MC

Mississippi College

WWII Kamikaze Pilot Volunteer Speaks to MC Staff Club

January 17, 2008

Once a volunteer ready to die as a Kamikaze pilot in the final days of World War II, Paul Tashiro recounted his youth in Japan and his conversion later to the Christian faith at a tent meeting.

But his desire to serve as a 14-year-old Kamikaze willing to give his life for the Emperor of Japan never was fulfilled because of Japan's total surrender on August 15, 1945.

The emperor announced he gave up on the war "and we cried on August 18," Tashiro told the Mississippi College Staff Club at a luncheon on the Clinton campus Wednesday. Many in the audience at Anderson Hall also shed tears as the Wesley Biblical Seminary professor spoke of the compelling story of his decision in Japan to accept Jesus Christ the evening of October 21, 1949.

Born to Zen-Buddhist parents, he left behind a sordid life of crime as a member of a Japanese crime syndicate and a year later went into a full-time Christian ministry. "I'm a Kamikaze pilot for Jesus," he said. "God gave me salvation."

A former preacher for 16 years at a church in Louisville, KY, Tashiro moved to Mississippi in 1991. Today, Tashiro teaches Old Testament and Biblical languages at Wesley Biblical Seminary in Jackson. He also serves as president of the Japan America Society of Mississippi. Gov. Haley Barbour has asked Tashiro and others to help as Mississippi welcomes a growing number of Japanese families into the Magnolia State. Business people from Japan and their families are coming because Madison County is home to a 5,000-employee Nissan plant near Canton, while a giant Toyota plant is now being built at Blue Springs near Tupelo. He's helping preach messages in Japanese to Japanese families attending Christ United Methodist and other Jackson area churches. He's helping sow seeds of the Gospel.

It was hard for members of the MC audience to keep their emotions in check as Tashiro delivered his compelling message. Tashiro recounted the time that a blind member of a church in Chattanooga came up to the alter after he spoke a few years ago, and hugged him. The man lost his sight because his ship was blown up by the Japanese during World War II. For years, the man hated the Japanese. But that day in Tennessee, the man said he found Jesus in that church and embraced Tashiro. "How Great Thou Art," the packed church, with 1,800 members, sang in unison that day.

"I won?