Kamikaze, Cherry Blossoms, and Nationalisms: The by Emiko Ohnuki-Tierney

By Emiko Ohnuki-Tierney

Why did nearly 1000 hugely informed "student squaddies" volunteer to serve in Japan's tokkotai (kamikaze) operations close to the top of worldwide conflict II, even if Japan was once wasting the battle? during this interesting learn of the function of symbolism and aesthetics in totalitarian ideology, Emiko Ohnuki-Tierney indicates how the country manipulated the accepted jap image of the cherry blossom to persuade people who it used to be their honor to "die like attractive falling cherry petals" for the emperor. Drawing on diaries by no means earlier than released in English, Ohnuki-Tierney describes those younger men's agonies or even defiance opposed to the imperial ideology. Passionately dedicated to cosmopolitan highbrow traditions, the pilots observed the cherry blossom now not in militaristic phrases, yet as a logo of the painful good looks and unresolved ambiguities in their tragically short lives. utilizing Japan to illustrate, the writer breaks new floor within the figuring out of symbolic conversation, nationalism, and totalitarian ideologies and their execution.

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

Sample text

By the Nanbokucho¯ period (1336 –92), upper-class warriors were among the aristocrats for whom the display of culturedness became important. In contrast to demonstrations of military might (bu), they had to cultivate “culture” (bun, meaning refined learning)—the ability to play musical instruments, compose poems, be well versed in Chinese and Japanese literature, and so on. Cherry blossom viewing among the elite, both aristocrats and upper-class warriors, became the occasion for the literati to demonstrate their culturedness, since composing poetry in praise of cherry blossoms and reading were the most important features of their cherry blossom viewing, along with playing music and other expressions of refined taste.

Ripe heads of rice stalks are described to have a golden luster even today. Since the ancient period, the aesthetics of rice has been expressed in poems, essays, and visual arts, which in turn have further propagated the perception of the beauty of rice. In In Praise of Shadows (In’ei Raisan), Tanizaki Junichiro¯ (1886 –1965) extols the beauty of cooked rice with an analogy of each grain to a pearl shining in a black lacquer container placed in the dark (Tanizaki [1933] 1959: 17 –18). Even today brand names of rice almost always bear the character for luster in them.

An extraordinarily large body of their letters, diaries, and memoirs remains as testimony to voices that are too human and too powerful to be buried for good. Not because they were Japanese but because they were humans, I find it is inexcusable to dismiss them from our knowledge and to replace them with a caricature. While we cannot exonerate those who commit grave sins against hu¯ nishi and the others who manity, be they Hitlers, Osama bin Laden, or O brutally cut short the lives of young tokko¯tai pilots, we must also realize our fragility, which leads us to participate in the evil operations.

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