Captain Masanobu Kuno
Final Letter in Katakana
Among those who sortied from Chiran, there were few fathers who volunteered
to be kamikaze pilots. Captain Kuno was one of these men. On May 23, 1945, the
eve of his sortie, he wrote his final letter all in katakana 
to his 5-year-old son Masanori and his 2-year-old daughter Kiyoko who he was leaving behind. A
child learns katakana in the lower grades of elementary school.
Dear Masanori and Kiyoko,
Even though you cannot see me, I will always be watching you. Obey your
mother, and do not trouble her. When you grow up,
follow a path you like and grow to be fine Japanese persons. Do not envy
the father of others, since I will become a spirit and closely watch
over you two.
Both of you, study hard and help out your mother with work. I cannot be your
horse to ride, but you two be good friends. I am an energetic person who flew a
large bomber and finished off all the enemy. Please be persons who rise above me and
so avenge my death.
His wife Chiyoko received this letter and soon gave birth to
their second daughter Masae on October 18, 1945. He did not know that she
was pregnant with their third child.
During the period of confusion after the end of the war,
Chiyoko worked as an elementary school janitor in order to support her three
children. When Masae become six, her mother told her three children for the first time
the story of their father dying during the war and showed them his final letter.
She said, "Your father left this for you." Masanori, who at the time
was a sixth grader in elementary school, looked at the letter in katakana and
laughed as he said, "It looks just like a telegram."
Chiyoko brought up her three children all by herself, and they
now each have families of their own. Masanori (age 49) 
works at the NTT Nagoya
Branch Office, and Chiyoko lives with his family. The oldest daughter Kiyoko
(46) lives in Fujisawa City, Kanagawa Prefecture, and the youngest daughter
Masae (43) is in Nagoya. Sometimes when their families get together, they talk
about their father. Chiyoko says, "Even if he had not gone as a kamikaze
pilot, there were many things he could have done to serve his country, and he
was a great husband."
In September 1985, Masanori for the first time visited Chiran,
where his father spent his final night. He saw his father's photo displayed at
the Chiran Peace Museum for Kamikaze Pilots. Tadamasa Itatsu (resident now of
Inuyama City, Aichi Prefecture), museum director at the time and a surviving
kamikaze pilot, saw Masanori, the living image of the photo. Itatsu said to
Masanori, "You must be his son."
Final letter in katakana
written by Captain Kuno
1. Katakana is one of two kinds of scripts used
for Japanese syllabary writing (i.e., each character represents one
syllable). Katakana is primarily used to write words that were originally
foreign but now have been incorporated into Japanese. Also, as mentioned in the
story, telegrams used to be written in katakana. Japanese children learn
katakana at a young age.
2. Ages are those when this article was originally
published in the Asahi Shimbun in late 1988.
The above story and letter are a translation by Bill Gordon of pages 97-8 of the following
Asahi Shimbun Seibu Honsha. 1990. Sora no kanata ni
(To distant skies). Fukuoka: Ashishobō.