The Kamikaze Mindset
To die voluntarily in the prime of life is unnatural. The very thought of death is unbearable for any person who is sound of mind. Given that Japan’s Kamikaze pilots were sound of mind, why then did these young pilots, perhaps as many as 7,000, willingly choose to kill themselves near the close of a war long past winning? It is a question that is all the more pressing as we commemorate the destruction of the World Trade Center a year ago, at the hands of men – admittedly coming from a very different culture – who were prepared to act in a similar manner to devastating effect.
In August 2001, just a month before the Al-Qaida attacks, the Kamikaze phenomenon again created headlines when a giant banquet commemorating the death of Admiral Takijiro Onishi, known as ‘the father of Kamikaze strategy’, who died by his own hand the day after the Japanese surrender. The banquet was held in Tokyo and attended by more than 1,000 people. The banquet opened with a soprano singing ‘Ave Maria’ in honour of the American and British sailors who perished in the Kamikaze attacks. Those present included a former prime minister, members of parliament, business leaders, editors, writers and entertainers. Newsreel films were shown and young men dressed as Kamikaze flyers – the youths who were regarded as ‘hero gods of the war’ – mounted the stage, singing war songs of bygone days. The evening closed with everyone singing the patriotic song, ‘Umi Yukaba’ (‘If you go to sea’). This popular ditty, written by a warrior in the eighth century, contains these lines:
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