Why did almost one thousand highly educated "student soldiers" volunteer to serve in Japan's tokkotai (kamikaze) operations near the end of World War II, even though Japan was losing the war? In this fascinating study of the role of symbolism and aesthetics in totalitarian ideology, Emiko Ohnuki-Tierney shows how the state manipulated the time-honored Japanese symbol of thWhy did almost one thousand highly educated "student soldiers" volunteer to serve in Japan's tokkotai (kamikaze) operations near the end of World War II, even though Japan was losing the war? In this fascinating study of the role of symbolism and aesthetics in totalitarian ideology, Emiko Ohnuki-Tierney shows how the state manipulated the time-honored Japanese symbol of the cherry blossom to convince people that it was their honor to "die like beautiful falling cherry petals" for the emperor.Drawing on diaries never before published in English, Ohnuki-Tierney describes these young men's agonies and even defiance against the imperial ideology. Passionately devoted to cosmopolitan intellectual traditions, the pilots saw the cherry blossom not in militaristic terms, but as a symbol of the painful beauty and unresolved ambiguities of their tragically brief lives. Using Japan as an example, the author breaks new ground in the understanding of symbolic communication, nationalism, and totalitarian ideologies and their execution....
|Title||:||Kamikaze, Cherry Blossoms, and Nationalisms: The Militarization of Aesthetics in Japanese History|
|Number of Pages||:||428 Pages|
|Status||:||Available For Download|
|Last checked||:||21 Minutes ago!|
Kamikaze, Cherry Blossoms, and Nationalisms: The Militarization of Aesthetics in Japanese History Reviews
I quite liked it. I was going back and forth through it because I was trying to relate it to things I am working on right now but especially the part with the diaries, I found very informing. I am a fan of researchers who do etnographic work and I find such reports as helpful and full of meaning and information as it gets. The militarization of daily objects and language occurs full-on nowadays in the Western world and US in particular, so reading about the history of it is quite enchanting.
Composition: 1/5Evidence: 2/5Writing Style: 2/5Balance: 3/5My curiosity and philosophical bents are piqued with the topic of indoctrination. The concept is relevant in US politics today but even more noteworthy for understanding fascism in World War II. This book is ostensibly about how the Japanese state used the imagery of cherry blossoms, as symbols, to militarize kamikaze pilots. To me, this sounded remarkably interesting. Despite the title, Ohnuki-Tierney approached this topic tangentially and only covered it summarily. Still, it was not a complete waste of time, and I'll post, bullet-style, a few facts that I was entirely unaware of regarding Japanese kamikaze pilots in WWII. The tokko¯tai (kamikaze) tactic was not used (or even thought of) for most of the war. It was not until 1944 and Japan was mostly encircled by the Allies that it became policy. 0 (yes, that is a zero) professional soldiers - graduates of naval and army academies - volunteered to be kamikaze pilots.3,843: The total number of Japanese soldiers killed as kamikaze pilots.The kamikaze ranks were largely filled by "student soldiers" - the brightest students graduating from the premier intellectual universities of Japan.These student soldiers were remarkably well-read in Western literature and philosophy. Four of the kamikaze pilots discussed in the book had read, between them, 1,356 books. Ohnuki-Tierney tells us that these four were not unusual.Many of the kamikaze pilots were Christian, Marxist, and/or pacifist. It was not uncommon for the pilot to have a Bible and a picture of their mother in the cockpit with them.The pilots and their families did not consider a kamikaze death to be suicide but sacrifice (either they were sacrificing themselves or the country was sacrificing them). Kamikaze pilots often left extensive diaries, sometimes totaling several hundred pages. Ohnuki-Tierney makes the case that sensationalism and caricatures of kamikaze pilots have an inverse relationship with the amount of information available to the public. I would agree with that assessment. The above points completely change my image of who the kamikaze pilots were. Apparently the information has long been available in Japanese language sources and has long been popular in Japan (although used selectively for biased political ends). The best section of the book is the summary (chapter 6) of the diaries, letters, and other writings of five kamikaze pilots. What, then, went wrong with the book? The first third of the book is devoted to the history of cherry blossoms in Japanese literature, art, and political imagery - for the entirety of Japanese history. This was far too large of a topic to be covered in a 100 pages and the pay-off was particularly slight as Ohnuki-Tierney concludes that the symbol meant many different things to many different people at many different times. Basically, before the Meiji Restoration, 1868, cherry blossoms could indicate anything involving 1) the relationship between men and women 2) life, 3) death, 4) rebirth. One paragraph (or an introductory segment) would have served to establish this. Further, most of this material was collected through discourse analysis, and my personal opinion is that while it is a neat philosophical principle, it is a poor evidentiary tool. Second, Ohnuki-Tierney had a thesis. Theses, generally are good. They give you a clear standard by which to evaluate and understand the work. The author's thesis, however, was that the kamikaze pilots were never successfully indoctrinated into dying for the emperor but rather only for the homeland. This is a rather academic and nuanced distinction. Granted, Ohnuki-Tierney is a nuanced academic writing an academically nuanced anthropological inquiry. The problem was that this thesis often steered the book away from the topics suggested in the title - the militarization of the cherry blossom symbol and kamikaze pilots. Instead most of the book became about whether or not the student pilots were genuinely eager and willing to die for the emperor. Ohnuki-Tierney concludes that they were not. Between pursuing this narrow thesis and focusing largely on the imagery of cherry blossoms, we get only a cursory view of state efforts to propagate nationalism, patriotism, and militarism. The author is primarily interested only in pro rege et patria, the state ideology of dying for the emperor. I was more interested - and felt that the title and introduction presented itself more as - in the broader state indoctrination programs through censorship, textbooks, and popular art. Ohnuki-Tierney touches on these, but I'll have to read a different book for them to be confronted deeply and directly.Third problem. The organization does not lend itself to a book format. It read more as a collection of essays: 1) the history of cherry blossoms, 2) constructing a political nationalism to die for the emperor, 3) mini biographies of five kamikaze, student pilots, 4) theoretical discussions on the differences between nationalism and patriotism and of political aesthetics. It is not uncommon for academic works to be compilations of previously published essays, but this was originally written as a single book. It never achieved or conveyed the coherence that the book format should, however, and a lot of ideas (Section 4, in particular) seemed out of sequence or repetitive. Ohnuki-Tierney is a distinguished professor at a reputable American university, and there is no doubt as to her expertise. The book title and introduction were somewhat misleading, however, and the remainder was too narrowly focused and insufficiently organized for a pleasant, general read. The author undoubtedly has nuggets of innovative scholarship scattered throughout the book, but they have to be studied and put together by others more devoted than I to sorting it all out. P.S. Ohnuki-Tierney compiles a list of the works read and studied by the kamikaze student pilots (as indicated in their diaries). In their mini-biographies, she includes a selection. Here is a sample from one of the pilots from six years of diaries. Apparently, most of the student pilots read German and French authors in their original languages. This particular pilot died on a kamikaze mission at the age of 22: Philosophy, politics, economics—German: Dilthey, Engels; Feuerbach, Fichte,Hegel,Carl Hilty, Kant,Karl Kautsky, Theodor Lipps, Marx, Nietzsche, Ranke, Erich Maria Remarque, Schopenhauer, Wilhelm Windelband; English: Sir William James Ashley, Jeremy Bentham, Alfred Marshall, John Stuart Mill, Adam Smith; Italian: Benedetto Croce; Classical: Plato, Socrates; French: Rousseau; Russian: Lenin, Trotsky; Japanese: Uchimura Kanzo ¯. Science—German: Albert Einstein, Max Planck; English: Isaac Newton.Sociology—German: Max Weber; Georg Simmel. Literature—German: Goethe, Hesse, Mann, Schiller; English: Byron, Thomas Carlyle, Lafcadio Hearn, Shakespeare, H. G. Wells, Oscar Wilde; Russian: Chekhov, Dostoyevsky, Gogol, Tolstoy, Turgenev; French: Romain Rolland; Japanese: Abe Yoshishige, Arishima Takeo, Higuchi Ichiyo¯,Kawabata Yasunari,Kunikida Doppo,Miyazawa Kenji,Mori O¯gai, Natsume So¯seki, Tanizaki Junichiro¯, Tayama Katai, Yamamoto Yu¯zo ¯.
An in-depth look at the meanings the cherry blossoms has held in Japanese history, the efforts to unify the country with a modern ideology, the selective use of cherry blossoms in World War II.I personally found the first part, discussing the comparison of rice and cherry blossoms, and how cherry blossoms were mostly talked of in full bloom rather than falling, as symbols of life, spring, and fertility. Poems invoked them as symbols of women and love. Court might favor the plum blossom following Chinese practice, but even they gave way in due course. Cherry trees were planted on riverbanks not only for their beauty and to help shore up the banks, but to purify, because the petals and leaves were thought to have antitoxic powers. Still, even the earliest references sometimes brushed on its ephemeral nature.The Restoration brought out a burning desire to emulate the West and strengthen the country. Some modernizers attacked cherry trees as a symbol of the feudal past -- even chopping them down for it. But it came to represent the spirit they wanted, with much emphasis on the falling petals. Like the Forty-Seven Ronin, that ever popular play, that was also pressed into duty for the supreme duty of loyalty. The saying the death is as light as a feather, but duty as heavy as a mountain.More on the specifically kamikaze usage, and an analysis of some pilots -- the most liberal and educated of them, deeply Westernized in many respect, but nevertheless willing to climb into that plane and die. The subsequent practices. The Yasukuni shrine was first erected to appease the spirits of the dead from the Restoration, and the cherry trees were there to be beautiful as part of the appeasement. Its purpose of channeling devotion to the dead enshired there slowly accumulated -- with the cherry trees becoming symbols of them. The pilots would tell each other they would meet at the shrine.I think the last part is the weakest, pressing this into duty as an example of manifold meaning being simplified and used, but the first portions are quite interesting.
An eye-opening exposition of the tokkotai/kamikaze phenomenon in its socio-historical context, especially for Americans, among whom knowledge of the subject really does seem to be limited to caricature. The large majority of these pilots were student soldiers—highly educated, astoundingly well-read, many Marxists, many even anti-military, some even Christians, almost all 'liberal' in the Western, philosophical sense. The political, intellectual, and cultural forces at work in the lives of these 'volunteer' pilots is stunning to consider, and the hope and agony recorded in their personal writings heart-wrenching. The author's theories about (especially political) aestheticization and what she calls méconnaissance were especially intriguing, her primary example of course being the "polysemic" cherry blossom. I would have been inclined to give five stars if a larger portion of the book were devoted to the actual pilots the author considered, and if, in this edition at least, the grammatical errors that should have been cleaned up by an editor weren't quite so ubiquitous (nearly one a page in parts!). Definitely worth the read if you're one of those who like to have their history a little more complicated than the typical good vs. bad.
This was a tough read because of my family's history and involvement in WWII and the lingering effects I've seen on my uncle, who is a veteran. None of his childhood friends returned from the war, and he has lived a life of survivor's guilt since then. I've visited the Kamikaze Peace Museum in Chiran, Kagoshima (Japan), where the military records are stored. Those are the letters that soldiers officially wrote home to families and are the "approved" and "official" ones. The life stories, diary entries and letters in this book are tales that show fear, doubt, and question the motives of the military leaders. It also interrogates the notion of why intelligent young officers and soldiers (the creme de la creme of academia) went along with the edicts to commit suicide in such a fashion when they could have instead enacted revolt.Told in both expository form, and in ethnographic form, this book is a must-read for any person interested in WWII Japanese history.
Essentially the diaries of the Kamikaze. Many of them were inspired by German Romanticism and some were Christians.