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Otousan e no senbazuru (A thousand origami cranes for father)
by Hiroshi Tokita
Tendensha, 2007, 47 pages

This picture book's very simple story about a kamikaze pilot suggests that the intended audience must be children from about ages 4 to 7 whose parents will read the book aloud and explain it to them due to the difficult kanji (Chinese characters) in some places. However, the author information at the back of the book has a puzzling brief remark that the author is engaged in a new field creating picture books that adults can enjoy, and his motto is to "put more spirit into Japan through picture books." If the author really intended this book to be for adults, then very few will get much out of it due to its extreme simplicity and lack of details. The author and illustrator Hiroshi Tokita worked in the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department until his retirement in 2003, and his one previous picture book, Kyuubanme no sensha (Tank No. 9), was published in 2004. This lack of experience in the field of children's literature may partially account for the ambiguity of the book's intended audience.

The plot centers around a fictional kamikaze pilot named Gentaro and his young daughter named Tomoe. He visits home for three days to see his wife, daughter, and parents about a week before the date of his kamikaze mission. His wife gives him a thousand white origami cranes with messages written by her, Tomoe, and others to encourage him. Gentaro promises Tomoe that he will be fine and will return.

Gentaro hangs the thousand origami cranes in the rear of the cockpit of his fighter carrying a bomb underneath. He spots an aircraft carrier and heads toward it, but he gets hit by enemy fire. As his engine catches fire and as blood soaks his control stick, the white origami cranes start floating around the cockpit. He manages to keep flying and hit the aircraft carrier. Then he finds himself in a place where the cranes have become as large as humans, and he can still read the messages written on them by Tomoe, his wife, and others. He rides on the back of one of the large cranes to return to his hometown, where he still watches over his family from above the sky even though Tomoe now has become a great-grandmother.

The story focuses on how the daughter lovingly remembers her father, although very few kamikaze pilots were married with children, and even fewer had a child old enough to write messages. During Gentaro's kamikaze mission, he wants to return and hug Tomoe again, but he decides to carry out his mission as a human bomb in order to protect his precious family.

The end of the book gives a half page on the significance of senbazuru (thousand origami cranes), which represent the sincerity and fervency of the prayers and hopes of a person who takes such a great amount of time to create them for someone else. The paper cranes can represent the hopes for another person's safety, recovery from sickness, accomplishment of a wish, or resting in peace. The author tries to link the making of senbazuru, which ignores one's personal interests and focuses one's hopes on the happiness of others, to the deaths of the soldiers of that time typified by the Kamikaze Special Attack Corps members.

The end of the book has another page listing nine Japanese museums and other places where parents and children can experience the spirit of the tokkotai (Special Attack Corps). The mention of "parents and children" implies that both may be the intended audience for the book.

The idealized fantasy world presented in this book probably will hold little interest for either young children or adults. Children will enjoy the parts of the story concerning the thousand cranes and the relationship between the father and daughter, but it is unlikely that many young children will be captivated by the military particulars of the attacks make by kamikaze pilots. On the other hand, adults will find the story lacks any real details, such as historical background and names, needed to hold their interest.