At 93, Kazuo Odachi has a zest for life that could put people half his age to shame. He is a passionate kendo practitioner who, until COVID-19 curbed his activities this spring, would attend morning practices at the Tokyo Metropolitan Police headquarters three times a week. When he speaks, he is witty and laughs easily. In 2016, he published a memoir of his experiences as a member of Japan’s Kamikaze Special Attack Corps during World War II. With the English version of the memoir coming out in September, I was invited to his home in suburban Tokyo to meet the man behind the story, accompanied by co-author Shigeru Ohta — with all parties wearing masks and social distancing, naturally.
When Odachi was a child, he would run off with his neighborhood friends to Tokorozawa Airbase (now the site of the Tokorozawa Aviation Memorial Park) in Saitama Prefecture to admire the planes. Fascinated by flying, Odachi would crawl under the barbed wire fence around the airbase to hide in the long grass and watch the planes take off and land.
Memoirs of a Kamikaze, by Kazuo Odachi with Shigeru Ohta & Hiroyoshi Nishijima
Translated by Alexander Bennett and Shigeru Ohta
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