Only search Kamikaze Images
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 [1] 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 anything." However, 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 them. If you close your eyes and listen, their voices together with their heartbeats can be heard.


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
September 2004