Ryouji Uehara's last words

I’ve just watched a video by InsideTheScore on how music changes perspective. He mentions a kamikaze ritual in it, and it piqued my curiosity. I therefore browsed some Wikipedia articles to learn more about them, since I’ve always held kamikaze pilots for brainwashed or plain insane people. I’m really glad I did so.

Please allow me to show you a literary masterpiece. The following letter was written by Ryouji Uehara, a Japanese student who was enrolled in the Imperial Japanese Army and made flight captain before his suicide attack as a kamikaze pilot on 11 May 1945, at the tragically young age of 22.

I feel deeply honoured and privileged to have been chosen to become a member of the Army’s “Special Assault Unit,” which embodies the glory of Japan. Having read logic and philosophy through my somewhat extended student life, I am sure that, based upon the idea of reason, triumph of liberty is inevitable to me, although I might sound like a liberalist. As stated by Croce in Italy, it is a universal truth that it is absolutely impossible to exterminate freedom, which is a fundamental human nature, and it will eventually win even though it seems to be temporarily oppressed.

It is a clear fact that authoritarian and totalitarian regimes may sporadically prosper, but they ultimately will perish. We can see the truth of that in the Axis governments. As manifested by the defeat of Italy under Fascism, not to mention Germany under Nazism, authoritarian governments are disappearing one after the other, crumbling like buildings without a foundation.

I believe that the universality of truth will eternally and permanently prove the greatness of liberty as is now being verified by reality and just as history has shown in the past. I will be more than delighted to find that my belief has been proven right even though that turns out to be a disaster for our nation. The current struggle, whatever it is, stems from ideology; and the result of a struggle can readily be predicted by the belief systems upon which the struggle is fought.

The ambition of making my beloved Japan become as mighty an empire as Great Britain has faded away. If the leading positions in Japan had been held by those who truly love Japan, my country would not have been driven into the situation it faces today. I have been dreaming of the Japanese people proud of themselves no matter where one may be in the world.

What a friend of mine once said is true: a pilot of the Special Assault Unit is merely a machine. He just steers the apparatus. He is only a molecule within a magnet that sticks fast to an enemy aircraft carrier, possessing neither personality nor emotions.

If one thinks about it rationally, this act is incomprehensible and, to try to put it in a plain expression, these pilots are, as they say, simply suicidal. Since I am nothing more than a machine, I have no right to put my case forward. However, I only wish that the Japan that I dearly love will someday be made truly great by my fellow citizens.

In such an emotional state, my death may probably lead to nothing. Nonetheless, as I stated at the outset, I feel very honoured to have been chosen to be a member of the Special Assault Unit. It is true that, once inside an aircraft, I am mere hardware, but once disembarked, I do have emotions and passion as I am also a human. When the woman for whom I cared so dearly passed away, I emotionally died with her. The idea that she waits for me in Heaven, where we will be reunited, makes death not particularly frightening for me, since it happens only on my way to Heaven.

Tomorrow is the day of the assault. My idea is too highly extreme to be made public, but I just wanted to express the true feelings inside me, so please forgive me for my disoriented thoughts. Another liberalist will depart from this earth tomorrow. Although he may appear forlorn, he is in fact very content.

Once again, please forgive my selfish ranting.

It is not often that something brings tears to my eyes, but that letter was as close to it as it gets. Ryouji Uehara’s virtue shines radiantly in those humble yet powerful words.

Indeed, his acceptance of his unavoidable fate in spite of its cruel injustice is, to me, unfathomable. I would never be able to bear it. On the contrary, I could very well picture myself lamenting over my upcoming death and begging for someone to save me. I am conscious that Uehara’s education was completely different from mine, but I am deeply convinced that all Japanese young men did not face death as bravely as Uehara.

Reading him state his status as a “machine” broke my heart. The matter-of-factness with which he negates his own human condition reflects the harshness of the unpolished reality he has to cope with. There is no use escaping or rebelling against it: he is but a pawn trapped in a meaningless vortex of destruction. A victim of causality. Here is a very relevant quote from the manga Berserk on this subject:

In this world, is the destiny of mankind controlled by some transcendental entity or law? Is it like the hand of God hovering above? At least it is true that man has no control; even over his own will.

What’s more, I admire Uehara’s lucidity amid the chaos of the world war, and I find the way he declared his loyalty to both his nation and his ideals, despite obvious contradictions, awe-inspiring. He stands up for “truth” and “liberty” and he is conscious that his country is on the wrong side of this conflict. He knows that if his ideals win the war, it might “be a disaster for [his] nation”. And yet, for all his convictions, he does not betray his country in any way, in my view.

Indeed, it seems to me that although his heart is shattered by the tragic decisions the Empire of Japan has made, he remains proud to be a Japanese citizen, and many times he asserts his gratitude for having been acknowledged by the Empire and been chosen to carry out his final mission. I do not think that his words are here tainted with sarcasm. More exactly, I want to believe that it was not the case. I want to believe that Ryouji Uehara transcended the realm of our lowly emotions and reached a higher place, devoid of any malevolence. I want to believe that the words we have just read are evidence of men’s ability to surpass their bestial counterpart, rise above their own condition, and graze the ethereal realm of divinities.

Ryouji Uehara’s letter made me dream. It made me feel genuine sympathy for his pristine wishes. I hope I could make you feel it as well.