Most the us prospered up hearing the word Kamikaze used under either one of two contexts. I personally remember very first reading the ax in my middle school history class.

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The textbook, utilizing rather solid language, described kamikaze together ‘fanatical and also brainwashed’ Japanese pilots who deliberately crashed into foe ships throughout WWII. As you have the right to imagine, my textbook, like most primary school texts, was rather quick on detail.

It transforms out that the truth of the Kamikaze pilots, and of words “kamikaze” itself, is much older, much more complicated, nuanced, and interesting than I’d imagined.

And in the remainder of this article, I’m going to take it you along with me top top my journey of discovery about this fascinating term that went from gift a radical of Japanese spirituality to a commercialized hatchet familiar approximately the world.


12 Other offers of Kamikaze

What is the definition of Kamikaze?

Kamikaze converts literally as ‘the wind of gods’ or ‘divine wind’. The is usually used in recommendation to Japanese suicide bombers during WWII, and it additionally serves together an adjective in English for reckless or self-destructive behavior. However, before this, “kamikaze” to be famously offered in reference to the typhoons that ultimately stopped the international invasion the the Mongols in the 13th century.

What go Kamikaze precise Mean?: The linguistic Origin

The indigenous Kamikaze is written in kanji together 神風. The literal translation is ‘divine wind’ or ‘wind the the gods’. Or ‘on the wings of god’ works too. The initial Japanese pronunciation is “kah-mii-kah-zeh”, quite than the Americanized “kah-meh-kah-zii.”Let’s break points down a little further.

The Kami Part: Gods and Divinity

, or kami, describes gods, the mind, and also the soul. The concept of “god” was originally represented just by the best part, . This character initially looked a little more like lightening, which represented the old belief that such night-splitting events marked the arrival of a god. So, this supposed “god” or “god speaking.” Nowadays, 申 just method “to say.”

Since 申 lost its original meaning, one altar was added to the left side. The much more ancient variation of looked a lot much more like a god kneeling at an altar, however things adjusted pretty radically with the years.

Shintoism, the native religion of Japan, is strongly based upon the idea that whatever we check out in nature has a spirit, or kami. This includes trees, rocks, frogs, and also in this case, wind.

There are a good many kami in Japanese mythology, many of i m sorry were first written about in the 8 hours century through Motoori Norinaga in the Kojiki-den (Records of ancient Happenings).

Norinaga identified kami as: “…any being whatsoever i m sorry possesses part eminent top quality out the the ordinary, and is awe-inspiring.” In Shintoism, kami are, in the wise words of grasp Yoda, one v nature.

Like the spirits and also gods of various other folklore, Japanese spirits have the right to turn from mischievous come good-willed to evil incarnate. A fitting notion to keep in mind as we explore the background of words Kamikaze.

The Wind Part: Mythical Birds and also Creepy Crawlies

The kanji because that wind is, or kaze, and it actually describes a bit an ext than simply wind. It likewise encompasses the principles of air, style, and also manner.

One mistaken etymology of the word comes from breaking under the character. The external layer wraps over the top of the figure inside, , which to represent an insect. One etymology argues that “the wind bring bugs” is where the character comes from. However, that’s not rather so.

In fact, this kanji share an origin with , which to represent Fenghuang, a mythical Chinese bird through wings made the end of the wind chin (fun fact: is whereby the Pokemon Ho-oh gained its impetus from!).

Originally and were the exact same thing, sharing a feeling of points taking come the air, however over century of logographic evolution, they went their different ways. In fact, the kanji provided to represent a snake, no bugs. And also snakes space Fenghuang’s herbal prey.

A Wild big Appears: beginnings in the Manyoshu

The very first recorded appearance of the term kamikaze is in the Manyoshu, an 8th-century collection of Japanese waka poetry. The name literally means “Collection of Ten thousand Leaves” and also is the oldest anthology that Japanese poetry in existence.

Contained within room a selection of old waka-style poems, an interpretation they’re written in Japanese, together opposed come being written in Chinese by Japanese poets (this was an important distinction to make ago when creating in Chinese to be a note of an excellent breeding and also education).

The expression “kamikaze” makes numerous appearances throughout as a makura-kotoba, aka a “pillow word.” these makura-kotoba space a kind of metonymy, where some thing or concept is referred to by substituting in a different, but related, word.

In our case, kamikaze was provided to refer to anything managing Ise (e.g. Ise Shrine, Ise River, etc), a well known place in contemporary Mie, somewhat close to to Kyoto.

The earliest reference I might find is in publication one, poem 81:

山邊乃 御井乎見我弖利 神風乃 伊勢處女等 相見鶴鴨

Unfortunately, I could not uncover a an excellent translation, and this being classical Japanese, ns don’t feel remotely comfortable translating that myself. So, ns leave that here, intact, for your general reference and amusement.

Of Khans and also Kami

For all of its history, Japan had actually never to be invaded, its far-off shores and also organized armed forces keeping any type of marauding forces well in ~ bay. However, in the 13th century, this long defense would certainly be experiment by an attempted invasion by Mongol pressures that would just be rivaled 7 centuries later with the D-Day attacks on Normandy. Follow to legend, just the Gods can save Japan.

To Kublai Khan, first emperor that Yuan Dynasty, Japan to be a ‘small’ but tempting piece of real estate located not 100 miles turn off the coast of China. Yet his repetitive demands of entry were met without solution from the Emperor of Japan.

Furious and also with thousands of warriors recruited from China and Korea in his shadow, the grandson of Genghis khan attempted not one, however two major invasions in 1274 and 1281 AD.

Nearly 5 thousand warships launched throughout the Sea of Japan with tens and also tens of thousands of troops aboard. They landed at the shores near modern-day Fukuoka, hope to insurance claim Japan for their own, yet they to be met v the steely settle of end a hundred-thousand Japanese samurai.

It was a tense case that can have ended a millennium of sovereignty, but the Gods took pity—Raijin and also Fujin descended, lifting the waters and also rending the skies.

In 1274, a enormous typhoon obliterated the Mongol forces, dashing the ships on the shore. Those that didn’t drown to be slaughtered as they crawled ~ above the beach. In 1281, the reddened sands of Hakata Bay saw an encore as Kublai cannes made his second and last attempt on Japan.

These twin typhoons the salvation became known as the Kamikaze, the “divine winds” or “winds the god.”

The god of the Wind: Raijin and Fujin

To the people of 13th century Japan, their daily lives were very much linked with the wills and also wiles of the many gods to who they payment worship. In renowned myth, the divine winds that swept through Hakata Bay are attributed come the brothers of storm and wind, Raijin and also Fujin. Stated to be direct descendants that Izanagi and Izanami ~ they very first created Japan, their conjuring that the typhoon to safeguard Japan indigenous foreign rule was in straight defense of their parent’s creation.

雷神 Raijin (Rye-jin) is the god s religion god of thunder, lightning and storms. He is usually illustrated as a big, muscular number (often v a potbelly), v a truly demonic face.

Many Sculptors made decision to adorn his head with wicked-looking horns, when others will craft wild, heaviness defying hair. Many images the Raijin will present him with three fingers on each hand, every finger representing the past, present and also future.

Both Raijin and Fujin re-publishing demonic features and would otherwise it is in mistaken for each various other if the were not for the objects lock carry. Raijin is typically portrayed stop hammers surrounding by Taiko drums (presumably provided to make the sound of thunder.)

While he is most often depicted as a demon, in some parts of Japan, he is recognized as Raiden (yes, that Raiden, the impetus for the Mortal Kombat character). He will certainly then take the form of a robed man with a straw hat.

Even today, parents warn their youngsters to covering their ship buttons during a storm lest Raijin stealing them far to devour their bellies.

風神 Fujin (Fu-u-jin) is the leopard skin wearing, putrid faced, green bodied god that wind. Slung end his shoulder and also clasped strictly in both hand is a an excellent bag that wind. 4 fingers adorn his hand, one because that each direction.

When he opens the bag the winds are collection free, creating storms.

Terrifying come behold, statues of the 2 brothers have the right to be found all over Japan. Amongst the most well known depictions, statues of Raijin and Fujin was standing guard in ~ the Kaminarimon door at the enntrance gate to the Sanjusangendo temple situated in Kyoto.

Crafted indigenous wood and also lacquer, gold leaf, and also most prominently red and also green paint, their eyes room hauntingly inlaid with crystal.

Redux: Shinpuren Rebellion

Roughly six century after the Mongols’ failed assault, in 1876, Samurai aggression turned inward and Japan faced and also attack from within throughout the Shinpuren Rebellion.

How is this related to our story that the kamikaze? Well, the Shinpuren Rebellion is recognized as “Shinpuren-no-Ran in Japanese, and written together 神風連の乱. Those very first two personalities look familiar? Shinpuren-no-Ran deserve to be analyzed as ‘rebellion led by a divine wind’ or ‘divine wind alliance’.

Yes, those space the same personalities as in “kamikaze” leading the word, but they’re likewise pronounced differently. Why? Japanese has some strange functions of your kanji that causes them to be pronounced in different ways in different situations.

For now, let’s just run with it and understand that shinpu is successfully equivalent come kamikaze in this instance.

Members that this Shinpuren Alliance were disenfranchised Kumamoto samurai who advocated a purer kind of imperial power that would certainly expel foreigners and also foreign influence.

The Shinpuren samurai struck the imperial Japanese military barracks in Kumamoto… and also were summarily defeated. The survivors all eliminated themselves.

Their plot sparked the Seinan battle which finished with the self-destruction of rebellion leader Saigo Takamori (1827-1877) in September that same year (later chronicled in the super-duper-historical Tom Cruise film, “The last Samurai”).

Return come the Seas: Kamikaze-class destroyers

In 1905 and also again in 1922, the Japanese imperial Navy ordered the development of Kamikaze-class ships. While these ships shared the very same name, their schematics and intended use were an extremely different.

With the broadening presence the the us Navy and also the start of war with Russia, the Japanese royal Navy implemented a significant expansion regime in 1904.

They i was delegated the Kamikaze-gata kuchikukan, which were a course of 32 torpedo boat destroyers. These to be the an initial destroyers to it is in mass-produced in Japan and also government shipyards to be so overwhelmed that civilian shipyards were likewise assigned because that production.

While thirty-six ships were initially ordered, just two establish any action with Russia. They were in the supervisory board from respectable 1905 come April 1928.

The Kamikaze was the lead ship of nine kamikaze-class destroyers completed in 1922, all of which took component in the Pacific war. While they were progressed for the 1920s, and served top top the prior lines throughout the Imperial growth of the 1930s, these ships to be technologically useless by the begin of WWII.

Assigned come patrol north Japanese waters, the Kamikaze played a far-ranging role in the Aleutian archipelago campaign. After ~ the battle ended, the Kamikaze was used as a repatriation vessel to return soldiers house from Singapore, Bangkok, and Saigon.

Kamikaze: a crashing action

Ask any type of non-Japanese person what lock think of when they think of “Kamikaze.” The answer, invariably, will certainly be one thing. The self-destruction pilots of WWII. Let’s take it a look at Japan’s most well known fighting force.

神風特別攻撃隊 (“Shinpu-Tokubetsu-Kogekitai”), aka the “Divine Wind Special assault Units” that the imperial Japanese Navy.

“The soul of the Special assault Corps is the great spirit the runs in the blood the every Japanese…The crashing activity which simultaneously kills the enemy and oneself there is no fail is referred to as the distinct Attack…Every Japanese is qualified of coming to be a member that the Special attack Corps.”

– lieutenant Sekio Nishina, Nippon times 1944

What induced thousands of plain young men-turned-soldier to voluntarily end their lives? ~ above the one hand, lock are illustrated in museums and literature together brave youth that were under the impression that only by sacrifice their own lives would the Japanese realm be saved from foreign incursion.

We can see this in letters that made it through the war and have because been put on display at miscellaneous exhibits approximately Japan.

“Dear Mother, mine one remorse is I can not do more for you before I die. However to die as a fighter for the emperor is one honor. Please perform not feeling sad.”

Of course, this is only component of the story. Jingoistic zeal and also suicidal spiritualism were not the just motivators. Peer-pressure and also government strong-arming likewise let to the development of Japan’s notorious “special attack” squadrons.

The pilots, that deliberately crashed their planes into opponent targets, to be to it is in the ‘divine wind’ that would once again move their opponent from the seas, hence elevating your martyrdom to mythic proportions.

As Raijin and also Fujin swept the Mongols indigenous Japanese waters so numerous centuries ago, for this reason the Kamikaze pilots would come to be the hand of the gods themselves and also sweep the Allied forces from your seas because that good.

Kamikaze in windy memory

Public memory of the Pacific war theater are disproportionately fancy by the actions of the Kamikaze.

Although Kamikaze techniques weren’t employed till the last two years that the war and also relatively couple of Japanese service men passed away in various forms of self-destruction attack, Japanese post-war film and subsequent tourism to assorted commemorative sites roughly Southern Japan and also Tokyo have urged the photo of the Kamikaze together ‘tragic heroes’ and also patriotic symbols. These assist in reinforcing the narrative of Japan as a ‘tragic victim’ of people war II.

In film, the genre of Kamikaze blends person dramas of ‘tragic heroes’ through war activity thrill. One notable example is Saigo no Tokkoutai or The last Kamikaze which to be released in 1970, command by Junya Sato.

It complies with a squad leader who is having second thoughts around completing his mission.

Another is The Eternal Zero (2013), directed by Takashi Yamazaki, which complies with the story of a young man trying to find answers regarding why his grandfather was criticized for his “timidity” in battle and his fatality as a Kamikaze pilot.

While the film was warmly obtained by Japanese audiences, the was likewise widely criticized because that glorifying war and perpetrating the myth of the magnificent Kamikaze.

Other offers of Kamikaze

The word Kamikaze has found its method into the day-to-day lexicon in several ways. A rapid Wikipedia disambiguation will display you over a dozen different songs with that title, part novels, films, comics, sports figures, computer terms, and also more. Let’s take a look in ~ a handful here.

Kamikaze Taxi

神風タクシー (“kamikaze takushi”) is a slightly dated term, especially popular throughout the 1960s, to explain taxis the failed come heed traffic regulations.

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics space just around the corner, and trust me, Japan has actually been gaining ready because that years. The 1964 Olympics to be a bit of a various matter.

The onslaught of tourists necessitated the fast hiring of new drivers, countless of whom had very restricted English and only knew the way to the Olympic stadium.

Thus, they ended up being known together Kamikaze drivers and some drivers went as far as to write-up “I am no a Kamikaze Driver” in English on their dashboard.

Kamikaze: the initial shooter

The Kamikaze cocktail was possibly the first ‘shooter’ cocktail invented. Springing come life in post-war Japan and popularized during the 1970s and ‘80s in the US, this cocktail usually lasts no much longer than that takes come assemble. Generally, it’s offered ice-cold and made from equal components vodka, fresh lime juice, and also orange liqueur. Provide it a shake and also serve that strait…as my grandfather always says. And also my an individual favorite…Give that a twisted of lime and also you’re sublime.

Thrill search in the 80s

The Kamikaze has created itself at fairgrounds around the human being as a stomach-churning, brain-swishing, neck-straining amusement park ride.

It’s the one you’ve no doubt checked out that looks choose two giant mallets that swing in circles, inverting the riders inside the mallet parts over and also over till their noodle candy turns to pink sludge down their shirts.

A Reversal: the Mitsubishi Ki-15

As opposed to maintaining some world out, the Mitsubishi Ki-15, aka the Kamikaze-go, ended up being famous in 1937 for being the very an initial aircraft to paris from Japan all the method to Europe. The flight took end fifty-one hrs and, luckily, associated no crashes.

Related Questions

How walk WWII Kamikaze pilots train?

There to be a shortage the planes because that training by the moment kamikaze pilots were being used. Instead, the trainees were sent out up in gliders and also were required to imagine what the instrument panels would be like. This to be the limit of their technical training. Every the rest was based approximately self-discipline, cultivating the mind necessary to kill oneself without hesitation.

Did they use kamikaze in Pearl Harbor?

No, not really. While some pilots did, in fact, crash their planes into American vessels, this to be done as a critical act the desperation because that pilots that felt they had no other options. These were not the pilots of 2 years later on who would certainly train particularly for that final, kamikaze act.

What did kamikaze pilots yell?

While many suicide charges to be coupled through the battle-cry “Tenno heika banzai!” (“Long live the emperor”), kamikaze pilots were trained a various way. They were instructed to scream “hissatsu,” which method “certain hit,” moments before collision.

What is the album “Kamikaze”?

There have been a couple of albums with the location “Kamikaze.” most recently, Eminem released his Billboard height 20 album in 2018, v a song of the same name contained inside.

The rapper Twista additionally released an album through the exact same name in 2004. Twista’s walk even much better than Eminem’s reaching the an extremely top that the Billboard charts.

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There’s additionally a 2002 album, “Kamikazee,” by a Filipino tape of the exact same name.