They and I
by Hiromi Nomura
Tsurumaru High School, Kagoshima Prefecture
Messages of Peace from Chiran
13th Annual Speech Contest, 2002
Third Prize, High School Division
What did they load into their planes? Their own lives, fuel for a one-way
trip, a bomb, and . . . . What else might they have carried? Those young men
called kamikaze pilots  carried out missions to make body-crashing attacks
with planes on enemy ships at the end of the Pacific War. This happened more
than a half century before. If you close your eyes, their voices can be heard in
your heart. The voices of people who lived in an age of sorrow . . . .
When I was born, Japan was already a prosperous country. There is both food and water,
both electricity and gas. This country became a battleground once before. This
country obtained happiness with peace by the lives of many people who were
trampled on by war to an extent unimaginable if I had not been told
by other people.
I who have been raised in such an era do not know the terror and pain of war. We
have completely recovered from defeat, and even those painful scars have been
hidden in the shadow of peace. When I started my school education, I received
information as told by history books and teachers about the sad past in which
this country once walked. I
continued to turn my eyes away from our past of war. I selfishly did not want to
understand the sorrows and the tragic past that I had never personally
experienced. The reason is that I thought that it is too impolite to the people
concerned. I was scared of being blamed by them, "You don't know
nothing changes even if I flee from the sorrow of the past. Thinking how I
should think about them, I realized that the war happened, and they lost their
lives in it. That being the case, why not try to look at them directly? What
were they thinking and what were they seeking before inevitable death on impact?
By seeking the answer to this question in my own way, I found out about our past
of war, and perhaps this is connected to knowing about the peace of today. This
is because we who live in the present, built on top of the past, will create the
future. Even if the answer I discovered is not correct, it can be considered
the truth for me.
A "special attack" meant that kamikaze pilots would together make
body-crashing attacks on enemy ships with planes loaded with bombs and only
enough fuel for one way. It was truly an attack resulting in inevitable death on
impact. Whether they failed or succeeded, certain death awaited the kamikaze pilots. The
American soldiers who were our enemies at the time feared the kamikaze pilots
and called them "crazy" because it was a military tactic of reckless courage
when they crashed into the enemy in exchange for their own lives. The
Americans said, "The kamikazes are not human."
Why did they volunteer to be kamikaze pilots?
Were they perhaps in fact "crazy" to throw away their lives for their
country. It is clear that in those days to live and to die for one's country was
considered to be a virtue. However, they did not make a kamikaze attack for only
that reason. At least I think there was a different reason. Wasn't it for living
more than anything that they chose to make kamikaze attacks and to plunge into
enemy ships using their own lives as a weapon? In
those days, they also had family, sweethearts, and friends they loved in the same
way I do today. By protecting those people, they protected their own places
where they lived. They lost their lives at the time of the attacks. Even though
their bodies perished, they wanted to continue living within the people who they
had protected through these attacks. In
addition to this, they desired that the people they loved would not be hurt by the war.
For them, making a
kamikaze attack was their final hope that they, and the precious people they
knew, would live. They
were not victims of simply war. They chose with their own wills to make kamikaze
attacks, and they lived in that era with all their might. A
kamikaze attack was not a crazy act of desperation, but rather it was the result
of fighting with hope for themselves and for those people they loved most.
Perhaps there was another way and perhaps before that they could have prevented
the mistake of war, but they placed all their hopes in a kamikaze attack in an
age when they were not permitted to grieve over such a thing. I would like to
think that what they carried with them in their lives was true, tender love for
the ones they wanted to protect and the earnest hope of living.
The war ended, and
already for fifty some odd years they have lived inside me. I just did not
realize it. They
live not only inside me but also many people. As our will inherited from them.
As our plea that peace does not end. And
they at times talk to me gently, at times sternly. They say, "We
live." We who do not know the sorrow of war go on living together with
you close your eyes and listen, their voices together with their heartbeats can
1. The Japanese phrase translated as
"kamikaze pilots" is tokubetsu kōgekitai (or shortened to tokkōtai), which literally means "special attack corps"
in English. The word "kamikaze" has been used in other places where
the original Japanese is tokkō or tokkōtai.
Translated by Bill Gordon