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Book of letters
published by
Yasukuni Jinja

Writings - Books

Dozens of Japanese books contain letters, poems, and diaries written by kamikaze pilots and other special attack force members such as kaiten (manned torpedo) pilots. The most famous of these is Kike Wadatsumi no Koe (Listen to the Voices from the Sea), first published in 1949. After many reprintings, over one and a half million copies had been sold through 1982. This book has two English translations, Listen to the Voices from the Sea (2000, translated by Midori Yamanouchi and Joseph L. Quinn) and The Sun Goes Down (1956, edited by Jean Lartéguy, translated from the French version by Nora Wydenbruck). These two translations contain letters of all types of Japanese soldiers, and kamikaze pilots wrote only about one fifth of the letters.

Yasukuni Jinja, the national shrine for Japan's war dead, has published many books with writings by special attack corps members. These include seven volumes of Eirei no koto no ha (Words of the spirits of war heroes) (1995-2001), which contain letters and brief biographical data on the writers. Special attack corps members authored about one fifth of these writings. Yasukuni Jinja also publishes other books of writings that include photos and background of the soldiers and the war. These books are much easier to read than Eirei no koto no ha (Words of the spirits of war heroes), since they provide context for the letters. Chichiue-sama hahaue-sama (Dear father, dear mother) (1988) provides the full text of each letter and then an explanation. The following two books provide shorter excerpts of writings as part of the soldiers' personal stories: Iza saraba ware wa mikuni no yamazakura (Farewell, we are our country's mountain cherry blossoms) (1994) and Sange no kokoro to chinkon no makoto (Spirits of heroic dead and devotion to repose of souls) (1995).

Although both Kike Wadatsumi no Koe (Listen to the Voices from the Sea) and the Yasukuni Jinja publications include writings of special attack force members, the types of letters differ between the two. Kike Wadatsumi no Koe has writings of elite university students who died in the war, and its goal is the promotion of peace so as to never repeat the tragedy of war. Many of the writings tend to support liberal thinking and criticize the war. Kazuo Watanabe writes in the introduction to the 1949 edition (Nihon Senbotsu 2000, 1):

In the beginning, I had leaned quite far in the direction of all-inclusiveness and insisted that it would be much more fair and just to include even rather fanatical Nipponism, or even a few short essays shading toward the glorification of war, but the members of the Publication Department did not show any sign of agreement with my position. The primary reason for their opposition was that the publication of this book must not at all affect negatively the current social conditions, and so on.

In contrast, Yasukuni Jinja is a symbol of Japanese colonialism and nationalism. The letters published by Yasukuni Jinja tend to be consistent with its nationalistic view of Japanese military history, and it avoids publication of some of the extremely liberal letters included in Kike Wadatsumi no Koe.

Besides the Yushukan Museum at the Yasukuni Jinja, several other museums with kamikaze exhibits also sell books of letters written by pilots who sortied from the World War II air base near the museum site. For example, the Kanoya Naval Air Base Museum published in 2003 the book Kokoro no sakebi (Cries of the heart), about half of which contains letters written by kamikaze pilots. The Bansei Tokko Peace Museum sells Hichiro Naemura's Rikugun saigo no tokkou kichi: Bansei tokkoutaiin no isho to isatsu (Army's last special attack base: Last letters and photographs of Bansei special attack corps members) (1993), which has about 150 pages of letters. The Chiran Peace Museum for Kamikaze Pilots sells several books that contain  writings of kamikaze pilots, but the best selling one seems to be Kaoru Muranaga's Chiran tokubetsu kougekitai (Chiran special attack forces) (1989), which also includes a history of the base and many historical photos. The Kokubu No. 2 Air Base Exhibit sells Chinkon -- shirakumo ni norete kimi kaerimase: Tokkou kichi daini kokubu no ki (Repose of souls -- riders of the white clouds, come back to us: Record of Special Attack Corps Kokubu No. 2 Air Base) (1992), which has about 100 pages of writings by kamikaze pilots.

Vice Admiral Matome Ugaki, one of the Japanese Navy's top leaders from Pearl Harbor to the end of the war, wrote a 15-volume diary covering his wartime experiences. This detailed diary serves as a valuable primary source to understand the thinking of Japan's military leaders regarding kamikaze attacks, since Ugaki commanded the military's air attacks from February 1945 to the end of the war. Ugaki personally led the last kamikaze attack against the Allied fleet off Okinawa after he listened to the Emperor's surrender message. The University of Pittsburgh Press has published an excellent English translation of Ugaki's diary entitled Fading Victory (1991, 731 pages).

Kamikaze Diaries, published in 2006 by an anthropology professor at an American university, contains a few English translations of writings by kamikaze pilots. Much of this book deals with writings of student soldiers not part of the Kamikaze Special Attack Corps, and even most kamikaze pilot writings in the book are dated before they entered the Kamikaze Corps or even before they joined the military.

Other books that contain writings of kamikaze pilots and other special attack force members include:

In addition to the books mentioned on this page, many other Japanese books contain writings by special attack force members:

Source Cited

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: University of Scranton Press.