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Tsukuba Naval Air Group Museum
Kasama City, Ibaraki Prefecture

The Tsukuba Naval Air Group Museum opened in December 2013 and reached 110,000 visitors by April 2015. The origins of Tsukuba Naval Air Group go back to 1934, when the Tomobe Detachment of the Kasumigaura Naval Air Group was established. In December 1938, Tsukuba became an independent air group as part of the 11th Training Combined Air Group.

The museum building opened in 2013 in the Air Group's original headquarters, although it was used for many years after the end of World War II by Tomobe Hospital. The museum stands on the grounds of the Ibaraki Prefectural Medical Center of Psychiatry, which has a large building near the museum. The medical center grounds also have some remains from the war such as a drill platform made of stone, the gates to the base, and the foundation of Tsukuba Jinja (Shrine).

In June 2018, museum exhibits were moved to a newly-constructed two-floor building to the right of Tsukuba Air Group's original headquarters. Starting at the beginning of 2020, the museum is using crowdfunding to try to raise funds to refurbish the original headquarters so that it can be reopened to the public. If funding goals are met, both the original headquarters and the new two-story building will be used as the future facilities for the museum. The headquarters building had a couple of rooms on the second floor used in the filming of the 2013 movie Eien no 0 (The Eternal Zero), but these were not moved to the new building.

During the Battle of Okinawa in the spring of 1945, 55 men from the Tsukuba Naval Air Group made sorties in Zero fighters from Kanoya Air Base in southern Kyūshū as members of six Tsukuba Squadrons in the Kamikaze Special Attack Corps. The dates that each squadron took off from Kanoya in 1945 and the number of men who died are listed below:

1st - April 6, 17 men
2nd - April 14, 3 men
3rd - April 16, 7 men
4th - April 29, 5 men
5th - May 11, 9 men
6th - May 14, 14 men

In addition, five members of the original 7th and 8th Tsukuba Squadrons became members of the 1st Jinrai Bakusen Squadron in the Kamikaze Special Attack Corps. On June 22, 1945, they took off from Kanoya Air Base and died in battle. There were also 12 airmen from Tsukuba Air Group who became members of the Kongō Unit of the Kamikaze Corps and died in special attacks in the Philippines between December 1944 and January 1945. On April 3, 1945, another pilot from Tsukuba Air Group died in a special attack from Taiwan as a member of the Taigi Unit. In total, 73 men from Tsukuba Naval Air Group died between December 1944 and June 1945 as members of the Kamikaze Special Attack Corps [1].

The Tsukuba Naval Air Group Museum is open every day from 9 to 5 with an admission fee of 500 yen. All of the exhibits are in Japanese with no English translations. Visitors get a free 24-page booklet in Japanese with many historical photographs, a map of sites related to the former air base, and a historical chronology of Tsukuba Air Group. There is a store where books and other souvenirs can be purchased. Tomobe Station is the closest train station to the museum, which can be reached by walking about 30 minutes or by bus or taxi.

Exhibition room with Tsukuba Air Group pilot
photographs, letters, and artifacts
(in Tsukuba Air Group's original headquarters)

The museum contains many exhibits, such as photographs, letters, and stories, about the men who died as kamikaze pilots. These include Shin'ichi Ishimaru, a former professional baseball player whose life story was made into the 1995 movie Ningen no Tsubasa (Wings of a Man), and Shunsuke Tomiyasu, whose Zero fighter hit the aircraft carrier Enterprise (CV-6) on May 14, 1945, in an attack that killed 13 and wounded 68. The first floor has many Navy aircraft and ship models on display.

Drill platform used by Tsukuba Air Group

The Tsukuba Naval Air Group Monument can be reached by a short walk from the museum.

Room in museum that was used in 2013 movie
Eien no 0 (The Eternal Zero)
(in Tsukuba Air Group's original headquarters)

The museum itself does not maintain a web site, but Project Ibaraki has a web site about the Tsukuba Naval Air Group in conjunction with the movie Eien no 0 (The Eternal Zero).

The following last letters and diary entries were written by Kamikaze Special Attack Corps members from Tsukuba Air Base who died in special attacks:

Date of most recent visit: October 20, 2018

Related Web Pages

1. Katabami 2014, 18-9.

Source Cited

Katabami, Masaaki. 2014. Mō hitotsu no "Eien no Zero": Tsukuba Kaigun Kōkūtai (Another "Eternal Zero": Tsukuba Naval Air Group). Tōkyō: Village Books.