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Sumirejima (Violet Island)
English Translation
written by Sukeyuki Imanishi
illustrated by Yoshirō Matsunaga

There was a small school at the tip of southern Kyūshū near the coast. In the spring of 1945, for some time now, planes with a rising sun on them flew directly over that school almost every day.

Each time the students shouted "banzai" and waved their hands. Then the planes slowly waved their wings as if those voices could be heard, and they flew away across the sea.

The teacher knew. That they were kamikaze planes with fuel for only one way and bombs to hit enemy ships. And that they were saying their last goodbye.

But the children were happy and thought only that they were flying the planes many times to their school. They wrote letters and drew pictures to send to the air base. "Can you see us from the airplanes? Next time please wave your wings more up and down." They wrote many letters like this. After sending these letters, it seemed that the planes really did wave their wings more up and down.

When they got tired of writing letters and drawing pictures, one girl suggested they send bouquets of violets.

They all went to pick them and made many bouquets. A boy and girl from the school went with the teacher to deliver them to the faraway air base.

Then after several days a letter came to the school.


Thank you for the many violet flowers. Last night was very fun. When I was small, I often played sumo with violet flowers. Do you know this game? We called them "sumo wrestler flowers." You link together two flowers, and one of them falls off when you pull them. The one that falls off loses. Yesterday we received many violets, so everyone played this game.

We tore off the flowers that you so kindly gave to us. Although we thought it might be impolite, we played until all the flowers were gone.

We went to sleep with the inside of our blankets full of flowers.

Faintly, they gave off a pleasant smell.

Now the order to leave has been given. Everyone, thank you. Last night was really fun. Best wishes always. Goodbye.


The teacher, with a choked voice, finished reading. "The person who gave us this letter has already died in battle in the southern sea. He is no longer here." Saying this, she cried in front of the students. Then the teacher talked in detail for the first time about kamikaze planes.

From that day on, the children continued to make and give flower bouquets until there were no more flowers in the fields. Several kamikaze planes carrying the children's violets may have scattered them on the southern sea.

Several of those kamikaze planes had trouble along the way and crashed into the sea or an island without anyone knowing.

The war ended, and several years passed. On one small, uninhabited island in the southern sea, for some time violet flowers have been blooming all over the place. Perhaps seeds were also mixed in with the violet flower bouquets given by the children.

Even now people along the coast call that unnamed island "Violet Island."

Translated by Bill Gordon
February 2006

Translator's Notes

The above story is an English translation of the following children's book:

Imanishi, Sukeyuki. 1991. Sumirejima (Violet Island). Illustrated by Yoshiro Matsunaga. Tōkyō: Kaisei-sha.

The pictures on this web page come from pages 12, 16, and 25 of the original book. The book's pictures have been cropped for use on this web page due to their large size.

See Sumirejima (Violet Island) for review of book.