Death and Nationalism: Commemoration of Kamikaze Soldiers and Politics of Mourning in Postwar Japan

  • Author: Yungjin Lee
  • Publication Date: August / 2018
  • Publisher: SNUPRESS

An Anthropological Study on the Commemoration of War Dead in Postwar Japan

The Kamikaze Special Attack Corps embody a tragic element that cannot be found in any other history of wars. The source of the tragedy lies in the fact that the purpose of the Kamikaze was solely on death itself and not on military achievements; that such purpose was developed as a form of an organized military operation; and above all, thousands of young student soldiers lost their lives during this reckless operation.

The question is then how should such tragic deaths of the young Kamikaze soldiers be remembered and acknowledged as? Did the soldiers sacrifice themselves purely for their country, or did they die in vain in carrying out an aggressive war?

The book focuses on the ambiguity of the deaths of the Kamikaze soldiers and asks the ethical and practical question of ‘How should the living face the dead?’ that transcends the modern nation-state logic that justifies the commemoration of the war dead. The author visited Kagoshima, the base of Kamikaze in the past, several times to extensively examine the development of the patterns of Kamikaze commemoration and attempted to reveal the meaning and limitations of those practices in space-time postwar Japan from the ‘inside.’

* This book is based on the author’s PhD thesis supported by the <SNUAC Dissertation Award> in 2014.