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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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