Kamikaze, Cherry Blossoms, and Nationalisms: The Militarization of Aesthetics in Japanese History

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Author: Ooi Keat Gin
Date: Winter 2004
From: The Historian(Vol. 66, Issue 4)
Publisher: Phi Alpha Theta, History Honor Society, Inc.
Document Type: Book review
Length: 653 words

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Kamikaze, Cherry Blossoms, and Nationalisms: The Militarization of Aesthetics in Japanese History. By Emiko Ohnuki-Tierney. (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2002. Pp. xvii, 411. $20.00.

One of the most, or perhaps even the most, intriguing and perplexing question of kamikaze is: "Why did they do it?" The tokkotai ("Special Attack Force," the proper term rather than kamikaze, meaning "Divine Wind") pilots' mission of death appeared unfathomable, particularly to non-Japanese minds.

In her thought-provoking study of frightening dimensions, Emiko Ohnuki-Tierney offers the answer by analyzing the diaries of five tokkotai pilots taken as representatives of the student soldiers, the majority group (85 percent) who volunteered for the fatal missions. Through these ego-documents (the pilots' diaries), the author attempts to understand "the specific ways in which state nationalism penetrated into their thinking" and how their thinking "became transformed as part of their patriotism" (15).

Utilizing the institution of the tokkotai as a Japanese case study, this penetrating work examines how state nationalism is...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A135425351