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Kanoya Ōka Monument
Kanoya City, Kagoshima Prefecture

The Ōka Monument is located near Kanoya Air Base at the spot where departing men in the Jinrai (Thunder Gods) Special Attack Corps drank their farewell toasts. These men flew the ōka weapons, which were piloted glider bombs propelled by three rocket engines.

The following words on the stone tablet to the right of the Kanoya Ōka Monument were written by Sōhachi Okamura, a naval correspondent in Kanoya at the time the ōka pilots departed:

The men of the Special Attack Corps who volunteered from Kōnoike Air Base and other bases gathered at Nozato Elementary School in Kanoya, in Kyūshū at the southern tip of Japan. From March 21 to June 22, 1945, these men died in battle in continuing attacks. Following the Jinrai Butai (Thunder Gods Corps), there were the ōka, fighter, and bomber units of the Tatsumaki Butai (Tornado Corps). At this time I lived in a farmhouse in Nozato Village as a naval press corps member, and I met in person Commander Motoharu Okamura, the leader who trained corps members who stayed in nearby homes. I remember vividly the change in the war situation, and there are painful memories of saying farewell with tears day after day to rosy-cheeked men who were departing never to return. Filled with the emotion of all Japanese people, I write these words praying for the repose of the souls of these young soldiers.

This monument was erected in 1978 through the efforts of Kyūsaku Kojō, a former Kamikaze Special Attack Corps Ōka Unit member, and his wife.

Near the entrance to the opening where the Kanoya Ōka Monument is located, there is a sign with information and historical photos about the "ōka called a human bomb" and "Ōka Monument." The English translation on the sign is shown below:

Ōka is a single seater suicide weapon developed by former Japanese Navy during the Pacific War. An Ōka without wheels was attached to the bottom of an aircraft called the "Isshiki Rikkō," or Mitsubishi G4M (Betty) Land-Based Medium Navy Bomber. The pilots would fly into the air above enemy ships, and each Kamikaze would detach themselves and plunge down into the vessels to fulfill their mission. However, with the "Isshiki Rikkō" being slowed down by the over 2 ton Ōka, it became a target for enemy planes, and almost all "Isshiki Rikkō" would be shot down before the units ever reached the enemy ship. The first Ōka Kamikaze raid was carried out on March 21st, 1945. Even after 160 soldiers dying on this one day alone, the Jinrai Unit would continue on.

Here stands the "Ōka" Memorial Monument. At this spot, before their raid, the Tokkōtai (Special Attack Unit) "Kamikaze" would line up and share their last departing sake together. They would then climb the winding slope up the cliffside, and from there be brought to the airfield runway by truck. Thanks to the efforts of Kyūsaku Kojō, a former Kamikaze pilot, the Ōka Memorial Monument was built to enshrine the souls of the Tokkōtai in 1978. The author Sōhachi Yamaoka (Tokugawa Ieyasu, etc.) wrote about how he was living alongside the Jinrai Unit as a navy reporter in the last months of the war. The author Yasunari Kawabata (The Dancing Girl of Izu, etc.) was also residing in Nozato as a navy reporter around the same time.

Kanoya Ōka Monument (far right) and sign with information
and historical photos about monument (far left)

The clearing has two other monuments in between the Ōka Monument and the information sign. The monument to the right of the information sign (see above photo) commemorates establishment of Nozato Elementary School in 1879. The monument to the left of the Ōka Monument remembers the location of the remains of Yamashita Hamlet. There is no further information provided as to why such a monument was erected.

Sign with information and photos about Ōka Monument
(click image to enlarge)

Across the street from the Kanoya Ōka Monument is a sign with information and historical photos about Nozato Elementary School and its connection with the Ōka Unit. The English translation on the sign is shown below:

With the air-raids in 1945 and attacks being dealt upon Kanoya Air Base and other ground facilities, schools and private houses were confiscated and turned into replacement naval barracks. Nozato Kokumin Gakkō (A term used for elementary schools during WWII) became the barracks for the Jinrai Kamikaze Unit who conducted the Ōka (Cherry Blossom) Operations. An enemy air-raid maneuver in March 1945 took out all of the windows in the classroom the unit slept in, as well as tore through the roof and ceiling to the point where they could see the sky through the destruction. Currently, the only thing that remains is the pedestal that held the Japanese flag between the school yard and barracks.

The unit's walking boundary was one kilometer in all directions from along the stream south of the school barracks. In the morning, the unit would wash their faces in the stream and then sit and chat in the grass for the short time they had until breakfast in what became a ritual for them. There's a heartwarming story still told about the unit helping residents in the area with the wheat harvest. To show thanks, the residents gifted them with beef, pork, and chicken. The unit, all prepared for the raid the next day, would get a haircut, shave, take a barrel drum bath to get their bodies clean, and go off to sleep. They would wake up the next morning and put on a new pair of underwear and get their flight uniform on. After filling up on white rice and miso soup, they then announced they're departure from the barracks.

Sign with information and photos
about Nozato Elementary School
(click image to enlarge)

Several last writings of Kamikaze Special Attack Corps members mention the elementary school at Kanoya including the following. All of these writings were written by men from squadrons other than the Ōka Unit.

A short path from the road leads to remains of the flagpole base of Nozato Elementary School.

Remains of Nozato Elementary School Flagpole Base

The following information is displayed on a sign to the right of the base for the flagpole of the national flag. There is no English translation like on the two other information signs.

The only thing that remains from the facilities of Nozato Elementary School, which became barracks for the Jinrai Butai, is the base for the flagpole where the national flag flew.

During the war the area in front of the flagpole base became a schoolyard, and it was used as a place for training of corps members.

The upper part of the flagpole was moved to a place within the grounds of the Kanoya Naval Air Base Museum and now is displayed outside the museum building.

Information sign about Nozato Elementary
School's base for flagpole of national flag
(shown at right in the two above photos)

The following last letters were written by Kamikaze Special Attack Corps Ōka Unit members who took off from Kanoya Air Base and died in special attacks: