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Tokkō no haha (Tokkō mother) [1]
Performed by Yuriko Futaba
Written by Kyōnosuke Muromachi
Composed by Toshio Shiraishi
Shamisen played by Kiyoko Kimura
From Tokkō no haha: Heiwa e no inori (Tokkō mother: prayer for peace)
Songs by Yuriko Futaba, Michio Oda, Shirō Oka, and Kazuko Oshikawa
King Record Co., 1987, 52 min., Audiocassette

This 26-minute rōkyoku tells the story of Tome Torihama's experiences with Special Attack Corps (tokkōtai) pilots who made sorties from Chiran Air Base during the Battle of Okinawa. A rōkyoku is a type of Japanese narrative ballad recited to a shamisen accompaniment. Tokkō no haha (Tokkō mother) contains five separate songs performed by Yuriko Futaba in addition to the story she narrates in the role of Tome Torihama.

During the war, Tome Torihama operated Tomiya Restaurant in Chiran, and many pilots visited her restaurant. She became close to many of the Special Attack Corps pilots who took off from Chiran Air Base since many considered her to be like a mother to them. She passed away in 1992 at the age of 89.

Yuriko Futaba, born in 1931, debuted at the age of 23 and is well-known for other rōkyoku such as the 1974 hit Ganpeki no haha (Mother at the pier).

Side A of the cassette tape contains Yuriko Futaba's Tokkō no haha (Tokkō mother). Side B includes the following six enka songs by other singers:

Below is an English translation of Tokkō no haha (Tokkō mother). The songs included in the piece are shown in bold font and indented, whereas the narrative portions are shown in regular text.

A Youth Pilot: Ah, you're the tokkō mother. So don't cry. Please smile. We youth pilots had to die at Okinawa. This war could not be won.

Dreams of budding young men
The skies turned red with blood
Showing many deaths
Mother, ah, mother
Sleeping in the shade of Kudan's
[2] flowers

Tome: Saying that, each boy was determined to fly to Okinawa and not return, and he went disappearing behind the clouds. I should have said before that I am Tome Torihama. I run a small ryokan (inn) in a small town called Chiran in Kagoshima Prefecture. Originally it was a restaurant called Tomiya, which became an Army-designated eating place because during the war this town was the location for Chiran Base, where there were special attack squadrons of youth pilots. For that reason each day many pilots, from 15 to 22 or 23 young men, dropped by my place. What could be done? Moreover, sudden preparations were made to pilot their planes and to fly to Okinawa. Those children were our happiness. Each young man had a mother in his hometown and another one here in Chiran as I loved them dearly as the base mother or their second mother. I also was not unmoved. Before leaving they spoke to me about everything, and I became their companion. In those days, each time before someone was sent out from the base, everyone at my home went out separately to a buy some hard-to-get azuki (red beans) in order to cook a special last meal of sekihan (rice steamed with red beans). One time when Kōno's shakuhachi (five-holed vertical bamboo flute) was heard, several people, no several dozen people, were to make sorties. Second Lieutenant Mitsuyama was a Korean who always wore his cap down over his eyes. When he sang Arirang [3] with a sad singing voice, he surely was crying. Afterward, I always went to the runway and saw them off with others by waving small tattered Japanese rising-sun flags. Scattered throughout the cypress and cedar woods were as many as 100 triangular barracks [4] for the youth pilots. My second daughter Reiko along with her classmates at Chiran Girls High School always were visiting and helping at the barracks. There were many people from Tōkyō, Niigata, Nagano, and Akita. Miyagawa [5] from Niigata Prefecture talked to me one night after finishing dinner.

Miyagawa: My Mother here at Tomiya, thank you for everything you have done for me. An order was given for me to sortie tomorrow at dawn. That's not why I am crying. Just when I thought of the sight of my Mother in my hometown, I burst into tears. But at long last I wrote this letter [6].

Dear Mother,

Please be happy. Now your Saburō is resolved to take aim at an enemy ship from the Okinawan skies and to die in battle. Nothing surpasses a man's long-cherished ambition than the honor of a youth pilot. This letter will undoubtedly be the last one. It is regrettable that I could not ever one time for form's sake be devoted to you as my parent for the 18 years that you raised me and that I presumed on your kindness. Please forgive me for the sin of being an undutiful son. I enclose the money that I received from the Army. Mother, since you are sensitive to the cold, please buy a kairo (portable body warmer) with this money and keep yourself warm. And please be in good spirits forever and live for me.

Tome: It's splendid. His mother must have been so delighted. I wonder how this could have been a letter written by a boy of 18 years [7].

Miyagawa: Ah, you're crying. I have no regrets. I'll surely do splendidly. Tomiya Mother, even if I die, I'll come back to see you. I'll become a firefly. But, the next world's way may be dark.

Tome: Saying this, he flew off from the base. One hour, no two hours, had not even gone by. That child really was great. I heard that his plane was hit by an enemy fighter, became enveloped in flames, went into a spiral dive as it headed toward an enemy ship, and disappeared to the bottom of the Okinawan sea. How regrettable! How painful!

That boy was great just as I thought
And yet until the very end
His figure that continued fighting
In pride nurtured by a mother of Japan
In which flows the blood
Inherited from three thousand years ago
When his cherished plane
Hit the enemy deck
The bomb roared
Swept over the ship
Useful even if slight, he shouted "banzai"
That boy went to die
Smiling radiantly

Tome: I feel sorry. When I lit a candle, offered incense sticks, and said prayers for the repose of his soul, without my noticing it became totally dark. It was at that time when my oldest daughter Miyako [8] started acting hysterically.

Miyako: Oh, Mother, look in the yard, Miyagawa has come to see us.

Tome: What? Turned into a firefly? Something like that surely you . . . When I looked into the yard while talking, a lingering faint light . . . Ah, just as I thought, it's that child.

You surely came to see me
The firefly was seen
Like you're calling to me, like you're crying
Ah, like you're crying
Over the dew on tips of blades of grass

Yuriko Futaba CD with Ganpeki
no haha
(Mother at the pier) and
Tokkō no haha (Tokkō mother)


Tome: It was during the time when such tears had not yet dried. I say that poverty is a stranger to industry, but at a time when even poverty was able to catch up to me and when I wondered what I would do, a series of misfortunes occurred. I suffered from acute appendicitis complicated by peritonitis and ended up being admitted to the hospital [9]. While my illness worsened, I heard the roar of planes. They said that the children who were making sorties flew over the hospital and waved the wings of their planes. I was fortunate that they came to visit me while sick and at least said goodbye to me. I can say that probably their gesture was effective, since soon I recovered miraculously and was able to leave the hospital. But, what things were to come. Nakajima, who had a bandage slung from his neck since his right arm was broken, told me jokingly that if he had a left hand it would be fine since he could fly and smash into an enemy ship. Ah yes, all of them would be hurt in their deaths. He told me that even though it was a small thing he would like to leave a parting gift to thank me. That was the parting of Nakajima and others. In such a time, one young lady named Ayako Fuse visited me. She was the fiancée of Second Lieutenant Kawasaki and came to say farewell since she found out he was to sortie. You've come a long way. Kawasaki will be here soon along with his parents. Poor girl, at least you can try to put on some makeup.

Fuse: Thank you.

Tome: She almost cried when she said this, It was natural. It was not expected she could believe that this would be his farewell to this world.

Two streams of tears
Dabbed with a powder puff
Trembling fingers put lipstick on
Lips turned pale
Tangled black hair
Revealed her conflicting feelings
A boxwood comb of human kindness
One drop of feminine tears or hair oil

Tome: The two of them went back and forth for one or two hours while crying without saying anything. In that time the war became more and more intense, and every day 50 to 70 special attack planes took off from the base [10]. I have not forgotten. In the early morning of May 25 1945, they called out the pilots at Chiran Base for the last time [11].

Commander: Assemble! As all of you already know, the war situation in Okinawa has become extremely fierce. Now the rise and fall of the Empire depends on this one battle. It is not a time for hesitation. Winning will only be accomplished by one plane destroying one ship. By the end of today, all of your lives will be lost for me as you die for the Empire and become gods in defense of your country. Not only you will kill the enemy. I also will soon go. Dismissed! To your planes!

Narrator: At the order the youth pilots boarded their planes. Their white silk mufflers fluttered in the wind.

Ishimaru: Torihama, my son Ishimaru?

Wife: My Kichio?

Tome: Right now you'll find out.

Narrator: One plane, two, three. His figure, a 4th class graduate whose father and mother who had brought him up and had come there risking their lives, could not be seen. Ah, now it was him in plane number 25 about ready to take off.

Ishimaru: Kichio, Kichio.

Narrator: In an instant, a paper streamer suddenly was thrown from plane number 25. His father shouted and waved his hand. His mother continued waving her parasol  [12].

Wife: Kichio, Kichio.

Tome Torihama with cane
next to a stone lantern in Chiran


Tome: That was this world's farewell of that child to his parents. After that, Kichio Ishimaru did not return. What happened to Nakajima with one good arm? Also, Kōno who played the shakuhachi, Mitsuyama who sang Arirang, and Second Lieutenant Kawasaki met heroic deaths in battle at Okinawa [13]. There was nobody who I did not meet. I don't know what happened to those who I only gave a send-off. It has gone quickly, but 32 years have already passed. But I clearly remember them. There were 1,015 dear youth pilots who flew to the skies of Okinawa from Chiran Base [14]. These young men clearly loved their mothers. The Chiran Kannon (goddess of mercy) statue was made and placed at the site of the base in remembrance of the 1,015 young men who died. At the first memorial service 500 former youth pilots assembled. Weren't all the Satsuma Technical High School boarding students happy? They are heirs to that type of spirit possessed by all of the survivors who accomplished distinguished feats. During the morning and evening they swept and cleaned the entrance path that had cherry trees blossoming. With me at 76 years of age, I do not know how many more years I will be able to live, but I am determined to keep visiting there until my last breath. Even when I walk down the path to the kannon with my cane, the events of those days remain imprinted in my mind.

Morning and evening at the triangular barracks
In the cypress and cedar woods
Young men dreaming of their mothers
The unforgettable faces of those
Who died young in the skies
Are remembered like yesterday
Why are they not crying
Well done, as I praise
These youths of the skies and their distinguished deeds
I will go there and continue to pray for them
Until my tears as an old woman run dry
Even as the lotus flower keeps blooming

Your spirits, I pray for your peaceful rest
My old body
Today also I go with my cane
Ah, today also I go
To Chiran Kannon, only tears

Translated by Bill Gordon
January 2008


1. The literal translation of tokkō no haha is "special attack mother." Special attack pilots are generally referred to as kamikaze pilots in English.

2. Kudan is a hill in Tōkyō where Yasukuni Jinja is located, and the beauty of Kudan's springtime cherry blossoms is well-known. Yasukuni Jinja is Japan's national shrine to honor spirits of soldiers killed in battle.

3. Arirang is a well-known traditional Korean folk song that refers to a mountain pass in Korea.

4. Chiran Air Base had several camouflaged triangular barracks in the woods around the base, and a monument now stands at the site of one of them. Although the song mentions 100 triangular barracks, the base had many less than this number. Shimahara (1985, 51) and Chiran Kōjo (1996, front of book) have a base map that shows15 triangular barracks.

5. This family name can be pronounced either Miyakawa or Miyagawa. The song uses the pronunciation of Miyagawa.

6. The song's letter from Miyagawa to his mother differs significantly from Miyagawa's actual last letter translated below (Hiroi 1995, 4-5):

Loving Mother, excuse me for neglecting to write for such a long time.

Completely determined and burning with the spirit of certain death, I go forward to my mission.

Mother, thank you for looking after me well during my twenty years. I remember clearly my figure at your breast when I was young. Mother, thank you for taking good care of me from morning to night. Forgive me for my worthlessness in that I cannot repay your kindness in any way.

From long ago it has been said that loyalty and filial piety go together. Loyalty is nothing but filial piety. Please rest assured. I will surely carry out my duty to you as parents.

Please take good care of your health.


Miyagawa also wrote a last letter to his father (Hiroi 1995, 3-4).

7. Saburō Miyagawa actually was 20 years old when he made a sortie from Chiran on June 6, 1945 (Hiroi 1995, 12).

8. The name of Tome Torihama's oldest daughter was Miako rather than Miyako.

9. The song implies that Tome Torihama entered the hospital during the time when Special Attack Corps pilots made sorties from Chiran Air Base in 1945. In actuality, she entered the hospital in 1942, three years before the special attack missions from Chiran (Aihoshi 1992, 58-61). The young men who flew over the hospital in the nearby town of Kaseda were pilots in training at Chiran Air Base.

10. The number of 50 to 70 special attack planes taking off every day from Chiran is exaggerated. There were 432 total aircraft that made sorties from Chiran (including several from advance bases at Kikaijima and Tokunoshima) from March 29 to June 11, 1945 (Chiran Tokkō 2005, 69).

11. The song incorrectly indicates that May 25, 1945, was the last date when pilots were called out at Chiran. Quite a few special attack aircraft made sorties from Chiran Air Base after this date. Hara (2004, 230-42) lists the following number of special attack planes that made sorties from Chiran and did not return on dates after May 25, 1945:

May 27 - 5 planes
May 28 - 28 planes
June 3 - 27 planes
June 6 - 25 planes
June 8 - 3 planes
June 10 - 3 planes
June 11 - 3 planes

12. This incident of a paper streamer being thrown from a departing plane relates to a pilot named Kichio Nanbu, rather than Kichio Ishimaru (Asahi 1990, 39; Akabane 2001, 106-9). His parents at the time of Kichio's departure from Chiran had the family name of Ishimaru, since Kichio's mother had remarried. The reference in the song to his being a "4th class graduate" is incorrect, since Kichio Nanbu was a graduate of the 1st class of the Tokubetsu Sōjū Minarai Shikan program (Special Cadet Pilots program) (Akabane 2001, 106).

13. Second Lieutenant Kawasaki did not die at Okinawa. He actually died in a training accident on May 30, 1945. Prior to his death, he had made sorties three times from Chiran toward Okinawa, but he returned each time due to engine problems (Asahi 1990, 23-5).

14. The song's figure of 1,015 pilots who died after taking off from Chiran actually includes pilots and other crewmembers who took off from other Army air bases. Although the cassette does not give the year that the song was composed, the reference by Tome near the end of the song that "32 years have already passed" would make the year 1977. The total number of Army kamikaze pilots who died in the Okinawan campaign has been changed slightly over the years by the Chiran Peace Museum for Kamikaze Pilots. Shimahara (1985, 30, 208) mentions 1,016 total pilots, which included 431 from Chiran Air Base, whereas Asahi (1990, 7) has a total figure of 1,028. Chiran Tokkō (2005, 69) gives a total of 1,036 pilots, with 439 from Chiran. Chiran's number of 439 is actually less since it includes numbers from Chiran's two forward bases at Kikaijima (23 pilots) and Tokunoshima (14 pilots). The latest figure of 1,036 Army kamikaze pilots who died in the Okinawan campaign made sorties from the following bases (Chiran Tokkō 2005, 69):

402 - Chiran
127 - Kengun
120 - Bansei
 83 - Miyakonojō
135 - bases in Taiwan
169 - other bases

Sources Cited

Aihoshi, Masako. 1992. Hana no toki wa kanashimi no toki: Chiran tokkō obasan Torihama Tome monogatari (Flower season, a sad season: Story of Tome Torihama, aunt of Chiran's special attack pilots). Kagoshima City: Takishobō.

Akabane, Reiko, and Hiroshi Ishii. 2001. Hotaru kaeru (The firefly returns). Tōkyō: Soshisa.

Asahi Shimbun Seibu Honsha. 1990. Sora no kanata ni (To distant skies). Fukuoka: Ashishobō.

Chiran Kōjo Nadeshiko Kai (Chiran Girls High School Nadeshiko Association), ed. 1996. Gunjō: Chiran tokkō kichi yori (Deep blue: From Chiran special attack air base). Originally published in 1979. Kagoshima City: Takishobō.

Chiran Tokkō Irei Kenshō Kai (Chiran Special Attack Memorial Society), ed. 2005. Konpaku no kiroku: Kyū rikugun tokubetsu kōgekitai chiran kichi (Record of departed spirits: Former Army Special Attack Corps Chiran Base). Revised edition, originally published in 2004. Chiran Town, Kagoshima Prefecture: Chiran Tokkō Irei Kenshō Kai.

Hara, Katsuhiro. 2004. Shinsō kamikaze tokkō: Hisshi hitchū no 300 nichi (Kamikaze special attack facts: 300 days of certain-death, sure-hit attacks). Tōkyō: KK Bestsellers.

Hiroi, Tadao. 1995. Hotaru ni natta tokkōhei: Miyagawa Saburō monogatari (Kamikaze pilot who turned into firefly: Story of Saburō Miyagawa). Niigata City: Niigata Nippō Jigyōsha.

Shimahara, Ochiho. 1985. Shiroi kumo no kanata ni: Rikugun kōkū tokubetsu kōgekitai (To the distant white clouds: Army's aerial special attack corps). Tōkyō: Doshinsha.