For the Emperor a young cherry blossom prepared beforehand | Will fall with that fragrance smelling sweet forever ~ Ensign Toshio Furuichi, Death Poem (Trans. Bill Gordon)

Kamikaze pilots posing with a puppy the day before their suicide missions, 1945. The boy holding the puppy was 17.

“In a real sense it is certainly true that a pilot in our special aerial attack force is, as a friend of mine has said . . . nothing more than that part of the machine which holds the plane’s controls—endowed with no personal qualities, no emotions, certainly with no rationality—simply just an iron filament tucked inside a magnet itself designed to be sucked into an enemy air-craft carrier.” ~ Capt. Ryoji Uehara, from “My Thoughts”

Sunday afternoon. Rainy again, 37 degrees.

A new horse showed up in our yard last night, not another present from Dallas, but one from down the ridge. There’s a guy who owns several horses that are always out in the road foraging for food. They all look emaciated every time that I see them, and quite obviously, it bothers the crap out of me, so I have no problem with this errant horse hanging out with us for a few days until its owner comes looking for it. I mean, it’s not like we can put her in the back of the truck and take her home, now is it?

Anyway, two days until Christmas. No, I never put up the tree or decorated a darned thing. No, I haven’t wrapped anything. No, I haven’t addressed cards. I really don’t want to talk about it.

Kamikaze pilots drinking a glass of sake before their attacks during the Battle of Leyte Gulf on 12-10-44 (from history.com)

In that vein, I’ve done something different for today’s post. I’m sharing with you something I’ve been reading lately, besides the entire Harry Potter collection.

Recently, I’ve come across several letters from Japanese Kamikaze pilots, letters written to parents, loved ones, on the eve of their suicide missions. The term Kamikaze means “divine wind,” and the pilots in their mostly one-way planes with a bomb on one side and a fuel tank on the other were supposed to be the divine wind that blew away Japan’s enemy from its shores, much like the typhoon that felled the Mongolian invaders in the 13th century, which is where the term originates.

Many of these pilots were very young men who had been conscripted into the military, especially after Japan did away with the exemption for men in college. History tells us that long before 9/11 and Al Qaeda, about 2,800 kamikaze pilots sank dozens of allied ships, damaged hundreds more and killed 4,900 American sailors between 1943-44. Contrary to popular belief, the Japanese pilots who attacked Pearl Harbor were not officially Kamikaze pilots; however, some had vowed to crash rather than surrender or be captured. The use of the Kamikaze did not become the official strategy of the Japanese until 1943.

“When I am in a plane perhaps I am nothing more than just a piece of the machine, but as soon as I am on the ground again I find that I am a complete human being after all, complete with human emotions—and passions too.” ~ Capt. Ryoji Uehara, from “My Thoughts”

In 2015, the city of Minamikyushu, Japan sought for a second time to gain UNESCO World Heritage status like that for Anne Frank’s Diary for hundreds of these letters. According to Mayor Kampei Shimoide, the bid was not to “praise, glorify or justify the kamikaze mission,” but to “help to promote peace by highlighting the horror of war.” However, the bid has not been without its critics, especially China, who claim that the move would “beautify” Japan’s aggression.

Japanese high school girls wave goodbye to a Kamikaze pilot with cherry blossoms

My interest, however, has been in the letters and poems themselves, and the men who penned them. The Japanese have a centuries-old tradition called jisei, which is the creation of a death poem immediately before the moment of death; many of the Kamikaze pilots adopted this tradition before their flights.

Years ago I wrote a poem about bushido, which might seem weird for the daughter of a Filipino veteran who suffered at the hands of the Japanese. I’ve never quite understood my fascination with the Japanese other than the feeling that I might have been one in another life. Don’t laugh.

Anyway . . . One of the most famous of these attack pilot writers was Captain Ryoji Uehara, who wrote several letters, one of which was sent to his parents via military censors. This particular letter mentions his deceased brother, who was killed in the war, and attempts to express his acceptance of death:

At this point, therefore, I gladly give up my life for Japan’s liberty and independence.
While the rise and fall of one’s nation is indeed a matter of immense importance for any human being, the same shift dwindles to relative insignificance when and if that same human being places it within the context of the universe as a whole.

To read the complete letter to his parents, go here.

“. . . Tomorrow one believer in liberty and liberalism will leave this world behind. His withdrawing figure may have a lonely look about it, but I assure you that his heart is filled with contentment.” ~ Capt. Ryoji Uehara, from “My Thoughts”
Captain Ryoji Uehara

Capt. Uehara also wrote a letter called “My Thoughts,” which is a beautiful reflection by a young man who is about to face death, and in it the more traditional Japanese outlook about serving the fatherland is replaced by an impassioned philosophical tone. Uehara passed this letter on to a public affairs officer who kept the letter secret until after the war. Many families who had received letters and cards from sons destroyed them because of a rumor that the US would punish anyone related to the attack forces. Fortunately, the Uehara letter survived:

I believe that the ultimate triumph of liberty is altogether obvious . . . I believe along with him [Italian philosopher Benedetto Croce] that this is a simple fact, a fact so certain that liberty must of necessity continue its underground life even when it appears, on the surface, to be suppressed—it will always win through in the end.
It is equally inevitable that an authoritarian and totalitarian nation, however much it may flourish temporarily, will eventually be defeated . . . we see that all the authoritarian nations are now falling down one by one, exactly like buildings with faulty foundations. All these developments only serve to reveal all over again the universality of the truth that history has so often proven in the past: men’s great love of liberty will live on into the future and into eternity itself.

To see this complete letter, go here. To see a much larger collection of letters and writings from pilots, go here.

Uehara was a student at Keio University, one of Japan’s most prestigious schools, in December 1943 when he was conscripted into the Imperial Japanese Army. He was killed during the Battle of Okinawa, May 11, 1945. He was only 22 years old. Among his personal effects was a book on philosophy by Croce, in the cover of which he had written:

Goodbye, my beloved Kyoko-chan. I loved you so much; but even then you were already engaged, so it was very painful for me. Thinking only of your happiness, I suppressed the urge to whisper into your ear. That I loved you. I love you still.

More later. Peace.


Death Poem

I do not have a last letter. I do not have a will.
I believe in the permanence of Shinshū.*
I will push forward as my duty.
I live for an eternal cause.

Blossoms on cherry tree
Left to wind
Will fall
My way
Not looking back

~ Flight Petty Officer Tsutomu Fujimura (Trans. Bill Gordon)

*Shinshū means divine land, or Japan itself

Because I needed to weep some more . . . once again . . .

This is a repeat of a blog that I posted in 2013. The video showed up on my tumblr dash today, and it still hit me as hard as it did the first time, and since I am mired in forms and calculations and percentages, this is probably far better than anything I could come up with my own. I suggest watching the video as large as allowable.

The Encounter Collection by Stephen Kenn explores the significant act of passing an object on from one generation to the next. It is in this exchange, accompanied by words of wisdom, that a boy is often called to a life of courage. While aware that everyone’s life experience is unique, and often painful, this film focuses on the experience of a boy losing his father and yet retaining the love and passion that was intended for him.

Stephenkenn.com
ProcessCreative.tv

DISCIPLINES
Creative Development: Process Creative and Stephen Kenn
Ideation
Direction
Production
Cinematography
Editorial

Music Curation: Ryan Taubert
Sound Design: White Noise Lab
Color: Matt Fezz
Letter and Voice Over: James Watson
Young Boy: Bradley Aiello
Boy: Lucas Aiello

Stephen Kenn // Process Creative // The Encounter Collection

(Transcript as best as I can decipher it, * indicates unknown. Corrections welcomed)

20 October 1944
US Army/Air Force Base
Spinazzola, Italy

Dear Son,

I hoped I would never write this to you. In a little less than an hour I’ll be strapping myself into my old plane and pointing it nose westward. I’ve seen the orders . . . I think it’ll be for the last time.

And so suddenly I find my life stripped away, like the branches of an old, black tree. All that matters is that I write this to you. I know you won’t remember me, not really. When I spent three days with you last year when you were six months old, and, though you can’t yet understand it, I . . . loved you more then than you might imagine loving anybody right now.

Now listen to me. This uh life, know that it is precious. You’ve gotta grasp at every little whiff of it that passes by you. It won’t be easy, and it won’t be certain. Not now, and not in your unimaginable future. Don’t be surprised, no. Embrace the stiff winds, and the lonely heights.

Remember your name. Never turn away from the bright course because it is hard. But above all, love. Scrape out the bottom of your soul and love for all your worth.

And when you find her, risk everything. Die a thousand deaths to get her. Don’t look back. When you grow older, older than I’ll ever be, blow on the embers of that first heroic choice. And you’ll be warmed, sustained.

Someday you’ll have a son. Remember he is your greatest gift. Tell him these things. Make a man of him. Love him.

Don’t live to get money. Have a few things, but make them good things. Take care of them, learn how they work. There is beauty in the smell of good machines and old leather.

When you walk, alone, in the autumn. Down roads at night, with the trees tossing in the sunset, know that I would give everything to walk with you, and tell you their names. But I am there, in the light through the branches. And I am loving you where I see you.

I must go now.

All my love, forever and ever,
Dad.

In Remembrance: Hiroshima Japan

   

“The release of atom power has changed everything except our way of thinking… the solution to this problem lies in the heart of mankind.  If only I had known, I should have become a watchmaker.” ~ Albert Einstein

Each year on August 6th, the anniversary of the A-bomb, people gather for the lantern remembrance in Hiroshima Japan. Paper lanterns are floated on the water to honor and remember those who lost their lives as a result of the bomb.