. 3; 50, par. 1-3 = 2002 200, par. 2-3; 201, par. 1-2
2006 51, par. 1 = 2002 200, par. 1
2006 51, par. 2 = 2002 201, par. 3
2006 52, par. 3; 53, par. 1 = 2002 198, par. 1-2
2006 53, par. 2 = 2002 196, par. 1
2006 54, par. 1-2 = 2002 199, par. 1
2006 57, par. 1 = 2002 202, par. 4
2006 57, par. 2 = 2002 203, par. 1
2006 58, par. 2 = 2002 203, par. 2
2006 59, par. 1-2 = 2002 205, par. 1-2
2006 59, par. 4; 60, par. 1-2 = 2002 196, par. 4; 197, par. 1
2006 61, par. 1-3 = 2002 208, par. 1-2; 209, par. 1
2006 64, par. 2 = 2002 206, par. 2
2006 65, par. 1-3 = 2002 206, par. 4; 207, par. 1-2
2006 67, par. 2-3 = 2002 209, par. 2-3
2006 68, par. 1-2 = 2002 210, par. 1-2
The Introduction and Chapters 2, 5, and 6 of Kamikaze Diaries
(2006) also use material
directly from Kamikaze, Cherry
Blossoms, and Nationalisms (2002), but the extent of this has not been
2. On May 30, 2006, I sent an
e-mail note to the Publicity Department and the Marketing Department of the
University of Chicago Press (UCP). The note gave the URL for this book review on Kamikaze
Diaries and included the statement that "less
than half of the soldiers covered in the book were tokkotai
pilots." UCP apparently decided to ignore the
facts. On July 18, 2006, UCP published a press
release about Kamikaze Diaries with the following statement, "Fortunately,
the kamizake [sic] also wrote diaries, and six of them are collected here
in this heartbreaking but much needed corrective to their many
caricatures." The press release is at the following URL:
(August 13, 2006), link no longer available.
The introduction to the press release contains a similar incorrect statement.
This introduction is at the following URL:
(August 13, 2006) (link no longer available).
As noted in my book review, "The book's six chapters cover the writings of seven
student soldiers, but only three were kamikaze pilots in Japan's special attack
forces (tokkotai in Japanese)."
3. Tokkotai Senbotsusha 1990,
4. An Internet search of
Japanese pages about Irokawa Daikichi did not locate any mention that he was a
kamikaze pilot (i.e., member of tokkotai). The following two Japanese
pages briefly mention his wartime service, and they indicate he was stationed at
a Navy tokkotai base (no name given) on an island of Mie Prefecture.
However, there is no indication that he was a tokkotai member.
Irokawa Daikichi no inori (Irokawa Daikichi's Prayer)
(May 29, 2006) (link no longer available).
Terebi no Irokawa Daikichi-san (Irokawa Daikichi on TV)
(May 29, 2006).
5. Nihon Senbotsu Gakusei
6. Inoguchi 1958, 57.
7. Naito 1989, 115-8; Tokkotai Senbotsusha 1990,
8. Ugaki 1991, 665.
9. Kanoya Naval Air Base Museum has an exhibit that lists the
sortie bases for Japanese Navy kamikaze attacks (June 17, 2004), and this exhibit
does not include Tsuchiura Naval Air Base.
10. Nihon Senbotsu Gakusei Kinen-Kai
Inoguchi, Rikihei, and Tadashi Nakajima, with Roger Pineau.
1958. The Divine Wind: Japan's Kamikaze Force in World War II.
Annapolis: Naval Institute Press.
Naito, Hatsuho. 1989. Thunder Gods: The Kamikaze Pilots Tell
Their Stories. Translated by Mayumi Ishikawa. Tokyo: Kodansha
Nihon Senbotsu Gakusei Kinen-Kai (Japan Memorial Society for the
Students Killed in the War—Wadatsumi Society), comp. 2000. Listen
to the Voices from the Sea: Writings of the Fallen Japanese Students (Kike
Wadatsumi no Koe). Translated by Midori Yamanouchi and Joseph L. Quinn.
Scranton, PA: University of Scranton Press.
Ohnuki-Tierney, Emiko. 2002. Kamikaze, Cherry Blossoms, and
Nationalisms: The Militarization of Aesthetics in Japanese History.
Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Tokkotai Senbotsusha Irei
Heiwa Kinen Kyoukai (Tokkotai Commemoration Peace Memorial Association). 1990.
Tokubetsu Kougekitai (Special Attack Corps). Tokyo: Tokkotai Senbotsusha
Irei Heiwa Kinen Kyoukai.
Ugaki, Matome. 1991. Fading Victory: The Diary of Admiral Matome
Ugaki, 1941-1945. Translated by Masataka Chihaya. Edited by Donald M. Goldstein
and Katherine V. Dillon. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press.