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Nagasaki Prefecture Yokaren Monument
Sasebo City, Nagasaki Prefecture

The Imperial Japanese Navy opened a major base in 1889 at Sasebo in Nagasaki Prefecture. Higashiyama Navy Cemetery, now part of Higashi Park in Sasebo City, has about 60 monuments with 45 of them built after the end of the war. The cemetery's older section contains 417 individual gravestones erected before WWII. The cemetery honors over 176 thousand men who died while serving their country as part of the Imperial Japanese Navy. In 1959, Sasebo City took over maintenance and upkeep of the former Navy cemetery.

The Navy established the Yokaren in 1930 as a preparatory flight training program. The Kō program of study started in 1937 for graduates of junior high school. Numerous Navy Yokaren graduates died in battle including many Special Attack Corps (tokkōtai) members who made suicide attacks against American ships. In 2005, the Nagasaki Prefecture Kō Class Yokaren Association planted a memorial cherry tree at the former Navy cemetery in Sasebo and erected a small monument next to the tree.

The large engraved characters on the monument's front side can be translated "Memorial Cherry Tree." The back of the monument has the following history:

The Japanese Navy Kō Class Preparatory Flight Trainee (Yokaren) system began in 1937. About 140 thousand persons joined the Yokaren from the 1st Class that entered in September 1937 until the 16th Class that started in 1945.

They constituted the air power that decided outcomes of battles after the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese War in 1937 until the end of the Pacific War in 1945. The Navy prepared for this great war by planning for the increase of aircraft crewmen. Among measures taken for immediate fighting capability was the Kō Class Preparatory Flight Trainee system in which efforts were made to provide early training.

During this country's critical situation, young men burning ardently with patriotism volunteered for the Kō Class Yokaren in order to protect the country. They said farewell to their parents and left their hometowns. They went to battle and fought courageously. However, at the end of bitter fighting against the American military with its exceptional material superiority, they died in battle in the skies. Eventually, they left for the battlefront never to return as they died carrying out special (suicide) attacks in the skies and and seas.

The number of these war dead reached 6,800 men, and many from Nagasaki Prefecture were recorded among the dead. The Kō Class survivors from this prefecture organized the Nagasaki Prefecture Kō Class Yokaren Association and have continued to hold memorial ceremonies for the war dead. Sixty years after the war's end, we plant here this memorial cherry tree to communicate to future generations the sincerity of those who died, and we pray earnestly that their spirits may rest in peace.

The following last letters were written by Yokaren graduates from Nagasaki Prefecture:

The former Navy cemetery in Sasebo City has a small visitor's center with various displays related to the Imperial Japanese Navy such as photographs, ship models, and maps. There is a also a free color brochure in Japanese with a cemetery map, photos and descriptions of several monuments, and a history of the cemetery.

Former Navy Cemetery in Sasebo