Grandson Akihisa speaks
of his memories of
(December 3, 2014, Hotaru Museum in Chiran,
Substitute Mother: Telling About Last Days of Her "Children"
(Hahagawari: "Kodomo"ra no saigo tsutaeru)
Researched and written by Shūji Fukano and Fusako Kadota
Pages 26-8 of Tokkō kono chi yori: Kagoshima shutsugeki no kiroku
(Special attacks from this land: Record of Kagoshima sorties)
Minaminippon Shinbunsha, 2016, 438 pages
This story is based on an interview with Akihisa
Torihama, grandson of Tome Torihama and director of Hotaru Museum in Chiran.
"I will not be able to go. Many people will be waiting for me."
"It's OK. I will take you."
These were the last words exchanged with grandson Akihisa (54 years old) by
Tome Torihama, who ran the military-designated Tomiya Restaurant in Chiran Town
and was affectionately called "Aunt" or "Mother" by Special Attack Corps members
who gathered there.
At the beginning of 1992, she was in poor condition and entered a hospital in
Makurazaki City. She seemed to be worried about whether she could attend the
Special Attack Base War Dead Memorial Service held each year in May before the
Chiran Special Attack Peace
From about the end of March she would often say, "I will not be able to go."
Akihisa begins, "I will tell you about this letter to Nakajima's father."
As a member of the 48th Shinbu Squadron, 19-year-old Sergeant Toyozō Nakajima
made a sortie from Chiran Airfield and died in battle on June 3, 1945. Soon
afterward, a letter that told about his situation before the sortie arrived at
his home in Aichi Prefecture. The sender was 42-year-old Tome.
After she told his father that she ran a restaurant in Chiran, she continued.
"Since I also wanted to take care of him like my child, I asked him what he
would like to have in this world. He said that he wanted to eat egg soup with
shiitake mushrooms, so I made it for him." Also, she told his father the date and time
that he took off.
Special (suicide) attacks were a military secret. When newspapers in those days
reported about a base, they published it as "OO Base" and withheld the name. In
letters that Special Attacks Corps members sent that were subject to
military censorship, they were prohibited from writing where they were at that
time. Also in information regarding death in battle, even the family was not
told the detailed date, time, and place.
In such conditions, Tome wrote letters to many relatives. Akihisa says, "It
seems that she went in the morning to send them at a mailbox that was furthest
away in order to avoid surveillance by military police. I think they were
letters that she was resolved to send."
There was something that Tome did not dare to tell Sergeant Nakajima's
father. A few days before Sergeant Nakajima's sortie, he had sprained one of his
arms. He took off with this arm, which he could not move freely, fastened to his
flight stick by a bicycle inner tube.
However, Tome recorded only, "He went smiling in high spirits." If she
thought about a parent's feelings, there probably was nothing that she could write
other than this.
The letter that Tome wrote is now kept in a glass case at
Hotaru Museum where Tomiya Restaurant stood. In the
museum there are many photographs of Special Attack Corps members next to their
parents or wife and child.
In the postwar period, Tome used to say, "Those persons also were humans, men
who held life dear and children of parents somewhere. I want to live until 100
to console their spirits." On April 22, 1992, not being able to go to that
year's memorial service, she departed at the age of 89.
Translated by Bill Gordon