Nippon's nostalgic national narrative: Ishihara Shintaro's kamikaze film Ore
This paper explores the context and features of the national narrative as presented in Ishihara Shintarˉ’s 2007 film Ore wa, kimi no tame ni koso shini ni iku (‘I go to die for you’) about kamikaze pilots in World War II. Paul Virilio has argued that all battlefields are film sets. Most American war films, whether they take place in the Pacific, Normandy, Vietnam, or Iraq, bear out this statement. Clint Eastwood’s 2006 films Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima follow the same pattern. Ishihara’s Ore, in contrast, comprises a set of stories intertwined around a woman, Torihama Tome, a mother figure for four young kamikaze pilots, and it takes place mainly in the private family space of her parlor. Ore replaces a masculine narrative of war, one that relies on written reports, with a feminine, oral history, one that hinges on relations to a maternal figure. In terms of genre, the film is a foundling: designed by Ishihara as a response to Eastwood’s films, Ore is in fact a television film, emulating numerous 1960s television serials on memories of war targeted at housewives. Using Yoshimi Shunya’s idea of television consumption to a “national timetable” in postwar Japan, this paper argues that rather than being purely nationalistic, Ore is largely autobiographical and nostalgic, and it feminizes the viewer. Ironically, this may also explain its surrender to Eastwood’s Letters from Iwo Jima at the Japanese box offices.