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Kamikaze Diaries: Reflections of Japanese Student Soldiers

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  124 ratings  ·  24 reviews
“We tried to live with 120 percent intensity, rather than waiting for death. We read and read, trying to understand why we had to die in our early twenties. We felt the clock ticking away towards our death, every sound of the clock shortening our lives.” So wrote Irokawa Daikichi, one of the many kamikaze pilots, or tokkotai, who faced almost certain death in the futile mi ...more
Paperback, 227 pages
Published April 15th 2007 by University of Chicago Press (first published 2006)
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Jun 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
More academic than I thought, but very fascinating. The author does a great job of explaining elements of Japanese culture and history without sounding condescending.
Sep 02, 2007 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction
I heard about this book on NPR -- first an interview with the author, and then an interview with Clint Eastwood who read the book while he was working on his Letters from Iwo Jima/Flags of our Fathers films.

The book is very scholarly, and not very emotionally engaging. The book summarizes what's in the letters of the young pilots, but it's not a direct translation. It's more of a critical synthesis of what the young men wrote. There were poignant passages, but these were very few. I expected the
Aug 24, 2007 rated it it was amazing
This is an incredible book--
as shatters many myths held outside of Japan about the Kamikaze pilots
those in the book are students who were in midst of education, knew several languages, studying philosphy, art, literature Western and Asian--
drafted into the kamikaze units as late in the war and in desperation the need for such attacks--from the governments point of view--
yet the young writers in this book were not supporters many of them of the government or the war--they wanted to live--as just
Jan 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2018
This book humanizes the kamikaze pilots by showing that they were not simply naive or nationalistic young men, but among the brightest of their generation. As the other reviews note, this book is not a simple translation of several diaries but a scholarly examination of selected portions. As such, Ohnuki-Tierney accomplishes her goal of making the complicated thoughts and feelings of this selection of young men accessible to current readers.
N. Rowland
Jun 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
What a brilliant book. It gives such an insight into the boys who were required to become Kamikaze pilots. They were the best and the brightest, they were loved, their families heartbroken, their lives lost. Incredible book.
Stephen Douglas Rowland
2½. This is an academic review of a few diaries kept by students who ended up as kamikaze/tokkotai pilots (and one who simply died in battle). It contains far more scholarly analysis than diary, but it is interesting enough, though often repetitive.
Özgür Göksu
Apr 24, 2018 rated it it was ok
Gives a new angle for understanding imperial Japan before and during WWII...
Not a must read but a good one somehow
Feb 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
A good insight to what these student soldiers went through.
May 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Incredible book. These boys were the best and brightest of Japan. A devastating loss for Japan.
Jun 08, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Throughout the various history classes I have taken over the years, the role of the Kamikaze during WWII was largely explained in the same way: Japanese culture dictated that soldiers should give their lives for their empire and that is why pilots were so willing to give their lives to bring down enemy planes and ships. However, in Kamikaze Diaries: Reflections of Japanese Student Soldiers, the author, Emiko Ohnuki-Tierney, seeks to deconstruct this belief. By first pointing out that the majorit ...more
Sarah Crawford
Jan 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
The book is basically about the history of some of the Japanese kamikaze. The entires are based on diaries or other writings of the students who became kamikaze. It is not an actual collection of long diary entries, though. It's more a summation of the individual histories and thoughts of those who died.

The introduction goes into how students were recruited into the war effort. An interesting quote from this section is: 'The Japanese military tradition had a distinctive, almost unique element.
Sep 29, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I had heard an interview with the author on NPR. I should have left it at that. This book could have been accomplished in a Vanity Fair article and that would have sufficed. Very interesting topic and the life of Kamikaze pilots is very misunderstood, but there weren't enough of their particular poems, letters, diaries in the book. And on top of that is was boring.

I think the biggest misunderstanding is that they were suicide bombers similar to our present day terrorist bombers. These were highl
Feb 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is different take on the Japanese Kamikazes, form the men's side. To find out that the Japanese High Command knew the war was lost, and still draft their best and brightest out of their colleges and upper tier schools to go out and purposely kill themselves, as t5here were very few volunteers among the regular military. This against extremely long odds of accomplishing anything of note against the Allied advance toward Japan, is a very depressing thing. Ms Ohnuki-Tierney has assembled the w ...more
Apr 02, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Your enemies aren't always who you think they are. This book brings us the rarely translated thoughts and doomed hopes of the tokotai, Imperial Japan's kamikaze pilots. The author shows us that these soldiers weren't all the rabid fanatics they're often painted as. In their diaries and letters home, we glimpse an often reluctant warrior class who serve out of duty and a desire not to shame their families. We see a sampling of highly educated men in the fullness of their youth forced to embrace d ...more
Aug 31, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: you if you are interested in the psychology of marching yourself to die
Boring academically, interesting intellectually and psychologically. Who knew there were so many fighter poets. The author gets a little too obsessed with cherry blossoms though, due to her previous book (about the symbolism of cherry blossoms during war in Japan). I really like the light shed on the soldiers though, that they were not cold automatons, but feeling thinking emotional people who didn't want to do and were conflicted about it.
Sep 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing
A amazing lesson is history, showing us that the kamikaze pilots where simple bright students lovers of life.

Really loved the diaries on their own, but didn't like at the way to extensive introduction and comments of the author to the diaries, think it would be a 5 star book if she choosed to comment less and used the space to add more diaries because they are amazing on their own.
Oct 05, 2008 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: no one
This book was alright but I found the title misleading. It's actually Tierney's writings about the diaries of the Kamikaze pilots. There are brief paragraphs from the diaries but mostly its just Tierney writing what she thought. That made me wonder just how much of the book was true and how much the author just added to make it sound good. I wouldn't really recommend the book.
Feb 02, 2013 rated it liked it
Depressing as hell... but not really as insightful as I had hoped. The biggest revelation was that a good number of kamikaze were not volunteers but were volunteered by their commanding officers and that a larger number than you would think were not into the idea of suicide for their country- but weren't left with much choice.
Jan 20, 2013 rated it liked it
This book reveals the mindset of the Japanese college students who were forced to enlist during WW2 as kamikaze pilots. These young men left behind diaries full of grief over the devastation of the war and their impending death. Three stars because parts of the book were very analytic and clunky.
Apr 28, 2013 rated it liked it
Shocking, yet sad to find out most of the Tokkotai Airmen were really University students conscripted by force by their own Country. Sad to read all they had to endure, knowing their lives would be ending very soon, all for the Emperor's benefit. A very eye-opening book and well written.
Celestine Pride
Feb 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book showed bitter stories from the Kamikaze pilots, giving us a different view of their life before and after joining the Kamikaze troops. Although I'd like to read the longer and more complete version of their diaries, but Ohnuki-Tierny summed it up pretty well in this book.
Aug 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I've read some disturbing stuff in my day, this tops them all. One of the best books I've ever read.
Jenny Olson
Feb 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A myth-dispelling read.
Fantastic and valuable historical resource with great commentary. However, the author's speculation about the pilots' emotional states of mind got a little overwrought and repetitive.
rated it liked it
Oct 20, 2014
F. R.
rated it it was amazing
Feb 06, 2019
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Oct 11, 2017
William White
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Jul 23, 2018
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Aug 07, 2020
Gianfranco Zen
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May 06, 2016
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Emiko Ohnuki-Tierney (Japanese: 大貫恵美子 1934 - ) is a noted anthropologist and the William F. Vilas Professor of Anthropology at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. She is the author of fourteen single-authored books in English and in Japanese, in addition to numerous articles. Her books have been translated into many other languages, including Italian, Korean, Polish and Russian. Ohnuki-Tierney wa ...more

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