Five Kamikaze Pilots
American and Japanese images of kamikaze pilots differ greatly. This web site explores diverse portrayals and perceptions of the young
men who carried out special (suicide) attacks near the end of World War II.
When Japanese kamikaze pilots carried out their attacks between October 1944
and August 1945, Japanese and American people had opposite perspectives.
Japanese people saw young smiling pilots as they waved goodbye. In contrast,
American soldiers viewed death and destruction when the pilots' planes exploded
upon crashing into their ships. These very different points of view continue to influence Japanese and American perceptions of kamikaze pilots even
The first major section of this web site analyzes American and Japanese views
of kamikaze pilots in two separate essays written in 2004. Each essay's first part analyzes the
principal images or perceptions that people currently have about kamikaze
pilots. The second part explores the most important sources of these images.
The page on American Views
argues that most Americans perceive kamikaze pilots as faceless, lacking
individual personalities. Lack of knowledge about kamikaze pilots has caused
many Americans to speculate about their motivations, so many believe they were
fanatical, suicidal, or forced to make attacks. Many people know little or
nothing about the history of Japan's kamikaze corps, but they form their images
of the pilots based on the Anglicized word "kamikaze," which has come
to signify anyone having reckless disregard for personal welfare. Current
terrorist suicide bombings have provoked comparisons to attacks made by Japan's
The essay on Japanese Views shows that
Japanese people today consider kamikaze pilots in a manner completely
contrary to American views. Japanese believe that the brave young pilots
suffered tragic deaths in defense of their homeland. The letters, poems, and
diaries written by kamikaze pilots have had significant influence on Japanese
people's views. The Chiran Peace Museum for Kamikaze Pilots, which opened in
1975, has contributed to Japanese people's viewing the pilots as individuals who
suffered tragic deaths. Also, two popular movies, Hotaru (Firefly)
and Gekkō no Natsu (Summer of the Moonlight Sonata), strongly
influenced current Japanese perceptions about kamikaze pilots.
The second major section includes reviews
of various forms used to create kamikaze images, including Books,
Writings, and Other
Forms. Web pages in this section include evaluations of works of popular
culture, such as comic books, television programs, fiction, animation, and
children's books. This section also contains several other analytical essays
covering topics such as personal narratives,
Japanese films, and documentaries.
This web site covers all of Japan's special attack forces,
which carried out suicide attacks not only with planes but also with torpedoes
rocket-propelled gliders (ōka), explosive motorboats, and midget submarines. The
stories on this site focus on personal rather than military aspects of
Japan's kamikaze operations. The site also includes many translations of
You can find information in several ways. The expanding menu system at left
shows most pages on the site, and the Site Map lists all pages with links. You
can also use the search box at the top right to locate specific
information on the site.
Bunker Hill After
I first became interested in Japan's kamikaze in April 2000 when I visited
the museum at Yasukuni Jinja, located in Tōkyō near the Imperial Palace. At that
time the museum had a special exhibit of last letters written by kamikaze
pilots. The letters contained a variety of sentiments, including resolve,
patriotism, and love for family. Surprising to me, they did not reflect fear or
bitterness. After reading these moving letters, I realized that Japanese views
of kamikaze pilots differed immensely from opinions held by Americans.
I consider this web site to be a collaborative effort of many people. If you have any
questions or comments, please feel free to contact me in either English
or Japanese. If you have material, photos, information, or opinions you
would like to add to this web site, please contact me.
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