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The Mind of the Kamikaze
by Takeshi Kawatoko
The Peace Museum for Kamikaze Pilots, 2008, 75 pages

Many last letters and other writings by Army kamikaze pilots who died in the Battle of Okinawa had not been translated to English until this book's publication. Takeshi Kawatoko, staff member at the Chiran Peace Museum for Kamikaze Pilots, has translated many letters displayed at the museum. This book published in 2008 contains the last writings of over 20 kamikaze pilots, and the computerized touch-panel display system installed in 2008 at the Chiran Peace Museum has about 100 more English translations of writings by other Army kamikaze pilots. Since the letters were not translated by a native English speaker, the book's translations often sound awkward and contain some misspellings, grammatical errors, inconsistencies, and spacing mistakes. However, the author's translations generally succeed in portraying the pilot's thoughts and feelings expressed in the writings.

The first chapters introduce the Chiran Peace Museum, the historical background of Japanese kamikaze operations, the aircraft used by Army kamikaze pilots, and the background and ages of these pilots. The book's middle part contains the pilots' writings, some of them being quite short. Each section with a translated writing includes the pilot's photo as displayed at the Chiran Peace Museum, background about the pilot, and a clear legible photo of the original writing in Japanese. The letters are divided into the following five categories based on the contents or the person to whom the letter is addressed: (1) resolution, (2) thankfulness to mother, (3) love for children, (4) love for family, and (5) friendships. The book's first appendix has the written impressions of 12 Chiran Peace Museum visitors with half being students. The second appendix shows photos and provides explanations of selected museum exhibits, the triangular barracks replica outside the museum, and the nearby Chiran Kamikaze Shrine.

Although the Postscript says the author received assistance from two persons, one from the US and the other from Britain, the final publication clearly did not have a thorough proofreading and editing from a native English speaker. The title of The Mind of the Kamikaze has a strange ring to it, sounding like the book might examine the intellectual views of kamikaze pilots. On the contrary, the book focuses almost completely on their emotions and close family ties. Maybe something like The Feelings of the Kamikaze or The Heart of the Kamikaze would have made a more appropriate title. The word "mind" pops up in several places in the book such as the following examples:

  • He left his sincere minds in the last part of his will. (p. 18)
  • He left very touching mind to his mother. (p. 29)
  • He wrote it quite calmly with marvelous mind. (p. 31)

The text has abnormal spacing with each sentence usually starting on a new line. Sometimes the unnatural word order or expressions make understanding a challenge such as these translated comments written by an adult visitor to the Chiran Peace Museum for Kamikaze Pilots (pp. 67-8):

I think we must inherit the life properly as the history which they spent in these days unless only saying sad or poor.
People say "We don't like war" Every-body also says it. Though it is true, it is the war which breaks out for some reason.
I think the Kamikaze pilots left for death as if they were shoved by the tie of compulsion.
In the letters which were written by Kamikaze pilots, there are thanks mind for parents, the apology that they can not take care of their family, the prayer for good health of survivors, the advice for brother and sister to be diligent and his own happiness till then.
I think these are the words which we all accept obediently.
We must understand these words as our own matters and reflect them in our dairy life. I think these conducts are to inform their history to posterity and to tell the expression of thanks to the Kamikaze pilots.

Just like the incomplete history presented at the Chiran Peace Museum, the author's discussion of the historical background of kamikaze makes no mention of the Japanese Navy, even though the Navy founded the Kamikaze Special Attack Corps in October 1944, and about twice as many Navy kamikaze pilots died in suicide attacks during WWII. The Army at that time did not use the term "kamikaze" for their special attack squadron suicide pilots, but the book does not indicate this. The book's definition of kamikaze pilots only includes the 1,036 Army pilots who died between March 26 and July 19, 1945.

Kawatoko frequently speculates on the pilot's feelings rather than let the writings speak for themselves. Some of these guesses seem to have little support such as in the following paragraph (p. 12):

A Kamikaze pilot wrote his last words as follows:
"I want to attack with an aircraft in perfect condition"
He must have taken off with feeling lonesome and sorrowful.

Last writing of
Capt. Yoshio Itsui

 

Although Kawatoko's translations of kamikaze pilots' writings usually convey the overall meaning, sometimes he strays from a literal translation and may add, change, or skip key words or phrases. As an example, consider the book's translation of the short writing (at right) of 32-year-old Captain Yoshio Itsui, who took off from Chiran Air Base on April 1, 1945 (p. 35):

This is my final statement.
I have nothing to say.
I only do my best

A literal translation of the same writing would be:

The final settlement of accounts of my life
There is nothing to say

Captain Itsui

The book's translation of Itsui's writing has two principal flaws. First, the statement "I only do my best" does not exist in the original Japanese and has been added by the author. Second, the term "final statement" is misleading, since most readers would think that the rest of the writing would be Itsui's last utterance. The following two sentences seem contradictory, "This is my final statement. I have nothing to say." However, "statement" is correct in that the Japanese does mean "settlement of accounts," but the use of the word "statement" in this context causes confusion in meaning.

The author's writing and translations have other weaknesses. Names and words have inconsistencies when used in different places, such as Chiran air base, Chiran airbase, Chiran air-base, and Chiran Air Base. Names usually translated with "Fu" are shown as "Hu," which is rarely used nowadays for Japanese names in English books. For example, Hajime Fujii, whose wife committed suicide with their two children, becomes Hajime Hujii in the book. Some translations become amusing, such as when kamikaze pilot Toshio Anazawa writes to his fiancée, "My dear Chieko, I am dying to see you" (p. 54).

As an example of the author's writing and translation for one kamikaze pilot, the following provides the book's background on Kanji Eda, who was promoted two ranks to Captain on his death, and his final poem translated to English (pp. 60-1):

CAP. Kanji Eda

CAP. Kanji Eda was 22 years old who died on June 6, 1945.
He was the graduate of Waseda University.
He left his mind in a poem.
They had some kinds of excellent view of life and death.

The green is too beautiful.
I may forget that I even go to die now.
The sky is blue without limit.
I see a cloud floating in the sky.
I feel the summer in Chiran on June while hearing the song of cicadas.
During I wait the operation order.
The song of birds seems to be happy.
"I will be a bird next"
I hear Sugimoto says such words while he is stretching himself out on the grass.
Don't amuse me!
13:35 pm Today,
At last, I will take off.
Our good old homeland! Good by.
I leave the used fountain pen as the "Remembrance"

Although this book has several shortcomings, the pilots' emotions and unique personalities get conveyed through these translated final writings. The book is only sold in the lobby of the Chiran Peace Museum for Kamikaze Pilots.