Only search Kamikaze Images

Kaiten shōsetsu nidai - Kaiten tokubetsu kōgekitai no haha: Oshige-san monogatari and Shūsen zenjitsu no kūbaku: Hikari kaiten kichi monogatari (Two kaiten stories - Mother of kaiten special attack corps: Story of Oshige and Air attack on day before end of war: Story of Hikari kaiten base)
by Tenzan Ariake
Privately published, 2010, 251 pages

This privately-published book contains two stories about kaiten weapons, which were manned torpedoes launched from submarines that carried out special (suicide) attacks from November 20, 1944, until the end of the Pacific War in August 1945. The first story covers the life of Asako Kurashige, nicknamed Oshige, who worked at a high-class inn named Matsumasa Ryokan where many kaiten pilots visited for group meals such as for farewell parties. The second story is a fictional tragedy about Ryōsuke, a kaiten pilot who trained at Hikari Kaiten Base, and Yasuko, a high school girl in the women's volunteer corps at Hikari who was Ryōsuke's fiancée.

The story about Oshige effectively integrates the history of Japan's kaiten operations with her personal life when she met many kaiten pilots from Ōtsushima Kaiten Base who visited Matsumasa Ryokan in Tokuyama City (now Shūnan City) for their farewell parties. She began work there in 1926 at the age of 20. She married Isamu Ōtaki, a naval paymaster, in 1929. However, he developed tuberculosis in 1935, so Oshige had to quit her job at Matsumasa Ryokan when she moved to his hometown so that he could recover from his illness, but he passed away two years later. In 1940, Oshige returned to her job at Matsumasa Ryokan.

In late October 1944, kaiten pilots of the Kaiten Special Attack Corps Kikusui Unit, the first kaiten unit, and officers from Ōtsushima Kaiten Base came to Matsumasa Ryokan for a farewell party. At the time, Oshige did not know what the men were referring to when they mentioned kaiten, and she thought that it was some unit of the Navy's submarine force. She did not find out for sure the purpose of kaiten operations until she read a newspaper article about the Kaiten Corps in March 1945. Other kaiten units such as the Kongō Unit and Tatara Unit also held farewell parties at Matsumasa Ryokan before their planned sorties from Ōtsushima Kaiten Base. The young men developed a close relationship with Oshige, and many addressed her as "Mother" as a term of endearment.

The best parts of Kaiten tokubetsu kōgekitai no haha (Mother of kaiten special attack corps) are conversations between Oshige and individual kaiten pilots. For example, Minoru Mori and Makoto Saegusa [1], two 18-year-old pilots in the Kongō Unit, asked if they could each have a white scarf. She at first did not know what to do since she did not have such scarves available, but without their knowing she made these quickly by cutting out the white part of her bridal outfit and stitching together the scarves that they wanted. Kaiten pilot Tomio Kobayashi expressed his deep appreciation to Oshige in a last letter that included the following words, "I sincerely appreciate your kindness beyond that of even an affectionate mother that you showed to me for a long time. It is regrettable that I cannot make any recompense to you, but please forgive me." As Oshige interacted with the kaiten pilots, she often could not stop her tears as she knew that the young men were going on missions of death.

The last three chapters of Oshige's story cover the postwar period. She made her first visit to former Ōtsushima Kaiten Base soon after the war's end, and there was a promise by the men there to meet together on November 8, 1955, ten years from the date of the sortie from Ōtsushima of the Kikusui Unit. After the war she visited with bereaved family members of kaiten pilots who had died. She also strongly supported the erection of the Ōtsushima Kaiten Monument and Kaiten Memorial Museum on Ōtsushima to remember kaiten pilots who died in the war.

The book's second story, Shūsen zenjitsu no kūbaku (Air attack on day before end of war) is based on an actual historical event. On August 14, 1945, 157 American B-29 bombers made an air attack on the Navy arsenal at Hikari Town in Yamaguchi Prefecture, which was also the site of a kaiten base from where several submarines carrying kaiten weapons made sorties in 1945. The air attack killed 738 workers at the Hikari Arsenal including 133 students who had been working there.

Although in the second story Tenzan integrates historical background about the kaiten base and the Hikari Arsenal in much the same way as the first story about Oshige, the main story line of the relationship between Ryōsuke and Yasuko seems somewhat artificially constructed. Ryōsuke and Yasuko, along with their families, agree to marriage more than a year before Yasuko will graduate from high school in March 1945. They have no conflicts between them. Ryōsuke has almost no communication with Yasuko after he enters the Navy, but this seems to have little effect on their loving relationship. Ryōsuke and Yasuko sleep together for the first time when he returns for a home visit before his kaiten mission, and Yasuko becomes pregnant. The only real tension in this fictional story is whether or not Ryōsuke or Yasuko or both will die before the war's end. It turns out that Ryōsuke survives the submarine captain's order to launch his kaiten weapon when its propellers do not start up, but he loses his life when the submarine that carried him gets attacked and sunk by an American destroyer near Bungo Channel while returning to Hikari Kaiten Base. Yasuko loses her life in the bombing of Hikari Arsenal on the day before the war's end.


1. These two kaiten pilots left behind last letters to their families: Last Letter of Flight Petty Officer 2nd Class Minoru Mori to His Older Brother and Last Letter of Flight Petty Officer 2nd Class Makoto Saegusa to His Parents.