Listen to the Voices from the Sea.
Chris Webster 4th period.
With regard to the Hisao Kimura entry, I found it to be mostly as I expected it.
He wrote about how he wasn’t really guilty, and how his officers should really be the ones to blame, and his mood was like, “I didn’t do this, and I’m really scared of dying, but I still have to, so I’ll try to reconcile it in this writing.”
I think it struck me because the author that was developed was a very real, imperfect person. His feelings and faults and hopes and attempts to come to terms with his fate were very tangible; you could feel his nervousness as he attempted to put all his idealistic, pacifistic ideals to the ultimate test.
I believe what makes this account so endearing is that is quite unlike the legendary men who have been in such a position. Tales of individuals in the same situation, such as Jesus or Socrates accepted their fate and grandly refused an opportunity to escape their punishment. Hisao on the other hand jumps at any chance stating he “did anything I can to stay alive, and also to prove my innocence.” P288. Additionally on page 291 discusses the prospect of being released.
Personally, I’m curious how this was received. Was it thought to be unusual, or was it seen as the optimal response. I really don’t know enough about the prevailing philosophy of the time to be able to accurately guess, however in a broad sense it might appear analogous to the Bushido idea of honor through death and loyalty to one’s master/country. Of course, hidden amongst the intellectual prose are accounts of the author’s blatantly un-bushido actions, such as the letter blaming his superior officers (p289). Therefore I doubt the appeal is in the bushido, and probably more his noble aspirations made palatable by his human faults.
If he’s so not guilty, why does he not want to discuss his accusations? Perhaps he fears that during his reflection he will discover himself to be less innocent then he originally thought? His refusal to discuss it makes his other assertions less credible. It makes me believe that this whole writing is just some contrived thing to make him feel better, seeing as there were no consequences for writing biased self-indulgences in the days before his execution.
It’s a quite selfish piece of writing when viewed in retrospect. He slanders his superiors (not to say that it may or may not have been warranted,) he repeatedly professes his own moral innocence and superiority, attacks the Japanese government and finally makes demands on his family regarding his postmortem desires. “Perhaps this will be seen as contrary to the conventional Buddhist way, but since I am the one who is becoming a Buddha it should be all right for me to make such a request, do you not agree?” p292 (I was under the impression you weren’t supposed to do things like that. He certainly seems very self-confident.) On the outset his sacrificing himself for the future of Japan seems like a good sentiment, although I don’t think that his other statements somewhat contradict his message. It really seems more like he’s trying to equate himself to great martyrs of history in a way to assuage his own fears, which is (at least in my opinion) a perfectly sane thing to do in his situation.
It is the very real feelings of one man trying as any other human would to save themselves from death, and the madness that precedes it.
I felt that the most important passage is the paragraph on page 291 where he discusses his newly discovered hope of having his sentence changed. Through his writing one is able to see his eyes light up with the prospect of freedom as he admits he would rather continue living than continue on his path to “atone for the sins of the Japanese people.” This is probably the single most tangible example of his human faults as viewed from a philosophical/ideological standpoint; thus making it the most endearing.
As for the other passages in the book, I thought them to be similarly naïve and idealistic about their philosophic place in the world despite somewhat grim tone which they discuss the war and Japan’s obvious misdeeds to both Japanese and non-Japanese. Of the entries I read there was a considerable range in their interpretation of war’s merit. Opinions ranged from “war is the antithesis of the phloshiphite” to “war is a natural and necessary element in the progression of history” however all saw little chance of Japan achieving a victory.
I wonder if many of the students’ adherence to their philosophic studies was intensified by the need to escape from the war into a mental asylum. I suppose that if they were able to view the war and its effects as well as their personal feelings as some abstract philosophic research project it would be much easier to bear.