Most the us thrived up hearing words Kamikaze supplied under either among two contexts. I personally remember an initial reading the ax in my center school history class.

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The textbook, using rather solid language, described kamikaze as ‘fanatical and brainwashed’ Japanese pilots who deliberately crashed into adversary ships during WWII. As you can imagine, my textbook, like most main school texts, to be rather short on detail.

It transforms out the the fact of the Kamikaze pilots, and also of the word “kamikaze” itself, is far older, an ext complicated, nuanced, and interesting than I’d imagined.

And in the rest of this article, I’m walk to take it you together with me on my trip of discovery around this fascinating term that went from gift a radical of Japanese spirituality to a commercialized term familiar around the world.


12 Other provides of Kamikaze

What is the meaning of Kamikaze?

Kamikaze converts literally as ‘the wind the gods’ or ‘divine wind’. It is usually used in reference to Japanese suicide bombers throughout WWII, and also it additionally serves together an adjective in English for reckless or self-destructive behavior. However, prior to this, “kamikaze” was famously used in recommendation to the typhoons that at some point stopped the foreign invasion the the Mongols in the 13th century.

What go Kamikaze literally Mean?: The linguistic Origin

The word Kamikaze is composed in kanji as 神風. The literal meaning translation is ‘divine wind’ or ‘wind that the gods’. Or ‘on the wing of god’ functions too. The original Japanese together is “kah-mii-kah-zeh”, fairly than the Americanized “kah-meh-kah-zii.”Let’s break things down a little further.

The Kami Part: Gods and also Divinity

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

Since 申 lost its original meaning, an altar was added to the left side. The an ext ancient version of looked a lot much more like a god kneeling in ~ an altar, yet things adjusted pretty radically v the years.

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

There room a an excellent many kami in Japanese mythology, most of i beg your pardon were very first written about in the 8th century by Motoori Norinaga in the Kojiki-den (Records of old Happenings).

Norinaga defined kami as: “…any being whatsoever i m sorry possesses some eminent quality out the the ordinary, and also is awe-inspiring.” In Shintoism, kami are, in the way words of understand Yoda, one through nature.

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

The Wind Part: Mythical Birds and also Creepy Crawlies

The kanji for wind is, or kaze, and it actually refers to a bit much more than just wind. It also encompasses the concepts of air, style, and manner.

One mistake etymology that the word comes from breaking under the character. The outer layer wraps end the peak of the number inside, , which represents an insect. One etymology says that “the wind brings bugs” is whereby the character come from. However, that’s not quite so.

In fact, this kanji shares an beginning with , which represents Fenghuang, a mythical Chinese bird with wings made the end of the wind chin (fun fact: is whereby the Pokemon Ho-oh obtained its catalyst from!).

Originally and were the very same thing, share a sense of points taking to the air, but over century of logographic evolution, they walk their separate ways. In fact, the kanji supplied to stand for a snake, no bugs. And also snakes room Fenghuang’s herbal prey.

A Wild big Appears: origins in the Manyoshu

The an initial recorded figure of the hatchet kamikaze is in the Manyoshu, an 8th-century collection of Japanese waka poetry. The name literally method “Collection that Ten thousands Leaves” and is the earliest anthology that Japanese poetry in existence.

Contained within space a variety of old waka-style poems, meaning they’re written in Japanese, as opposed to being written in Chinese by Japanese poets (this was an important distinction come make back when composing in Chinese was a note of great breeding and education).

The expression “kamikaze” makes numerous appearances throughout together a makura-kotoba, aka a “pillow word.” this makura-kotoba space a type of metonymy, whereby some thing or principle is referred to by substituting in a different, however related, word.

In ours case, kamikaze was offered to refer to anything dealing with Ise (e.g. Ise Shrine, Ise River, etc), a famous place in modern Mie, somewhat near to Kyoto.

The earliest recommendation I could 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 can not find a good translation, and this being timeless Japanese, i don’t feeling remotely comfortable translating the myself. So, ns leave that here, intact, because that your general reference and amusement.

Of Khans and Kami

For all of its history, Japan had actually never been invaded, its distant shores and organized armed forces keeping any marauding forces well in ~ bay. However, in the 13th century, this long defense would be experiment by an attempted intrusion by Mongol pressures that would only be rivaled seven centuries later on with the D-Day strikes on Normandy. According to legend, only the Gods could save Japan.

To Kublai Khan, first emperor the Yuan Dynasty, Japan was a ‘small’ however tempting item of genuine estate situated not 100 miles off the coastline of China. However his recurring demands of submission were met without response from the Emperor that Japan.

Furious and also with thousands of warriors recruited native China and Korea in his shadow, the nephew of Genghis khan attempted no one, yet two major invasions in 1274 and 1281 AD.

Nearly five thousand warships launched across the Sea that Japan with tens and also tens of countless troops aboard. They landing at the shores near contemporary Fukuoka, hope to insurance claim Japan for your own, but they were met with the steely solve of over a hundred-thousand Japanese samurai.

It to be a tense situation that can have finished a millennium the sovereignty, however the Gods take it pity—Raijin and also Fujin descended, lifting the waters and also rending the skies.

In 1274, a massive typhoon obliterated the Mongol forces, dashing the ships on the shore. Those that didn’t drown were slaughtered together they crawled ~ above the beach. In 1281, the reddened sands of Hakata Bay observed an encore together Kublai khan made his second and last attempt top top Japan.

These pair typhoons of salvation became known together the Kamikaze, the “divine winds” or “winds that god.”

The god of the Wind: Raijin and Fujin

To the civilization of 13th century Japan, their day-to-day lives were really much intertwined with the wills and also wiles the the many gods to who they paid worship. In popular myth, the divine winds that brushed up through Hakata Bay space attributed come the brothers of storm and also wind, Raijin and also Fujin. Claimed to be direct descendants that Izanagi and Izanami after ~ they very first created Japan, their conjuring that the typhoon to protect Japan native foreign dominance was in direct defense of your parent’s creation.

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

Many Sculptors chose to adorn his head v wicked-looking horns, while others will craft wild, heaviness defying hair. Numerous images of 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 other if that were no for the objects castle carry. Raijin is frequently portrayed hold hammers surrounding by Taiko north (presumably used to do the sound of thunder.)

While he is many often shown as a demon, in some parts of Japan, the is well-known as Raiden (yes, the Raiden, the inspiration for the Mortal Kombat character). He will then take the kind of a robed guy with a straw hat.

Even today, parental warn their kids to covering their ship buttons during a storm lest Raijin steal them away to devour their bellies.

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

When he opens the bag the winds are set free, producing storms.

Terrifying to behold, statues the the 2 brothers have the right to be discovered all over Japan. Amongst the most famed depictions, statues of Raijin and Fujin was standing guard within the Kaminarimon door at the enntrance gate to the Sanjusangendo temple located in Kyoto.

Crafted from wood and also lacquer, yellow leaf, and also most prominently red and also green paint, their eyes are hauntingly inlaid through crystal.

Redux: Shinpuren Rebellion

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

How is this related to our story of the kamikaze? Well, the Shinpuren Rebellion is known 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 interpreted as ‘rebellion led through a divine wind’ or ‘divine wind alliance’.

Yes, those room the same characters as in “kamikaze” leading the word, yet they’re additionally pronounced differently. Why? Japanese has actually some strange features of their kanji that reasons them to it is in pronounced in different ways in different situations.

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

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

The Shinpuren samurai assaulted the imperial Japanese army barracks in Kumamoto… and were summarily defeated. The survivors all eliminated themselves.

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

Return to the Seas: Kamikaze-class destroyers

In 1905 and also again in 1922, the Japanese imperial Navy notified the creation of Kamikaze-class ships. While this ships common the very same name, their schematics and also intended usage were really different.

With the broadening presence of the us Navy and also the onset of war with Russia, the Japanese imperial Navy implemented a significant expansion regimen in 1904.

They commissioned the Kamikaze-gata kuchikukan, which to be a class of 32 torpedo boat destroyers. These to be the first destroyers to be mass-produced in Japan and also government shipyards to be so overwhelmed that civilian shipyards were additionally assigned for production.

While thirty-six ships were originally ordered, just two realized any action with Russia. They were in commission from august 1905 to April 1928.

The Kamikaze to be the lead ship of nine kamikaze-class destroyers perfect in 1922, every one of which took component in the Pacific war. While they were progressed for the 1920s, and also served ~ above the prior lines throughout the Imperial development of the 1930s, these ships to be technologically useless by the start of WWII.

Assigned to patrol northern Japanese waters, the Kamikaze played a far-reaching role in the Aleutian archipelago campaign. After the battle ended, the Kamikaze was offered as a repatriation vessel to return soldiers home from Singapore, Bangkok, and Saigon.

Kamikaze: a crashing action

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

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

“The spirit of the Special attack Corps is the good spirit that runs in the blood that every Japanese…The crashing activity which all at once kills the enemy and oneself without fail is dubbed the one-of-a-kind Attack…Every Japanese is qualified of ending up being a member the the Special attack Corps.”

– sublievenant Sekio Nishina, Nippon times 1944

What induced thousands of plain young men-turned-soldier come voluntarily end their lives? ~ above the one hand, castle are portrayed in museums and literature as brave youth who were under the impression that only by sacrifice their very own lives would the Japanese realm be conserved from foreign incursion.

We deserve to see this in letters that survived the war and have due to the fact that been put on display at assorted exhibits about Japan.

“Dear Mother, my one regret is I could not do more for you prior to I die. However to dice as a fighter because that the emperor is an honor. Please carry out not feel sad.”

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

The pilots, who deliberately crashed your planes into foe targets, to be to be the ‘divine wind’ that would as soon as again move their enemy from the seas, for this reason elevating their martyrdom to mythic proportions.

As Raijin and also Fujin swept the Mongols native Japanese waters so many centuries ago, for this reason the Kamikaze pilots would end up being the hands of the god themselves and also sweep the Allied pressures from your seas because that good.

Kamikaze in publicly memory

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

Although Kamikaze techniques weren’t employed till the last 2 years of the war and also relatively couple of Japanese service men passed away in various creates of self-destruction attack, Japanese post-war film and subsequent travel to various commemorative sites about Southern Japan and also Tokyo have urged the image of the Kamikaze together ‘tragic heroes’ and patriotic symbols. These help in reinforcing the rigid of Japan as a ‘tragic victim’ of people war II.

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

It adheres to a squad leader that is having 2nd thoughts around completing his mission.

Another is The Eternal Zero (2013), directed by Takashi Yamazaki, which follows the story that a young man in search of answers regarding why his grand was criticized because that his “timidity” in battle and his fatality as a Kamikaze pilot.

While the film to be warmly obtained by Japanese audiences, that was additionally widely criticized for glorifying war and perpetrating the myth of the magnificent Kamikaze.

Other supplies of Kamikaze

The native Kamikaze has found its method into the day-to-day lexicon in numerous ways. A quick Wikipedia disambiguation will show you over a dozen various songs v that title, some novels, films, comics, sports figures, computer terms, and more. Let’s take a look at a handful here.

Kamikaze Taxi

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

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics are just roughly the corner, and trust me, Japan has actually been gaining ready because that years. The 1964 Olympics were a little bit of a various matter.

The onslaught that tourists required the quick hiring of brand-new drivers, numerous of whom had actually very minimal English and also only knew the means to the Olympic stadium.

Thus, they came to be known together Kamikaze drivers and also some chauffeurs went as far as to write-up “I am no a Kamikaze Driver” in English on your dashboard.

Kamikaze: the initial shooter

The Kamikaze cocktail was maybe the very first ‘shooter’ cocktail invented. Springing come life in post-war Japan and popularized throughout the 1970s and ‘80s in the US, this cocktail commonly lasts not much longer than the takes come assemble. Generally, it’s served ice-cold and also made from equal parts vodka, fresh lime juice, and orange liqueur. Offer it a shake and serve that strait…as my grandfather always says. And also my an individual favorite…Give it a twisted of lime and you’re sublime.

Thrill search in the 80s

The Kamikaze has developed itself in ~ fairgrounds about the people 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 gigantic mallets that swing in circles, inverting the riders inside the mallet components over and also over until their cotton candy turns to pink sludge down their shirts.

A Reversal: the Mitsubishi Ki-15

As protest to keeping some civilization out, the Mitsubishi Ki-15, aka the Kamikaze-go, came to be famous in 1937 for being the very first aircraft to fly from Japan every the way to Europe. The flight took over fifty-one hours and, luckily, connected no crashes.

Related Questions

How walk WWII Kamikaze pilots train?

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

Did they usage kamikaze in Pearl Harbor?

No, no really. While some pilots did, in fact, crash their planes into American vessels, this was done as a critical act that desperation for pilots who felt they had no various other options. These were no the pilots of 2 years later who would certainly train specifically for the final, kamikaze act.

What did kamikaze pilots yell?

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

What is the album “Kamikaze”?

There have been a couple of albums with the title “Kamikaze.” many recently, Eminem exit his Billboard optimal 20 album in 2018, through a song of the very same name included inside.

The rapper Twista additionally released one album by the exact same name in 2004. Twista’s did even much better than Eminem’s getting to the really top of the Billboard charts.

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