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Kataura Shin'yō Base Monument
Minamisatsuma City, Kagoshima Prefecture

In the last three months of WWII, the 124th Shin'yō Special Attack Squadron had 24 two-man Model 5 explosive shin'yō motorboats hidden in tunnels built into cliffs on the side of the Kataura Harbor. These suicide boats were ready to attack in case of an American invasion of southern Kyūshū, which never came. However, an accidental explosion soon after announcement of the war's end caused the death of eight squadron members.

Former squadron members erected a monument in 1981 to remember the eight men who died in the accidental explosion. The back of the monument lists the names of the eight men at the top and has the following inscription:

In the latter period of the Pacific War, the Navy's 124th Shin'yō Special Attack Squadron (Arita Unit) was stationed here in order to prevent Fukiage Beach landing operations of the American task force. On August 19, 1945, during the time of the war's end, unfortunately an accidental explosion occurred that took the lives of eight men.

At this time, through the cooperation of Kasasa Town authorities, squadron members from those days and other interested persons gather together and erect this monument with prayers for the spirits of those who died during the war and for eternal peace for our country.

August 1981

After completion of training at Kawatana Torpedo Boat Training School in Nagasaki Prefecture and formation of the 124th Shin'yō Squadron on March 24, 1945, the squadron members were on standby at Kawatana Naval Arsenal until May 5. They moved to Sasebo Naval Arsenal in Nagasaki Prefecture, where they were on standby until June 3, when they departed Sasebo Harbor for Kasasa Town (since 2005 part of Minamisatsuma City) in Kagoshima Prefecture. They finally arrived at the shin'yō motorboat base on June 13 after a delay along the way due to bad weather. Construction of the shin'yō motorboat base in Kasasa Town next to Kataura Harbor started in April 1945 by another shin'yō squadron, which moved to a different location when the 124th Shin'yō Squadron arrived.

The 124th Shin'yō Squadron had 6 officers, 49 motorboat pilots, 18 headquarters personnel, 35 maintenance workers, and 124 base workers for a total of 232 members. The base had limited training facilities, so the squadron worked to construct them, but sufficient training was not carried out at the base. The squadron members lived in triangular barracks erected on the mountain slopes.

On August 15, 1945, even though a telegraph was received that the war had ended, the squadron remained ready to launch the shin'yō explosive motorboats if enemy ships were sighted. On August 19 at about 11 in the morning while men were disconnecting fuses, an accidental explosion occurred that killed eight men and injured several others. On August 26, the squadron's shin'yō boats were scuttled in the sea. Two days later, the squadron commander started to release men to return home.

The Kataura Shin'yō Base Monument is extremely difficult to reach on foot, although someone with a small boat can easily get to the location. Although hard for me to believe even now, I made six separate trips to the small fishing village of Kasasa along the western coast of the Satsuma Peninsula in Kagoshima Prefecture before I finally reached the monument.

View of Kataura Fishing Harbor behind monument that honors
eight men of 124th Shin'yō Squadron who died during war

In October 2013, I made my first two trips to Kasasa. I got there by taking a 40-minute bus trip with only two or three other riders from Kaseda Bus Center to Koura Bus Stop. I walked down a winding road to the water, since I thought that I would be able to find the monument in a few minutes by looking around the harbor even though I did not have the exact location. I walked around the water's edge for a while without success and decided to go back up the hill to see whether someone at the post office across from the bus stop could give me directions. The post office worker said that she did not know and recommended that I go to the town hall at the top of a hill. The young man who greeted me at the town hall was extremely helpful when I told him where I would like to go. He made a copy of a detailed contour map of Kasasa Town that showed all of the roads, and he made a red line exactly where I needed to go to get to the monument. The monument stood on the shore that faced Kataura Fishing Harbor along a narrow mountainous peninsula about one mile long. He said to go down a paved path almost halfway down the peninsula. Then he said I needed to use a rope to get down a steep slope to the shore on the eastern side of the peninsula opposite to the monument. After getting to the shore, I needed to walk about a quarter of a mile and then cross over the peninsula in the place where he indicated with a red line. Since it took about an hour to get to the monument on foot, he did not think that I could make it that day since it was about 3 in the afternoon. Regardless, I decided to go that day, since I did not want to make the trip back on another day to this out-of-the-way fishing village.

I set out down the paved path and reached the end. The climb down the incline to the beach, about 200 feet at a 40-45 degree slope, turned out to be not too difficult with the assistance of the rope and trees along the dirt path. I walked along the shore, which in places was more difficult than expected since there were large rocks that needed to be traversed. I reached the spot to cross the peninsula where the town hall employee had indicated on the map. Although only about 150 feet across on flat ground, the underbrush was extremely thick with tall weeds and other plants above my head. I was making slow progress through it when I realized that I no longer had my eyeglasses. I had not immediately recognized that they were gone, since the weeds were right in front of my face. I could barely see due to my nearsightedness. I searched for about ten minutes along the way I had taken and could not find them. I started back to the bus stop since otherwise I would not be able to return before dark. Since I had time the next day with a scheduled ferry departure from Kagoshima to Kikaijima in the evening, I decided to return the next day to search for my glasses more thoroughly. I looked for over one hour but had no success. I went to the western side of the peninsula but could not see any monument, but I did not search much due to my limited eyesight without my eyeglasses. On the way back a long snake on the paved path surprised me, since I was almost upon it without my eyeglasses before I recognized what it was.

In June 2014 during the rainy season, I returned to Kasasa to try again to find the Kataura Shin'yō Base Monument. During the week before the visit, I heard on TV that there was heavy rainfall in Kagoshima that was three times more than a normal rainy season, but I did not pay too much attention, since I thought that it would not impede my trip if a took an umbrella. When I reached Koura Bus Stop, it was raining only lightly. I got down the slope with the rope successfully to the shore, although I slipped a couple of times since it was muddy and slick on the path down. After walking only about 200 or 300 feet, I stepped into some mud with my right leg and started sinking. When the mud was over my knee, I panicked but somehow got out, although I almost lost my shoe. Then I surveyed the shore area more closely and realized that there had been a landslide when I looked up at the steep hill above the shore where the mud and rocks had come down. Since the mud extended over the entire shore length of 30 feet or so and there appeared to be no way to continue other than to swim around it in the water, I returned to the bus stop without getting close to the monument. When I got to the slope and was climbing up, the rope (actually several ropes tied together) broke and I slid down in the mud several feet. It was impossible to get up the slippery muddy path with no rope, so I struggled up a concrete water channel, rushing with water from the prior rains, and finally made it to the paved path.

Two years later in June 2016 during the rainy season, I attempted to reach the monument for the fourth and fifth times. I thought correctly that the landslide on the beach would surely be cleaned up by now. When I reached Koura Bus Stop in Kasasa in the morning, the weather was clear. After slipping to the ground a couple of times in the mud on the steep slope to the shore, I took off down the eastern shore toward the end of the peninsula. I successfully made it to the western shore facing Kataura Fishing Harbor at the place indicated three years before on the map prepared by the town hall employee. I thought that I would easily locate the monument, but I could not find anything. I continued on toward the end of the peninsula thinking that the monument must be just around the corner, but the shore became extremely difficult to continue making progress due to the large rocks and high mountain slope at the end of the peninsula. In a couple of places the only way to continue was to wade through some shallow water. Then it started to rain, but there was no cover in this area, so for ten or fifteen minutes I tried to protect my shoulder bag from the driving rain by just rolling up into a ball on the rocks. At one point I realized when I turned back that I was much higher on the rocks in the beating rain, and I got somewhat scared when I realized that I could slip and possibly hit my head on the rocks if I fell eight or ten feet. So I retraced my path and returned to a lower elevation. Eventually I got to an overhang in the cliff that provided partial shelter from the rain. About halfway back to the steep slope from the shore to the paved path, I realized that I had lost my regular camera from my bag probably sometime when I tried to protect my shoulder bag from the rain.

When I returned in the afternoon from Kasasa to my hotel at Kaseda (now also part of Minamisatsuma City), I searched Google Maps satellite view to try to find the monument. Surprisingly, I quickly identified where the monument might be located, which was slightly south of the location indicated to me by the town hall worker three years before. Below is what I saw on Google Maps, and the green oval indicates the monument location.

Location of Kataura Shin'yō Base Monument (inside green line)

I had before in my files an article published by students of Kasasa Junior High School about the Kataura Shin'yō Base Monument, so I sent an e-mail to the school to see whether someone could confirm the location shown above on Google Maps. I also explained the path that I had taken that day based on the map provided by the town hall worker. See blue line in satellite map below.

Shown in blue is the incorrect path that I took
 to try to find Kataura Shin'yō Base Monument.
Green oval shows actual monument location.

Even though it was raining the next day, I decided that I would set out again to Kasasa, since with my newly discovered information from Google Maps, although not yet confirmed, I thought that I could reach the monument, although I had some concern with mud when I made the crossing from the eastern to western shore of the peninsula. As I was going down the steep slope from the paved path to the shore, the rope broke, and I slid down a few feet. I decided then that a hike to the monument was impossible in such heavy rain, so I struggled up the water channel like two years before, since going up the slippery muddy path without a rope could not be done. When I got to the paved path, I took off my pants and washed them in a large puddle, since I thought that the driver would not let me on the bus if I tried to ride it with so much mud on my pants that I had picked up on my slide down the incline. When I got back to the hotel about noon, I found a response from the Principal at Kasasa Junior High School who confirmed that the green oval on the Google Maps excerpt was the monument location.

In March 2017, I finally succeeded in finding the monument. Although not the rainy season, it was raining on the day I went, so I had much mud on me after going down the steep incline by rope to the shore since I slipped a couple of times. I crossed over from the eastern to the western shore of the peninsula at the place indicated on Google Maps, and I was surprised how easy the crossing went since the path I took had no thick underbrush or mud. I could hardly believe it when I saw the monument, since I thought it must be my fate to never get there. When I returned and was climbing up the incline, the rope broke again like on a couple of prior trips, but by now I knew well how to get up to the paved path, although it was still quite a struggle to go up the water channel. I tried again to wash my pants as well as possible in a puddle on the paved path. By this time I was totally wet from the rain. On the way back by bus to the hotel in downtown Kaseda City, I stopped by the Bansei Tokkō Peace Museum. Since my clothes were all wet, I felt cold later in the afternoon when standing at the bus stop to return to the hotel. The next day I felt sick and weak, probably from wearing the wet clothes for so long, but I felt happy that at long last I had found the Kataura Shin'yō Base Monument.

The historical information on this web page about the 124th Shin'yō Special Attack Squadron is from pages 188-9 (written by Makio Arita, former 124th Shin'yō Squadron Leader) of the following book:

Shin'yō Association (Shin'yōkai), ed. 1990. Ningen heiki: Shin'yō tokubetsu kōgekitai (Human weapon: Shin'yō Special Attack Corps). Shirō Arai, general editor. Volume 2 of 2. Tōkyō: Kokushokankōkai.