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To the Sky
by Hiroyuki Beppu
Chikushigaoka High School, Fukuoka Prefecture
Messages of Peace from Chiran
13th Annual Speech Contest, 2002
Second Prize, High School Division

On July 4, 1945, Leading Airman Kukita in the Naval Air Group's 2nd Division ended his short life of 19 years together with his special attack plane in the southern seas.

He loved planes since he was young child. He had a handmade military plane made of bamboo that hung in front of his desk. Pointing at a plane soaring in the sky, he always used to say to his mother, "I someday will fly though the air riding that plane."

That dream came true. He received his draft papers from the government at the young age of 16, and he dedicated his life to his country. He was praised by many people who said farewell to him waving Japanese flags at a nearby elementary school, and he left for Tsuchiura, the location of the naval flight corps.

He would be able to fly his long-desired plane. When he entered the Navy, he was still dreaming of flying around freely though the sky. He was full of joy without a trace of worry.

However, three years later as a member of the special attack forces he perished in the south seas together with his plane. Leaving behind his parents and younger brother and sister, he ended his short life. "Take care of mom and dad" were the last words he left with his younger sister.

That younger sister is my grandmother. Fifty-seven years later, she says that even now she clearly remembers the figure of her older brother before his departure to the front. She tried to cut her brother's hair as a memento of his departure. She cannot forget even now that her brother laughed and with his large hand gently touched the face of my sister who had started to cry when he would not let her cut his hair.

After my grandmother's parents' son took off as a kamikaze pilot, I heard that his parents gave hospitality to other young pilots during the evening prior to their departure to the front. His father and mother treated them like their own son and loved them like foster parents. They treated the pilots to boiled eggs and listened to their stories. I hear that the young kamikaze pilots shed tears while eating the eggs.

The calm attitude of these young men did not show that they faced death. At the same time, their calm eyes did not show at all that they were leaving to a tragic battleground.

Many young men lost their lives as kamikaze pilots in the war. They volunteered to protect their country, parents, younger brothers and sisters, and girlfriends.

Today when there are many things and young people have lost their direction, we do not understand things that need love and things that need protection. On the contrary, today there is a tendency to lose sight of even the true meaning of loving, so we in such times need to learn many things from the kamikaze pilots' way of life.

They died with pure feelings, deeply loving their country, loving nature, and loving people.

Appreciating the value of each one of their lives that ended so young,  I believe we at least need to reconsider our country for which they tried desperately to protect and the importance of those people's lives who defended it by sacrificing themselves.

This year I went to study abroad in Seattle in the U.S. It is important for America and Japan, who once took each other's lives, to have true mutual understanding and mutual respect as neighbors. I appreciate the many dear costs paid by the young people in those days as they hoped for Japan's prosperity and peace. Now, with other young people throughout the world, I want to promote peace.

People who do not love their own country can never love foreign countries and people. It is necessary to have an attitude of loving the culture and tradition of one's own country and in the same way respecting other countries. Even though our country bears a painful past of war, we who live now must start to learn about the value of peace and the importance of life and to talk about peace by taking responsibility with pride as Japanese.

I am soon approaching the age when my grandmother's brother died. At that same age when my grandmother's brother lost his life as a kamikaze pilot, I am talking together with young people my age throughout the world and continuing to promote the value of peace and the importance of people's lives.

This year my grandmother, who saw off her brother leaving by waving our country's flag, turned seventy years old. Her brother rests peacefully even now at the Kagoshima Shrine near her home.

Fifty-seven years later, the clear blue sky he loved so much stretches far to every country.

Translated by Bill Gordon
August 2004