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Kamikaze_ Cherry Blossom_ and Nationalism


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Kamikaze, Cherry Blossom,
and Nationalism        Human self-sacrifice, such as that of Allied soldiers in Iraq and Palestinian suicide                           not refer to his Logic of Species, which is
Review >

                                                                                                                                                                                     Plate 6, taken from the book under review.
                       bombers, obtains a new dimension in Emiko Ohnuki-Tierney’s theme of patriotic suicide as                        still cursed today by Chinese intellec-
Japan                  an aesthetic ideal. Her study of the role of symbolism and aesthetics in totalitarian ideology                  tuals as a racist basis for Japanese impe-
                       shows how the state manipulated the symbol of the cherry blossom, a Japanese ideal of                           rialism (Bian Chongdao 1989:8). Nei-
                       evanescent beauty. To persuade people that it was their honour to ‘die like beautiful falling                   ther does she refer to the role of the
                       cherry petals’ for the emperor, soldiers were promised that their souls would be honoured                       extreme right, which, in the 1980s and
                       in eternity in the, now, politically controversial Yasukuni Shrine.                                             1990s, converted former tokkotai bases
                                                                                                                                       on the southern island of Kyuushu
By Margaret Sleeboom                            The author explores how state             seen as the general will of Rousseau         (Chiran and Bansei) into popular
                                             nationalism is developed and how it          and Kant, they were disarmed and did         tourist spots. Furthermore, the Yasuku-                                                    Umezawa Kazuyo, tokkotai pilot, with branches

D     rawing on diaries, unpublished in
      English, Ohnuki-Tierney provides
a lucid discussion of the views and
                                             succeeds and/or fails to be accepted by
                                             ‘ordinary’ individuals, who, rather
                                             often, embrace as ‘natural’ basic
                                                                                          not suspect the wicked hand of manip-
                                                                                          ulation’ (p.17). The soldiers also bor-
                                                                                          rowed Christianity from Europe to pro-
                                                                                                                                       ni Shrine is presented as the resting-
                                                                                                                                       place of the souls of the tokkotai, sepa-
                                                                                                                                       rate from the neighbouring souls of
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  of cherry blossoms on his uniform. Courtesy of
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  his brother, Dr Umezawa Shmzm.

motives of the kamikaze pilots (tokkotai,    changes in culture and society initiated     vide them with a model of sacrifice for         class-A war criminals, still celebrat-                                                  described, who believe their war to be
or ‘special attack corps’). She presents     by political, military, and intellectual     others and the notion of life after death.   ed by the far right. Moreover, no men-                                                     justified for reasons (rooted in reli-
them as idealist romantics who sacri-        leaders. The student pilots all had their    The only model of sacrifice in Japan         tion is made of the post-war role of ‘vic-                                                 gious, philosophical, and utopian ide-
ficed their confused lives for the country   own ideas and ideals. Among them             drew on the Confucian notion of loyal-       tim consciousness’ of pacifist national                                                    ologies) at variance with those of the
they held dear. Ohnuki-Tierney describes     were members of Japan’s Romantic             ty to one’s parents and lord (p.18–19).      identity in Japan (Orr 2001).                                                              state, are not likely to receive any
their patriotism convincingly as a prod-     Movement and of Cogito, a platform           State manipulation of the young intel-                                                                                                  sympathy. <
uct of a complex interpenetration            that became closely tied with ultra-         lectual tokkotai imposed Western con-        Ulterior motives
between global intellectual tides, politi-   nationalism, Marxists, utopian human-        cepts of the nation and modernity on            The tokkotai diaries have been much                                                     - Ohnuki-Tierney, Emiko, Kamikaze, Cherry
cal and military threats from the West,      itarians, and Christians. Distinguish-       Japanese culture: thus, Western              discussed in Japan of the 1990s, but                                                         Blossoms, and Nationalisms. The Milita-
and their own Japanese intellectual tra-     ing between the patriotism of pro patria     philosophies and ideologies explain          only sporadically in English (cf. Sasaki                                                     rization of Aesthetics in Japanese History,
ditions, which were themselves also the      mori, which was espoused by individ-         and carry the main responsibility for        1997). Though it aims to alter the cur-                                                      Chicago and London: The University of
products of interactions between the         ual pilots, and state nationalism, which     their behaviour.                             rent image of kamikaze, it does so by                                                        Chicago Press (2002), pp. xvii + 411, ISBN
local and the global (p. 240).               was fostered from above, promoting pro          The sharp distinctions between state      focusing on the intellectual elite who                                                       0-226-62091-3
   The book is divided into four parts.      rege et patria mori (to die for emperor      and country, nationalism and patriot-        represent only one-sixth of all Okinawa
Part one focuses on the meaning and          and country) (p.7), Ohnuki-Tierney           ism, and official kill and romantic self-    tokkotai (Sasaki 1997:15). Furthermore,                                                    References
symbolism of the cherry blossom, part        argues that, though each of the five dis-    sacrifice, make Japanese patriotic tokko-    Ohnuki-Tierney ascribes the truly                                                          - Bian Chongdao and Suzuki Tadashi
two on the militarization of the masses      cussed pilots reproduced the latter ide-     tai victims of the West. Indeed the          amazing number of lengthy diaries left                                                       (eds.), Riben jindai shi da zhexuejia,
since the nineteenth century up to           ology in action, none of them repro-         Western state, Western concepts of           by tokkotai pilots to the importance of                                                      Shanghai: Shanghai Renmin Chubanshe
World War Two, and part three on the         duced it in toto in thought.                 nationalism, Western ideologies and          ‘writing’ as a mode of communication                                                         (1989).
way in which young men ‘volunteered’                                                      philosophies during, and Western cen-        in Japanese culture (p.189), not to their                                                  - Orr, James J., The Victim as Hero. Ideolo-
to ‘defend their country against Ameri-      Japanese cherry blossom and                  sorship and prejudices after, the Pacif-     academic background. More seriously,                                                         gies of Peace and National Identity in Post-
can invasion’. Part four examines how        the West                                     ic War, seem to have rather too much to      the behaviour of the romantic pilots                                                         war Japan, Honolulu: University of Hawaii
the state managed to change the con-            One aim of the book is to examine         answer for. It seems the book lacks data     remains mysterious due to a lack of                                                          Press (2001).
ceptions of emperor and cherry blos-         the power of aesthetics for political        on tokkotai attitudes toward Asia, on the    contextual analysis. The meaning of                                                        - Sasaki, Mako, ‘Who Became Kamikaze
som, the latter being a Japanese master      purposes, using the state’s manipula-        views of non-intellectual tokkotai about     ‘voluntary’ recruitment, the influence                                                       Pilots, And How Did They Feel Towards
trope of imperial nationalism at the         tion of cherry blossom symbolism as a        ‘sacrificing’ their lives, on the condi-     of state and self-censorship, social pres-                                                   Their Suicide Mission?’, The Concord
beginning of the Meiji period. Ohnuki-       case. According to Ohnuki-Tierney            tions under which the diaries were writ-     sure, state propaganda, and education                                                        Review, Concord (Mass.), vol.7/1 (1996),
Tierney locates the power of (national)      notions of the state and various ideolo-     ten, and on the intellectuals responsi-      are insufficiently linked to the reading                                                     pp.175-209.
symbols and rituals in méconnaissance,       gies, which motivated tokkotai to fly for    ble for state policies. Thus, in             of the diaries. Finally, I doubt whether
a term borrowed from Jacques Lacan,          their country, were both imported from       describing the minds of the student-         Ohnuki-Tierney has done the image of                                                       Dr Margaret Sleeboom is a research fellow
referring to the communication absence       the West. Thus, the pilots were tricked      pilots, Ohnuki-Tierney argues that the       the kamikaze any favours. Whereas we                                                       and Director of the Socio-Genetic Margin-
occurring when people do not share a         by the state into sacrificing their lives:   Japanese philosopher Tanabe Hajime           may sympathize with soldiers follow-                                                       alization in Asia Programme (SMAP) at the
meaning but derive different meanings        ‘When the “general will”, transformed        (a devout Christian) was influential,        ing state orders to fight a war they                                                       International Institute for Asian Studies.
from the same symbols and rituals.           by the Nazi and Japanese states, was         and most extensively read. But she does      believe to be unjust, the soldiers here                                          

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