Ohnuki-Tierney argues that contrary to popular belief, the Japanese government appropriated the symbolic complex attributed to falling cherry blossoms to convince the liberal student pilots to kill themselves. This is a good review of her book, but I strongly suggest you read it if you are at all interested in Japanese history or in the way substances from the landscape influence identity. Her 140 page masterpiece Rice as Self is also worth a peek.
Four of the actual kamikaze planes were recovered from the ocean floor and are on display in the museum. The others are miniaturized and look like toys. The walls are adorned with black and white pictures of all 1,038 strapping young men, along with the letters they wrote while at the camp, their "death poems," and their clothes. The largest wall of the museum is covered in a picture of SatsumaFuji, the miniature Mount Fuji here in Satsuma, which was the last view of Japan all the student soldiers saw before reaching Okinawa to die. Jack and I saw the mountain on our way to Yakushima.
Kamikaze pilots holding cherry blossoms, and the cheerleaders are pictured below holding cherry blossoms in a famous photograph.
A kamikaze plane with a cherry blossom mark. Some of the planes were named after cherry trees.
We also visited the location where Ganjin, the great Chinese monk who codified Buddhism in Japan, first landed his ship in 753. The super erotic James Bond, You Only Live Twice (1967) was filmed at the same place. The small town is conflicted, and its museum for Ganjin is mostly a tribute to James Bond. That corner was definitely the part of the museum that got the child's attention in front of us. I saw America and Japan's historic connection in yet another freaky way. The monument for the largest battle ship ever made, Yamato, is down the street, and it includes a strange stone sculpture of a young naked girl standing in solute. From that memorial site one can see where the record breaking ship sank due to American torpedoes.
We visited the shinto shrine, Kirishimajingu, founded by Jinmu, the first emperor of Japan and great grandson of Ninigi-mikoto, the first human to descend to earth from heaven. In the myth, Ninigi touched the earth at Takachiho mountain and then went to Sastuma. We saw the place where he touched down and sticking up out of the ground is a sword, the legendary Amano Sakahoku sword of Izanagi and Izanami, the vajra phallus from whose tip dripped the islands of Japan. Yoshi's girlfriend, Eri, who works for Uniqlo and had drinks with us last night, is from Awajishima, which she says is called "fhe First Drop from the tip." The sword in Kyushu is memorialized like Excalibur, but probably antedates the Arthurian version. Maybe not. After all, the "sword in the stone" image can symbolize the stone age of man, and the power of the stone elementals with which we are in constant symbiosis. We spent the afternoon at the Totoro-themed go-cart park next to the shrine.
Yakushima was beyond a dream. We hiked through the Shiratani, "White valley of spirit water " upward into the Forest of Wild Things, "Mononoke-Mori." Suddenly we reached the summit, standing on a stone outcropping not unlike the one the boar god stands on in the film Princess Mononoke. Small deer appear everywhere. I just read that the word deer meant basic "animal" or "not-human" in old English, and the etymology of the word "wilderness" contains this older version, doer. The spirit of the wilderness is visualized in the movie as a deer with a human face and huge antlers causing all life and death.
Enjoying a cat cafe in Ikebukuro.