Japan for the Uninvited

Japanese culture from a bemused foreign perspective


In the West, kamikaze is associated with the Japanese pilots who flew their explosive-loaded planes into Allied targets in WWII.

In 1281, Japan was preparing for a massive Mongol invasion, which it feared it wouldn’t survive. As the attacking fleet was crossing the sea, it was destroyed by an unexpected typhoon. In Japan, this became known as “kamikaze”, meaning “divine wind”.

Known as “tokkotai” in Japan, suicide attacks started in 1944, near the end of WWII, when Japanese pilot numbers were dwindling and the US was gaining air superiority.

By the end of WWII, almost 4,000 Japanese pilots had given their lives to sink 34 ships and damage 288.

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