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Heiwa e no ukei (Pledge to peace)
Story 1: Yamaga tōrō (Yamaga lanterns), 13 min.
Story 2: Matsuo Keiu to sono haha (Keiu Matsuo and his mother), 31 min.
Directed by Takashi Miike
Written by Itaru Era
Bull-X, 2007, 44 min., DVD

Lieutenant Keiu Matsuo lost his life in a midget submarine attack at Sydney Harbor during the night of May 31 and June 1, 1942. This short animation film pays homage to Keiu Matsuo and his mother Matsue. The Yushukan Museum at Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo shows this film at scheduled times during the day, and the museum store sells DVD copies. The film Matsuo Keiu to sono haha (Keiu Matsuo and his mother) romanticizes his life and accomplishments to show both children and adults his bravery, patriotism, and love of family. It provides a mostly accurate historical summary of the basic facts concerning his life, but several details regarding the midget submarine attack at Sydney do not reflect what actually happened. The dialogue and some scenes seem to be created for the film to give a somewhat unrealistically positive image of Keiu Matsuo and his mother Matsue.

The opening scene shows Keiu at birth on July 21, 1917, with his father Tsuruhiko, mother Matsue, sister Fujie, and brother Jikyō at their home in Mitama Village (now part of Yamaga City), Kumamoto Prefecture. The next scene depicts Keiu as a young elementary school student as he competes in a swimming contest across a small lake with other boys three or four years older. He at first does well keeping up with the other boys in the race, but then he drops behind and almost drowns as he sinks down below the surface. He regains consciousness with his head on his mother's lap outside their home, and she tells a disappointed Keiu that he lost the competition. He insists that next time he will win, and his mother encourages him to do his best. The film then briefly shows Keiu as he diligently practices alone swimming across the lake as his mother watches him from the shore. A short scene shows Keiu practicing judo at Kamoto Junior High School, and after a brief struggle he throws his classmate to the ground.

Keiu and a school friend (probably now about 17 years old) visit Kikuchi Jinja where they admire the beauty of the scenery from the hill on which the famous shrine in Kumamoto Prefecture is located. They talk about the story of Kikuchi Senbonyari (Thousand Spears of Kikuchi), which symbolizes loyalty to the Emperor. The Kikuchi Clan, with leaders such as Kikuchi Taketoki and Kikuchi Takeshige in the 14th century, demonstrated allegiance to the Emperor by fighting against his enemies in Japan and by defending the country against Mongol invaders. The Kikuchi yari (spear), created by Kikuchi Takeshige, has a blade like an elongated tantō (dagger) that is attached to a long pole. Keiu expresses his desire to protect his country in the same manner as members of the Kikuchi Clan and tells his friend that he would like to go to the Naval Academy. In April 1935, Keiu entered Etajima Naval Academy in the 66th Class after passing a rigorous examination. His parents are proud that he will become a naval officer. His mother Matsue, while watching pheasant's eye flowers outside her home, reflects on her son away at the Naval Academy and creates the following haiku poem:

Not a noted haiku
My praying heart
Pheasant's eye

In 1938, Keiu graduates from Etajima Naval Academy. He trains to be a special (midget) submarine crewman and serves as an advisor during the special attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941 in which none of the five midget submarines return to their mother ships. In March 1942, the Japanese Navy decides to form the 2nd Special Attack Flotilla with Keiu Matsuo as leader in order to carry out a surprise midget submarine attack against ships at Sydney Harbor. Prior to his departure from Japan on the secret mission to Australia, he meets his family in Kure City at an inn where they eat dinner together and sleep. His father gives him a Kikuchi Senbonyari (Thousand Spears of Kikuchi) that has been handed down within his family for many generations with a covering made by his mother from her obi (kimono sash). His mother and sister cry as they realize that he may never return. Unexpectedly Keiu asks to sleep next to his mother like he used to do as a child. They talk together and wish each other well in the future, and tears well up in the eyes of his father, who is sleeping on the other side of his mother, as he hears them talking and understands that his son may never return.

The film next shifts to three submarines heading toward Sydney. Each mother submarine carries a two-man midget submarine. Keiu and his other crewman Petty Officer 2nd Class Masao Tsuzuku climb into their midget as the mother submarine is on the surface. In the evening of May 31, 1942, the three midget subs go together into the harbor, but the midget piloted by Lieutenant Junior Grade Kenshi Chūman gets caught in the anti-submarine boom net protecting the harbor. The midget submarine piloted by Lieutenant Junior Grade Katsuhisa Ban fires its two torpedoes with one of them hitting a smaller ship. Rear Admiral Muirhead-Gould, officer in charge of harbor security, thinks at first that it may be an air attack, but it is confirmed that it is an attack by midget submarines that have entered the harbor. After Ban's midget fires its torpedoes, Keiu decides to rest on the harbor bottom after depth charges are dropped. About 3:25 a.m. on June 1, Keiu decides to try to release his two torpedoes, but they do not fire. He then makes a decision to try to ram an enemy ship to destroy it. With Tsuzuku piloting the midget submarine on the surface toward the enemy ships, Keiu appears outside the hatch as he stands holding forward the Kikuchi yari (spear) given to him by his father. As shots strike close to the approaching midget submarine, a near hit causes Keiu to close the hatch and sends the midget sinking slowly toward the harbor bottom. As Keiu and Tsuzuku remember their hometowns in Kumamoto and Gifu Prefectures, they take their lives by pistol to avoid capture.

Keiu's sleeping mother is awakened suddenly after two shots go off that signal the death of Keiu and Tsuzuku. Later two midget submarines are pulled up from the harbor bottom, and four bodies are recovered. On June 9, 1942, the Australian Navy gives the four men a formal funeral with consideration for their bravery and patriotism. Their coffins are wrapped with Japanese flags. Later the Japanese Navy awards Keiu Matsuo, who was 24 years old at the time of this death, with a special promotion of two ranks from Lieutenant to Commander for his death by special attack. The scene shifts back to the home of Keiu's parents as they listen to the Emperor's announcement of the war's end. His father wipes away his tears in front of Keiu's photo in a Navy uniform, while his mother is outside looking at the flowers. She tells Keiu that he did well and recites the following tanka poem:

A flower raised
That he might fall
For the Emperor's sake
But after the storm
The garden is lonely

An Australian honor guard presents arms while
a bugler plays "Last Post" at the funeral for the four
midget submarine crewmen whose bodies were recovered.
This historical photo is an example of a scene that
is depicted quite accurately in the animation film.

The film now shifts forward 20 years. On July 5, 1965, Australian War Memorial Director J.J. McGrath and his wife pay a visit to the grave of Keiu Matsuo near his family's home. His remains had been returned to Japan later in 1942 after the funeral had been held. McGrath tells Keiu's mother Matsue that Australians still admire his bravery and invite her to visit Sydney. At the age of 83, Matsue Matsuo travels to Australia in April 1968. As Matsue looks over Sydney Harbor, she says, "Keiu, you attacked passing through such a narrow place. I praise you from the bottom of my heart. You did well." The scene changes to Matsue at Kikuchi Jinja as the cherry blossoms fall from the trees. In probably the saddest part of the film, Matsue imagines herself as a young woman with her happy child Keiu who is running to her to say that he has beat the older children at a swimming race, and she tells him that he did well.

The final section of the film summarizes Keiu Matsuo's legacy. It shows Japanese and Australian flags flying together over the Matsuo family graveyard where the Matsuo Monument was erected in 2004 by the Kumamoto Japan Australia Society. Next is seen the Japanese midget submarine on display at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. Through Keiu Matsuo the friendship between Japan and Australia continues. The film's end shows two historical photographs of Keiu Matsuo and another one of Keiu with his family. The last frame explains in writing that Ban's missing midget submarine was found about 20 kilometers from Sydney on November 28, 2005.

The film's details regarding the Sydney Harbor midget submarine attack contain quite a few inaccuracies. For example, in the movie Keiu Matsuo and Masao Tsuzuku enter their midget submarine while the mother submarine is on the surface, but in actual history the six crewmen crawled into the three midget subs directly from the mother sub through a "traffic sheath" [1]. The film shows that the three midget submarines passed the anti-submarine boom net at about the same time, but in actuality they entered the harbor several hours apart. Chūman's midget sub, which got caught in the net, crossed Inner Loop 12 into the harbor at 8:01 p.m. Next, Ban's submarine passed over Inner Loop 12 into the harbor at 9:48 p.m. Finally, Matsuo's midget waited several hours outside the harbor entrance after having depth charges dropped on it and crossed Inner Loop 12 at 3:01 a.m. [2]. No historical evidence exists that Matsuo and Tsuzuku tried to ram an enemy ship inside the harbor as depicted in the film. Matsuo's sticking his head out of midget submarine hatch and holding out his Kikuchi yari (spear) represent pure fantasy. However, some events related to the attack on Sydney Harbor get accurately portrayed such as the two torpedoes not firing in Matsuo's sub, Chūman's midget getting caught in the anti-submarine net, the sinking of a smaller ship (Australian depot ship Kuttabul) by one of the torpedoes from Ban's midget submarine, the suicides by gunshots to the head of Matsuo and Tsuzuku, and the approximate time of their deaths at 5:20 a.m. on June 1, 1942. The animation also provides a fairly realistic depiction of the midget submarines and how they move through the water.

This DVD's first animation film briefly tells the history of the Yamaga Tōrō Matsuri (Lantern Festival) held at the Ōmiya Shrine in Yamaga City annually on August 15 and 16. There is a legend that the Emperor and his entourage were struggling to find their way in the thick fog one night, but they were guided successfully by Yamaga residents lighting lanterns along the way. The film shows actual scenes from the Toro Matsuri after the animation film concludes.

Matsuo Keiu to sono haha (Keiu Matsuo and his mother) depicts Keiu Matsuo as an exemplary war hero, and the strong endorsement of this animation film by the Yushukan Museum at Yasukuni Jinja is consistent with its purpose to honor those Japanese people who gave their lives for their nation. His life as portrayed in this movie is romanticized to make him a model of Japan's samurai spirit.

Lieutenant Keiu Matsuo holding out
his Kikuchi yari (spear) given to him by his father


1. Carruthers 2006, 116; Grose 2007, 55-6.

2. Times of entrance into Sydney Harbor obtained from Grose 2007, 104, 113, 158.

Sources Cited

Carruthers, Steven L. 2006. Japanese Submarine Raiders 1942: A Maritime Mystery. Narrabeen, NSW: Casper Publications.

Grose, Peter. 2007. A Very Rude Awakening. Sydney: Allen & Unwin.