Memoirs of a Kamikaze: A World War II Pilot’s Inspiring Story of Survival, Honor and Reconciliation

Tuttle. Sept. 2020. 224p. ISBN 9784805315750. $16.99. BIOG
The Japanese kamikaze pilots of World War II have a mythical status, even though they were often boys and young men with minimal training. Odachi, who was only 16 when he joined the Imperial Japanese Navy, was one of the few trained on flying the Mitsubishi A6M Zero. He would end up training and flying with the men who sacrificed themselves for Japan. His memoir, originally released in Japan in 2016 and cowritten by author and translator Shigeru Ota and journalist Hiroyoshi Nishijima, gives a firsthand account of actions across Taiwan and China up to what would have been Odachi’s last mission, canceled owing to Japan’s surrender in 1945. But this memoir isn’t just about Odachi’s time as a pilot; later chapters center on his life as a detective in Tokyo during the post-war years and his dedication to the martial art of Kendo. This focus away from the military broadens this account to reflect on life during both war and reconstruction. The book is expertly translated from Japanese by Bennett.
VERDICT Odachi provides personal insight on the last days of empire, and his stories of crime in Tokyo give this memoir life. This book deserves a spot next to Yasuo Kawahara’s classic autobiography Kamikaze.
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