A Novel Idea: Japan’s Imperial Military and the Kamikaze End Game

Posted By:  Liz Goodrich
Date Posted:  4/1/2015

Kamikaze From 1931 on, Japan’s Imperial Military came to play an increasingly significant role in Japan’s politics and foreign policy. Ken Ruoff, Professor of History and Director of the Center for Japanese Studies at Portland State University, will discuss the history of Japan’s Imperial Military and the role kamikaze pilots played in Japanese WWII military operations at the Downtown Bend and Redmond Libraries as part of “A Novel Idea,” the state’s largest community-wide reading project, this year featuring Ruth Ozeki’s novel, A Tale for the Time Being. The presentations are free and open to the public.

Friday, April 3, 2015 | 12:00 p.m.
Downtown Bend Library

Saturday, April 4, 2015 • 11:00 a.m.
Redmond Library

“It was the Imperial Military that aggressively expanded Japan’s control over the northeast area of contemporary China (Manchuria), an intervention that by July 1937 resulted in full-scale war with China,” says Ruoff. “But the Imperial Military’s operations on the vast Asian continent soon bogged down, eventually resulting in the seemingly paradoxical conclusion among military leaders that Japan could only win the war in China by expanding the theater of war, thus gaining access to additional resources.” That, says Ruoff, was the logic behind the attack on Pearl Harbor. But by 1945 Japan had experienced one defeat after another and Rouff says that “led to a policy of dispatching suicide airplane attacks, or kamikaze, against American warships and other targets.” According to Ruoff kamikaze pilots have variously been portrayed as both brave warriors willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for their homeland and as brainwashed fanatics who foolishly threw their lives away. During his presentation Ruoff will help discover who exactly who were these young men ordered to fly kamikaze missions.

Ken Ruoff is Professor of History and Director of the Center for Japanese Studies at Portland State University. In 2004, he was awarded the Osaragi Jiro Prize for Commentary, Japan's equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize, for the Japanese translation of his book The People's Emperor: Democracy and the Japanese Monarchy, 1945-1995. In 2014, the Consul General of Portland presented Dr. Ruoff with a commendation for improving the understanding of Japan and also enriching the cultural life of Portland both through the programs sponsored by the Center for Japanese Studies and through his scholarship. Ruoff received his A.B. with honors from Harvard College in 1989, and his Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1997. From 1994-96 he was a research fellow and then lecturer in the Faculty of Law at Hokkaido University. In 2004, he was a Visiting Fulbright Fellow at the Institute for Research in the Humanities at Kyoto University. Ruoff has become recognized as the leading authority on the imperial house in Japan and often writes commentary for Japanese journals and has been interviewed about Japan's royal house by media outlets around the world.

“A Novel Idea” engaged over 6,000 Deschutes County residents in 2014. Through “A Novel Idea,” readers have explored the highways of Mexico, the mountain streams of Oregon’s coastal range and the city streets of Kabul, Afghanistan. From civil rights struggles in Mississippi to the brutality of a post-apocalyptic America, “A Novel Idea” encourages Deschutes County residents to consider issues that matter through the lens of a single book. For more information about “A Novel Idea,” visit People with disabilities needing accommodations (alternative formats, seating or auxiliary aides) should contact Liz at (541) 312-1032.

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