Saturday, March 18, 2017

Fireflies

I bought the book, Kamikaze: A Japanese Pilot's Own Spectacular Story of the Famous Suicide Squadron, in 2013 but did not have the time to read it until recently. The book opened with an explanation from one of the authors, Gordon T. Allred, after he was informed that the story of Yasuo Kuwahara may be a fabricated one. He maintained that he still believes Kuwahara, and let the readers decide afterwards. 

plane

fireflies

every summer
nights after school
we chase fireflies
barefooted
free-spirited
forever a child

ten more summers
we become fireflies
chasing other fireflies
until the mushroom cloud
dims our glow
permanently

/totomai

The book is about the story of Yasuo Kuwahara, a 15 year old fighter pilot during World War II. It chronicles his experiences, frustrations, achievements and struggles. Allred did a great job in translating the story to English. It is very accessible, despite of some gory details. I am convinced that this was indeed a real account of a Kamikaze - it was too detailed, and consistent. (At least for this reader). 

The voice of Kuwahara is consistent throughout the book, that of a teenager. Despite of the hard trainings at the camp, Kuwahara, alongside with his friends, Tatsuno, Nakamura, Oka and Yamamoto, still deliver a prank or two. Their friendship is one of the highlights of the book. Other notables are his relationship with his sister, Tomika and to his love, Tomoko. This is the reason why the chapters "A Brief Reunion", and "Ashes for the Family Shrine" breaks my heart. 

Once you start reading the book, you can't put it down. It's suspenseful, intense and heartbreaking. Each scene is well-detailed that anyone planning to make it a movie will have a hard time duplicating it. I found the torture scene in "A Full Reparation" a bit exaggerated though. Same as the "Hiroshima" chapter, at some point I thought Kuwahara was Superman.  

There are several typos, especially when it comes to the names of the characters. Also, Sulan, Philippines was mentioned, but I never heard of this (Sulan) island before. I also wish that some Japanese terms have a translation or footnote. That would help others who are not familiar with these terms (I know some as I am currently living in Japan). 

A great book. I can't wait to see it on the big screen, if ever. Believe it or not, the night after reading the book, I had a dream (or nightmare) about war and the Kamikaze

I'll end this review with one of my favorite quotes from the book, 
 “Seek only to preserve life -- your own and those of others. Life alone is sacred."

/totomai
2016/03/18

Photos taken with Nikon D7000
lens : 105 mm 2.8f Macro

42 comments:

  1. This reminded me so much of a TV serial back in the '70-80s called 'Oshin' that went on for years which was about a girl who went into service and gradually rose up in the world, married and had a family. Sadly her husband was a Kamikaze pilot that lost his life. I think it can still be viewed on the net.

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    1. I think they recently made a movie adaptation of this hit TV series, Robin. Will try to find it.

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  2. It sounds like a fascinating read...I loved how you brought the fireflies into your poem. The contrast of the magical fireflies of our childhood against the horrors of war was very powerful.

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    1. Thanks Sherri, I bought three kamikaze books and have been watching Kamikaze movies lately..

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  3. I agree, this sounds like an intriguing read :D I like the contrast of fireflies against atrocities of war.

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    1. Try reading it Sanaa, you will like the book.

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  4. Sounds like a fascinating book – and I love your poem.

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  5. just love your poem... reminded me of my vist to the hiroshima memorial and the horrors I learnt about there. this world doesn't need nuclear weapons..we need to figure that out soon.

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    1. Yup, visiting these peace museums spark my interest in kamikaze especially after reading some of the letters of young kamikaze to their mothers.

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  6. It sounds like an interesting book about the plight of war. Your poem is poignant... from fireflies to mushroom clouds ... how war can destroy innocence and humanity. This is Loredana from my new blog Magic of Words https://magicofwordsblog.wordpress.com/2017/03/18/a-wild-mild-winter/

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    1. Thanks Loredana - how these young adults turn as young men just because of war.

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  7. Thank your for introducing this book, to us. I had not heard of it. Your poem took us through the changing view of a firefly.

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    1. You will love the book Truedessa.

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  8. The fireflies poem is inspired ... from innocent childhood to the realities of war so astutely expressed. I also enjoyed the book review. Thank you for both.

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  9. You've written a compelling review of the book (makes me want to read it) and also incorporated the story well into the poem, too!

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  10. The small step from childhood fireflies to the lethal one of teenage Kamikaze... I actually think I can see a lot of that daredevil mind in some teens today as well... In a cynical world we will always use these boys to do the killing... The book sounds fascinating and chilling.

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    1. The book is heartbreaking, I cried a few times, Bjorn.

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  11. Totomai, what a feast it is in here! First the changes to your blog. Very cool. Then the breathtaking poem, and description of the book and the events it describes. Fifteen is very young for a kamikaze pilot. But war forces young people to grow up fast.

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    1. Thanks Sherry. I wanted my blog to look cooler haha. Yeah, I think one of the reasons why I liked the book, it still kept the voice of the 15 year old despite turning him to a "man"

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  12. I loved catching fireflies as a kid, then thinking about being one in a nuclear holocaust-terrible and frightening!

    Living in CA I often wonder just how much radiation is coming to us from the failed nuclear reactor in Japan. We are living in a nuclear age and I don't like it when we can use water and sun so easily.

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    1. So far we are still fine here in Japan, Bekkie. Some areas are affected but not the entire country.

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  13. Nice piece.
    Yes, that sounds like a great book to understand that loyalty to purpose and mind.

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  14. I enjoyed hearing about the book & also read in horror your poem about the mushroom cloud. May this never happen again!

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    1. I hope not Mary. The horrors of war was too much.

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  15. Your poem made me sigh and reminisce about my own which was kind of the same regarding fireflies. oh those hot, sunny, young days. thanks for sharing.

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  16. A good review here and the poem - Wow! That ending was powerful.

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  17. Another awesome post! Coincidentally, I have been thinking about that mushroom cloud a lot lately - perhaps much of humankind is. These times we live in ... and just when we were beginning to take heart that that was a horror in human history that would never be repeated. I had hoped to go to my grave in the belief that my grandchildren would never have such thoughts. But, alas, it seems, it is not to be.

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    1. We all wish the same, Wendy. That our world of would be a better place to live in.

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  18. It is a beautiful way of contending a contrast of an innocence of chasing fireflies to the rude imposition of conflicts of war!

    Hank

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  19. I enjoyed your poem of fireflies. It made me think of one i wrote a while back, i think i will go look it up and repost today at my Monday blog. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the book and that quote: yes indeed Life is sacred.
    Happy you dropped in at my Sunday Standard this week

    much love...

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  20. Adulthood and reality often have the most terrible effects on childhood wonder...

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  21. Powerful book that I'll put on my list. Power poem. In how many re-incarnations do we move from chaser to chased to chaser to chast? An infinite regression of those who may think they are human beings.

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    1. I hope war won't happen again Susan. Though there's some word war between USA and North Korea..

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any thoughts to distill?

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