8 Lee Karen

Walking through a park near home

The sun’s rays

through the naked tree branches

blind me


The readings presented a dilemma for me similar to the one voiced in class. It was difficult for me to reconcile the image of the young Kamikaze pilots who thanked their parents for having raised them and took a last walk through nature before their final flight with that of the depraved ravagers in the Rape of Nanking. It would be too easy to just call the Japanese people of that time violent and bloodthirsty fanatics – and it is true that perhaps for the first time in Japanese history, a fever of nationalism had overtaken the country. However, it really does come down in the end to the deep-rooted form and duty-oriented thinking of the Japanese people. The Kamikaze pilots demonstrate what was familiar, if extreme: though group-pressure may have played a small role amongst the Kamikaze volunteers, the majority feared they wouldn’t be accepted for suicide duty and begged to be chosen (Morris, 306). This perfectly shows the unique identity of self as a part of a whole that perpetuates Japanese culture, and the emphasis of duty over one’s life – something the Japanese were highly familiar with. The takeover of Nanking on the other hand was a completely alien situation for the Japanese. The textbook suggests that because the Japanese soldiers were no longer in Japan, the “well-practiced rules of correctly moving through space…no longer applied” (Inouye, 132). Thus, placed in an unfamiliar and formless world of chaos, the Japanese fell into the very basest manifestation of human action. One could argue that the ‘unfamiliar’ is a frequent theme of Japanese culture, but I think that is only when it is accompanied by form. One could say that the Japanese were overcome (and perhaps driven insane?) by its absence.

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