Haruo Araki in photo
at Chiran Air Base 
(taken by Toshirō Takagi on
May 10, 1945, the day
before Araki's sortie)
Last Letter from Second Lieutenant Haruo Araki to His Wife
On May 11, 1945, Army Second Lieutenant Haruo Araki, 51st Shinbu Special
Attack Squadron Commander, took off from Chiran Air Base in a
Hayabusa Type 1 Fighter (Allied code name of Oscar) as part of a mass
kamikaze attack of Navy and Army aircraft. One month earlier he had said to his
new wife Shigeko that he would be back when it rained, but he never returned.
Haruo and Shigeko grew up together in Tōkyō when Haruo's father and Shigeko's
mother married. When Haruo suddenly returned home for an overnight leave at
about 11 p.m. on April 9, 1945, he asked whether he could marry Shigeko. Even
though his parents and Shigeko knew he had been assigned to a tokkō
(special attack) squadron, the marriage ceremony was held that night in the
midst of tears from all of them. Haruo spent only four hours with his new wife
Shigeko before he had to return to base.
In mid-June, reporter Toshirō Takagi visited the home of Shigeko and her
parents. Takagi gave them the news that Haruo had been killed in action on May
11, and he delivered his last letters and his hair and nail clippings. Haruo's
letter to Shigeko is translated below. The end has a death poem in tanka
form (31-syllable poem with syllable pattern of 5-7-5-7-7).
Are you doing well? One month has passed. The happy dream has vanished, and
tomorrow I make an attack on an enemy ship. I will cross the Sanzu River 
next world along with some Americans.
Looking back, I have been very unkind to you. It has been my
habit to treat you unkindly and have regrets afterward. Please forgive me.
I feel as if my heart will break when I think of your long
life ahead. Please somehow be strong in spirit and be happy. After I am gone,
please take care of my father in place of me.
Living for an eternal cause, this country
I will protect always as a humble shield
Yūkyū  Hikōtai Commander
Cook and Cook in Japan at War: An Oral History (1992, 319-27) have a
fascinating chapter entitled "Bride of a Kamikaze" in which Shigeko tells her
story . She describes her relationship with Haruo
prior to their marriage (322):
I'd always fought with him. "I can't stand the sight of you," he used to
say. I'd tell him, "I don't care either. There are lots of boys better than
you. I'll marry one of them." We were the same age. We made good opponents.
He must have always thought he'd marry me. Somehow, I thought if he became a
lieutenant we'd be together, even if we did fight. I was always conscious of
his presence, as if we were engaged. If he'd married someone else, I'd have
Before the mid-June 1945 visit by journalist Toshirō Takagi, Shigeko found
out she was pregnant. Her son was born on Christmas Day in 1945, and she named
him Ikuhisa, which is the Japanese reading of the two kanji characters in
Haruo's squadron name of Yūkyū meaning "eternity." However, on November 5,
1946, Ikuhisa died in Shigeko's arms when he took ill and stopped breathing.
Shigeko fainted at the funeral when putting her son's remains in the family
grave together with a wooden box that contained Haruo's items delivered by
Takagi from Chiran.
Haruo Araki was from Miyagi Prefecture, and he graduated in the 57th Class of
the Army Air Academy. He died at the age of 21 and received a two-rank promotion
to Captain after his death in a special attack.
Letter translated by Bill Gordon
The original Japanese letter, both a copy of the original and a typed
version, used for this English translation comes from Mediasion (2006, 80).
The biographical information in the last paragraph comes from Chiran Tokkō
Irei Kenshō Kai (2005, 157).
1. This posed photo has been cropped for this
web page. The original photo also shows Second Lieutenant Kunio Kuroki (left of
Araki), 55th Shinbu Squadron Commander, and Second Lieutenant Masashi Katsura
(right of Araki), 65th Shinbu Squadron Commander (Makino 1979, 219). Araki,
Kuroki, and Katsura graduated together from the Imperial Japanese Army Air Academy
in the 57th class, and they each led a squadron from Chiran Air Base on May 11,
2. Sanzu River is the Japanese Buddhist equivalent of the River
3. Yūkyū means "eternal." The poem
that ends his letter starts with yūkyū.
Sheftall in his book Blossoms in the Wind (2005, 303-51) has one part on
Shigeko's story. Sheftall's book includes a few more details than Cook and
Cook's Japan at War: An Oral History (1992, 319-27), but Japan at War's
more concise story told in Shigeko's own words has much more of an emotional
impact. Much of the historical information for this web page comes from Cook and
Chiran Tokkō Irei Kenshō Kai (Chiran Special Attack
Memorial Society), ed. 2005. Konpaku no kiroku: Kyū rikugun tokubetsu
kōgekitai chiran kichi (Record of departed spirits: Former Army Special
Attack Corps Chiran Base). Revised edition, originally published in 2004. Chiran Town, Kagoshima
Prefecture: Chiran Tokkō Irei Kenshō Kai.
Cook, Haruko Taya, and Theodore F. Cook. 1992. Japan at
War: An Oral History. New York: The New Press.
Makino, Kikuo, ed. 1979. Ichioku nin no shōwa shi (Nihon
no senshi 4): Tokubetsu kōgekitai (Shōwa history of 100 million
people (Japan's war history, Volume 4): Special Attack Corps). Tōkyō:
The Mediasion Co. 2006. Tada hitosuji ni yuku (I go with complete
commitment). Hiroshima: The Mediasion Co.
Sheftall, M.G. 2005. Blossoms in the Wind: Human Legacies of
the Kamikaze. New York: NAL Caliber.