Landing ship LSM 20
sinks off Philippines
after kamikaze attack
on December 5, 1944
I created this web site on Kamikaze Images in 2004 as
the final project for my MA in Liberal Studies degree at Wesleyan University.
My degree concentration was in Computerized Communications, so my final project
involved the creation of an academic web site using new information technology.
New technological tools, which have become widely available
only in the past decade, provided much assistance in performing research and
in designing this web site. Although I used some technology with which I had
previous familiarity, I also discovered some valuable new tools while working
on this project.
Below I discuss some examples of how technology played a
part in project research and web site design.
Acquisition of Source Materials - Since the end of World War II,
books and films have played an important role in the formation of people's
perceptions of kamikaze pilots. However, many used items have been very
difficult to obtain, especially those that first came out several decades ago.
Most libraries generally have few books and videos related to a specialized
topic such as kamikaze pilots, and a single used book or video store is
also unlikely to have many items. Now people can locate previously obscure
items since many stores make available their stock online. For example, I found
Abebooks.com to be extremely helpful in locating old out-of-print books. This
web site has a database that includes 12 thousand booksellers selling 50
million books, so I could locate several valuable references there. Through the
search feature at Abebooks.com, I found
Kamikaze by Yasuo Kuwahara and Kamikaze
Submarine by Yutaka Yokota, first published in 1957 and 1962, respectively.
Both of these books went through several printings, an indication of their
popularity and influence in the past, but they have been out-of-print for many
years. Through the Internet I also located and purchased old English-language
documentaries and used Japanese videos and books.
Message Boards - Several Japanese electronic message boards
on Japan's special attack forces (including kamikaze pilots) have regular postings, which allowed me to gain an understanding of
people's current feelings and opinions. These message boards had a spike in
activity after the September 11th terrorist attacks in 2001, as many people
gave their opinions about the relationship of these suicide attacks with the
attacks made by kamikaze pilots in World War II. The
guestbook for the web site
Kamikaze (link on longer available) has been the most active since its beginning in June 2000.
Japanese message boards on kamikaze have also allowed me to make contact with
others to ask questions and to gather information for my web site. Although
several active message boards on kamikaze exist in Japan, outside of Japan
there are no kamikaze-related message boards and almost no kamikaze-related
postings on other message boards. However, the message board for Kamikaze,
a Japanese site, has a few postings in English.
Former Kamikaze Pilot's Web Site - I never imagined
that a former Japanese kamikaze pilot would have his own web site about his
wartime experiences and the stories of the airmen who served with him in the
Navy. However, I located Senri Nagasue's
site (in Japanese) with a search by Google, and the firsthand accounts
published on his site greatly helped me better understand the thinking and
feelings of the pilots who served in Japan's special attack forces. He has
included my English translations of several of these stories on his web site
of Bereaved Families), so I have used the Internet's networking capability
to link from my site to these stories on his site. Although not part of the
Kamikaze Images URL on the Wesleyan University server, I consider my English
translations of these stories to be an important part of my overall work on
Online Japanese-English Dictionary -
Jim Breen's online
Japanese-English dictionary server
continues to help me immensely in translations of Japanese names and obscure
words. I have heavily used this invaluable resource since 1997, and no other
hardcopy or online Japanese-English dictionary comes close to it in terms of
comprehensiveness and ease of use. Jim Breen, retired professor at Monash
University in Australia, has continued to add words and features to his
dictionary server. As part of my work in a Fall 2000 graduate course at
Wesleyan University on "Web Literacy: Theory and Practice of Reading and
Writing Hypertext," I wrote an
extended essay on Jim Breen's Japanese
Page, including his Japanese-English dictionary.
Translation of Technical Terms - Although Jim Breen's
online dictionary contains a huge number of words and phrases, it helped little
for most Japanese technical terms encountered while translating and
researching. Starting this project, I had no knowledge of Imperial Japanese
Navy and Army ranks, aircraft, and organization. When I translated a letter of a
kamikaze pilot for the first time in April 2000 and posted it on my personal
home page, I was somewhat embarrassed when a former officer in the Japanese
Maritime Self-Defense Force pointed out that this Navy pilot's rank should be
translated as Navy Lieutenant rather than Army Captain. As a result, web sites became invaluable to
ensure correct English translation of Japanese military ranks. A couple of web
pages on this subject are Kaikyū
Koshō (Rank Names) and Rank
Translation (link no longer available).
I had heard of the Zero fighter before starting this project, but I
never imagined how many different types of planes were produced by the Imperial
Japanese Navy and Army during World War II. I even discovered the well-known Zero
had several different models. The following are example sites that assisted me
in translations: Japanese Army
& Navy Aircraft and their Code Names and All the Regular Formed
Aircraft in Japanese Navy (link no longer available).
Google News Alerts - The Google search engine has completely
changed the way I do research. Although I still wandered through the dark stacks
at the library during work on this final project, I located many reference
materials on the Internet through use of Google.
a news alert feature in 2003. Google
updates its database continually from 4,500 online news sources, and you receive
a daily e-mail for news articles matching the topic you specify. I requested any
article that contained both "kamikaze" and
"Japan." Each week I have been receiving links to about five
articles, which have been quite helpful in assessing current opinions about
kamikaze throughout the world. The most frequent topic has been veterans who
experienced kamikaze attacks, but there have also been quite a few articles
related to modern-day terrorism. About 20% of the article links go to sites requiring
registration, which can get frustrating, but overall this service by Google has made it
easy to keep up with current news regarding kamikaze.
In creating the Kamikaze Images web site, I tried to avoid some of the design
mistakes encountered during the creation of my first large web site
Dolls). The following three tools helped me improve the design and decrease the amount of
time required to maintain the site.
the Friendship Dolls web site, one of my biggest frustrations was the effort
required to change the navigation menu. I had embedded the menu in each
individual web page, so a simple menu change required me to modify the code on
For my new site I wanted a consistent menu for each page that could be
changed in a minimum amount of time, so I considered using HTML frames.
However, HTML frames have never appealed to me. Although frames allow the
implementation of a static header and a standard site navigation system with a
single HTML file for each, frame-based sites have several disadvantages. Unless
one uses appropriate HTML tags, site visitors using a search engine may arrive
at a single content page rather than the framed version including the header and
menu, which can cause confusion. Also, most search engines have difficulties
indexing a framed site unless certain additional HTML coding has been included, and
visitors may have difficulties bookmarking individual pages. Based on these
reasons and a few others, I decided to search for an alternative.
Rather than start with the technology, I browsed the web to find the type of
menu system I would like to use, and then I would determine if it could be
modified for my site on Kamikaze Images. Even though I looked at many menu
systems on the Internet, the one I liked best was a dropdown navigation system
used by a site on my own company's intranet. I examined the code and found out
suit my needs. After two or three days of work and almost giving up more than
once, I figured out how to modify certain variables and change certain sections
of the code to get the menu system desired for my site. The original menu system
only had one level of dropdown, so it took me a long time to figure out
how to change it to allow for multiple dropdowns. Although I read that some
disabled on their computers, I tested the script on several different machines
and browsers without encountering any problems. Others who reviewed the site
also reported no problems.
Cascading Style Sheets - Over time, many individual
pages on my Friendship Dolls site have an inconsistent style, such as font size
and color for headings and regular text. Therefore, I wanted to ensure this new
site on Kamikaze Images maintained a consistent style and would allow the style
to be changed without having to change the HTML code on every single page.
Through the use of HTML tags applied to portions of text, cascading style sheets
allow one file to control the style used on pages throughout the web site. For
example, on this site I use the tag H5, which means Header 5, to designate text
that I want to be bold, small text in Arial font type with a light blue color
(i.e., #006699). I use H5 to designate the titles for content pages on the
site, so now each title will remain consistent with other pages. If I wanted to
change the H5 size to medium, then I would just change one word in the style sheet
file, and all of the H5 headings in the site would change from small to medium.
Site Search - Google allows a site search option
that can easily be incorporated into web pages by copying the HTML code
available at the Google site. The Google ranking system is widely recognized as
the best in providing a numbered listing of relevant pages based on user search
criteria. However, the HTML code at the Google site only gives a search of an
entire site based on the base URL, such as wgordon.web.wesleyan.edu, which means
all folders and subfolders with this base URL will be included in the search
results. Consequently, pages in both my Friendship Dolls and Kamikaze Images
sites would be listed in the same results if I used this code available at the
Google site. (This was changed in 2012 when the web sites were moved to new
I discussed this problem with the Wesleyan University IT Director to see if
he had any suggestions on how to have the search results limited to pages on
Kamikaze Images without having to obtain a new base URL. He explained that
Wesleyan licensed Google software that indexed the Wesleyan site each
night, and the code for the search feature at the Wesleyan Davison Art Center
could be modified for my site. When I tried this, I found that the indexing did
not include personal sites on the Wesleyan servers, so I experimented with
changes in the HTML code to see if I could use the Google index directly. I
finally got it to work, so this is the search feature used for this site.
Although Google does not index this site daily like the Google-licensed software
used by Wesleyan, this factor matters little since this site will not change
that rapidly. Also, the use of the Google index directly allows me to move this
site to another URL without any ties to the Wesleyan server embedded in the HTML
code of individual pages.
some other technology options for use on this site, but I decided to forego
them. At the beginning of this project, I read Jakob Nielson's book on Designing
Web Usability to get ideas on what technology to use and on how to structure
the site. Nielson (2000, 97, 160) argues that simplicity should be the goal of
page design, since users rarely come to a site to enjoy the design but rather
to focus on the content. Also, users want a web site design that allows them to
locate quickly the page or information in which they are interested. Keeping
Nielson's advice in mind, I tried to keep the design of Kamikaze Images simple,
so I stayed away from technology that would complicate the site or
detract from the main goal of providing relevant content that users can quickly
Animation and Graphics - A few people
recommended that I consider animation, graphics, and videos in the design of this
site. Although many excellent web sites have been developed using this type of
technology, my skills do not
lie in this area. Moreover, the vast majority of people have more interest in
the content rather than fancy graphics decorating a site. I have tried to
include various historical photos that illustrate kamikaze images, but I have
avoided animation or more complex graphics.
Message Board - I like the idea of a message board
where site visitors can write their opinions and questions. This allows
interaction between visitors and the webmaster, and it also allows the free flow
of ideas between anyone in the world interested in the web site topic. However,
the message board for my first web site on Friendship Dolls drifted to topics not directly related
to the site's primary purpose, and at times inappropriate advertising would be
posted in messages. As a result, I decided to discontinue that message board.
Most postings on a message board on one Japanese site (Kamikaze)
are relevant to my web site's topic, so I decided to direct people to this
message board rather than try to establish my own. This Japanese site encourages
postings in both Japanese and English, but over 90% are written in Japanese. The
small number of English postings may discourage people who do not read
Japanese, but I prefer to support this existing message board rather than
establish a competing one.
One HTML Page in Another - I investigated how to insert one HTML
page inside another in order to have only one file to maintain for the header,
which contains the site name, the image of the two Japanese characters for
"kamikaze," and the Google search feature. Although technologically
feasible, I decided against it since this option seemed overly complex
and since few other people construct their web pages in this manner. As a result, if I
ever decide to change the page header, I will need to change the HTML code for each
page on the web site.
Style Sheets for Documentation
- When I started this project, I envisioned that visitors would not
want to get bogged down with citations and notes, so I tried to find a way to
use cascading style sheets and HTML tags to create two versions of the same
page, one with documentation and the other without. Readers could use a link at
the beginning or end of a page to go between two versions of the same
page. I found that such an approach would be very complex, since I had to deal
with how to eliminate the non-documented version spaces where there were
notes or citations in the other version. I decided then to create two files of
each page, one with documentation and one without. However, this made the
site design overly confusing to users. In some cases, the amount of
documentation required on a page is limited, so someone reviewing it might have
a hard time distinguishing the differences between the two pages. Also, search
engines would index two versions of each page, which would be very confusing
to someone seeking information. As a result, I concluded that one documented
version of each page is the best approach.
Blog - Blogs (weB LOG, or journal available on
web) have increased rapidly in popularity, and my project advisor suggested to use one to record my ideas at
the beginning of this project. The blog allowed my advisor to see my
progress at any time. Although this seemed like an interesting idea, it did not
seem like technology added anything to existing tools. I usually recorded my
thoughts while not connected online, so I created a separate Word file of my
ideas. Then I posted my written ideas periodically to the blog. However, I
could have accomplished the same purpose by creating a separate web page on my own site, or I
could have sent periodically an e-mail to my advisor with a file attached of all
observations and ideas recorded to date. In the end, I stopped posting to
the blog since other ways to communicate seemed more effective.
Nielsen, Jakob. 2000. Designing Web Usability.
Indianapolis, Indiana: New Riders Publishing.