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LCJ Lecture: Tokko

August 18th, 2008

For those of you who wanted to see, hear, and/or read more about the lecture by Mr. Tadamasa Iwai from last month, my apologies for the delay–I have been quite busy between work and the wedding and personal activities–but finally we’ve got the whole lecture right here, in one multimedia package.

To remind everyone of the nature of the lecture, Mr. Iwai is 87 years old, and in his youth, was an officer in Japan’s suicide soldier (“Tokko”) regiments during WWII. Most people know about the kamikaze, the suicide bombers, but not many know that there were several types of suicide soldiers. Mr. Iwai experienced life in two such regiments: one where soldiers were essentially a human guidance system aboard a torpedo, and one where soldiers were trained to wait underwater in diving suits so they could attack enemy boats from below by hitting them with mines. Mr. Iwai survived, and came to deeply regret what happened and how he participated in it.

First, for those of you who just want to read: the translation of Mr. Iwai’s lecture by Jane Goldstone and Yuka Sugiyama. This actually is more than was in the live lecture, as Mr. Iwai went over time, and so in order to allow for student questions, he wasn’t able to finish his written remarks. If you want the whole lecture, you should watch the video and read the lecture notes.

Translation of Mr. Iwai’s Lecture (RTF file, 28K)

A few excerpts:

The suicide divers were a commando unit created to destroy and sink American Armed Forces approaching the Japanese shoreline by waiting to attack at the bottom of the ocean. They would wear special underwater suits and carry bamboo rods with small mines on the end which would detonate on contact. If the attack were a success, the attacker would also die in the explosion. In June of 1944, after the overwhelming victory of the American forces in Okinawa Japan was facing the prospects of US soldiers landing on the mainland. This is the reason behind this military tactic. …

Even peering through the glass, from the almost upright angle, I could only see a few meters the sea bed ahead of me, and nothing of what might be above. Given this situation, how was it possible to place the mines on the bottom of the incoming boats? We young officers all agreed that this simply wouldn’t work. but in the Japanese Navy at that time, you had to do your best to obey orders, no matter how foolish they were.

This is why we young subordinates continued to practice diving in Okinawa, fully aware of how ridiculous it was. The training also came at great price. As I mentioned before, one could lose consciousness by not performing the correct breathing techniques or fall into a confused state of mind. One problem was a leak in the purification tank. If this happened, it was almost certain that the diver would die. …

Now, I’d like talk about the Pacific War when Tokko were considered necessary and why I became a part of them. It is not easy for me to talk about these things. Among my mistakes in life, this is the one that brings me the greatest pain. I feel I must talk openly about these things to today’s youth because I don’t have much longer to live. The mistake I made then could be made by others now. In fact, in my opinion, it is already happening in various ways. …

Even though I was opposed, in my own immature way, to the prevailing ideology and to Japan’s war objectives, I soon gave up and did nothing to oppose them. It was under these social circumstances that I obediently responded to the draft. I cannot defend myself against allegations that this was a cowardly compromise. Even if I had tried to resist at that time, it would only have led to my own destruction. It is certain that no real result would have come of it. “While critical of the war and the ruling system that had brought it about, and knowing that I would die, I still signed up without opposing it”. This was the beginning of my path strewn with contradictions.

Next, the video. This is what took so long: I had to find the time to download the 2-hour lecture, edit it, save it as an .m4v file, break it into 10-minute segments for YouTube, then upload each section with tags, descriptions, etc. Not an easy task; it took most of a whole day.

Here is the first segment; the rest of the segments are available below the fold (there are 12 of them, so they would make for too long a post if they all showed up on my main page).

If you want to view all 12 directly from YouTube, just do a YouTube search for “LCJ Lecture” (or just click that link), and you’ll find them.

One note: parts 1-8 are the lecture itself, Mr. Iwai speaking and Jane translating; parts 9-12 are students asking questions (in Japanese), Mr. Iwai answering, and then Jane translating the question and answers.

As promised, the other segments below the fold.

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:

Part 5:

Part 6:

Part 7:

Part 8:

Part 9 (beginning of the questions):

Part 10:

Part 11:

Part 12:

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  1. Hachi Gatsu
    August 20th, 2008 at 04:40 | #1

    Thanks for you taking the time to put all this up. I wish I was still over at LCJ to enjoy the lecture (never thought I’d say “enjoy” and “lecture” in the same sentence). I hope all goes well with the wedding too.

    And on camera batteries, I’m always paranoid, so I charge mine up after every time I use my camera. I don’t have to, but it gives me the peace of mind knowing I have fully charged batteries. And when traveling, I usually put an extra battery in my pocket instead of in the carrying case (or backpack), I feel it gives me more freedom (I can leave he case in the car if I’m only using one lens) and it’s easier access if a quick battery change is needed.

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