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Tokkō hyōryū (Special attack drift)
by Takayoshi Yasujima
Madosha, 2004, 102 pages

This small photo book tries to capture something of the spirit and history of the young men who died in Japan's special attack forces. Takayoshi Yasujima, who has four other published photo books about Japan's war sites, uses a minimum amount of words in Tokkō hyōryū (Special attack drift). More than two thirds of the book contains full-page photos with brief descriptions, and the other pages with text often have just a few lines. The scantiness of explanation and the inclusion of several photos with only an indirect relationship to special attack forces detract from the book's value.

The photos have a rather limited focus with most related to Okinawa, the air base at Chiran, and the kaiten (human torpedo) base at Ōtsushima. Although many kamikaze pilots died around Okinawa, the photos of modern-day Okinawan sky, sea, and land, such as a tropical fish and the sky with a rooftop in the foreground, have only a tenuous connection to events during the spring of 1945. The book has very few historical photos of special attack squadron members. Many photos show monuments, scenery in Chiran and Ōtsushima, and last letters and other items from the Chiran Peace Museum for Kamikaze Pilots and the Kaiten Memorial Museum at Ōtsushima. Less than half of the book's photos are in color.

Two surviving special attack corps members appear in the book. Jun Okada was a kaiten (human torpedo) pilot. When the order came to have kaiten weapons fired from the submarine, his kaiten did not move due to engine trouble. Two of Okada's fellow kaiten pilots on the same mission died after being launched. Okada went on a second suicide mission, but he returned after his submarine spotted no enemy ships. Shigeyoshi Hamazono made a sortie on a kamikaze mission during the Battle of Okinawa, but he survived by crash landing after a dogfight with American fighters. He says that a special (suicide) attack was a death sentence and an extreme action in which a person had absolutely no dreams or hopes. Hamazono further explains:

It was not for my country. I believed I would die fighting for my family. If I had tough times, there were instances when I thought it would be a relief if I could just die as soon as possible in a kamikaze attack. However, I did not want to die.


Jun Okada

Shigeyoshi Hamazono