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Last Letters of Ensign Ichizō Hayashi to His Mother

Between 1304 and 1328 on April 12, 1945, Ensign Ichizō Hayashi took off from Kanoya Air Base as pilot in a Zero fighter carrying a 250-kg bomb and died in a special (suicide) attack east of Yoronjima at the age of 23. He was a member of the Kamikaze Special Attack Corps 2nd Shichishō [1] Squadron from Genzan (Wonsan) Naval Air Group in Korea. He was from Fukuoka Prefecture, attended Kyōto Imperial University, and was a member of the 14th Class of the Navy's Flight Reserve Students (Hikō Yobi Gakusei).

Hayashi wrote the following letter dated March 31, 1945 [2], at Genzan Air Base in Korea. The poem at the beginning of the letter is the death poem of Yoshida Shōin (1830-1859) in tanka form (31-syllable poem with a syllable pattern of 5-7-5-7-7). Yoshida strongly advocated the Emperor's restoration to power, which challenged the ruling shogunate at the end of the Edo Period.

Dear Mother,

Finally the time has come when I must send you a sad letter.

Parents' heart surpasses children's heart for parents
How will they hear the news of today?

I keenly feel this poem.

I truly was fortunate. I persisted only in my selfishness.

However, I think that even so I behaved like a spoiled child, so please forgive me.

I am happy to have been selected as a Special Attack Corps member and to depart for the front, but I am moved to tears when I think of you.

When I think that you raised me with your hopes and struggles, it is difficult to go and die without doing anything to bring you joy and without providing you peace of mind.

I am an imperfect person, but I cannot possibly tell you to give me up or for you to please be happy that I died splendidly. However, I will not say too much of this type of thing, because you know well my feelings.

When I received a letter a second time about an engagement and other things, I already knew, but I could by no means refuse. In addition, I also still wanted to be taken care of by you. There is nothing that made me happier than letters in those days. I wanted to see you one time and talk seriously, and also I wanted you to hug me before I went to sleep, but Moji turned out to be the final time. I am writing this letter as I wait for the sortie the day after tomorrow. I am looking forward to it since perhaps I may pass above Hakata. I will bid farewell from a distance.

It is regrettable that I could not see Older Sister Chiyoko, since I wanted to tell her thanks. I recall the consideration when I was at home to take the high school examination along with the home in Miyazaki-chō.

Mom, in the end I came to here by going against your advice to me. I want to think that I am happy by following my wishes, but it may have been better if I had done according to what you said.

However, please be glad because I was selected based on exceptional skills. The truth is that with flight hours like ours one cannot go to the front line.

Even among the persons who were selected, it is a special honor to be lead another student like me. Even though I die, Makio is there. Perhaps I am important for you, but if you look on the whole Makio also has points where he can do things and is absolutely a person who can hold his own.

There are also Older Sisters Chiyoko and Hiroko. Isn't there also your promising grandchildren? Since I also always will be next to you, please live your life happily. Your happiness is my happiness. If you are sad, I also will become sad. Please live happily with everyone.

Mother, I am a man. All men born in Japan are men who will take responsibility for the country and go to die. Mother, it is appreciated that you bore and raised a worthy man. You gave to me exceptional enthusiasm. I who you created at this time do not know any way other than to go and fly into the enemy.

I splendidly will sink an enemy aircraft carrier. Please boast to people.

I wrote when I was very ready, and the learning that I received taught me to wait for the feeling to write at the correct time.

In wily thoughts that I am prone to, I am tempted by thoughts that I want to return home to your side, but I cannot do this. When I was baptized, I was told that "I die." Before dying by American bullets, I was told to kill myself by the hands of the savior. Everything is in God's hands. For us who are under God, life and death in this world do not become a problem.

Jesus also prayed before He did what was in His heart. Recently I am reading the Bible every day. When I am reading, I feel that I am near you. I will carry a Bible and hymn book on my plane when I make a crash attack.

Also, I will bring the mission medal that I received from the principal and the good luck charm that I received from you.

On the talk of marriage, since in these conditions it seems that a joke has been played on those people, please politely refuse. I had intended to do so. I thought that if there was time I truly would have married and made you happy.

I must say to you, please forgive me, but I have peace of mind since you will forgive me for everything that I have done.

You are a remarkable person. I always felt that I could not reach your level no matter what I did. You can undertake even things that cause you pain. I could not possibly imitate this. Your weakness is that you love children too much, but it is impossible to say no to this since I like it.

I can go with peace of mind because only you, and also my siblings and friends, know me.

I will make a crash attack while praying to you, since God always attends to your prayers.

I will leave this message with Umeno to pass to you, but absolutely do not show it to other persons. After all, I am embarrassed about it. My dying soon feels in some way like another person's affair. I feel like I can see you again at any time. When I think that I cannot see you, I truly am sad.

Please burn and dispose of my belongings and diaries since they are really dirty things. Please. I am reluctant for you even to look at them. If it is only you, it cannot be helped. However, as for only this, absolutely do not show it to other people, because my superficiality would be exposed. After all, I who am a vain person am reluctant to show my faults. Without fail please burn and dispose of them and do not show them to others. Please dispose of other books in the manner that you wish.

When I joined the military, I strangely gained self-confidence. We were brought up to at least have a beautiful spirit. On the matter of my spirit, I have self-confidence to not be defeated by most things. My surroundings were good. I am grateful for my family, friends, and high school friends.

It has become extremely uncomfortably busy with tomorrow morning's sortie, but I want to at least take advantage of my last words.

Since I only begin to cry with gratefulness when I remember home, I no longer will write about this. I am happy that I was there.

Older Sister Chiyoko probably is worried about Older Brother Hikaru, but he is all right. I have an uncanny conviction.

I hope that Junko and Yōko instead of me will make you happy.

Now the cherry trees are in full bloom. In the schoolyard also horsetail plants must be sprouting. I fondly remember spring vacation. Give my regards to Hagio-sensei, Principal, Senoo-sensei, Aunt Tateishi, Matsuda, Aunt Iguchi, and others. I enjoyed being inside a packed train where a person could not move. As for talk of marriage, I gave my decision that will be commented on by everyone, but I will remember that also as embellishing my end.

My course is plotted on a chart received from Umeno. We will pass above Hakata. We also will pass over Munakata. Looking from a distance from the skies far above I will give my farewell to Nishi Park with its cherry trees.

Mother, please be glad that a person like me could become a Special Attack Corps member, since it will be a splendid death in battle even though I die and since we can rely on Christianity.

However, Mother, even so you will be sad. Please cry when you are sad. I also am sad and will cry with you. I will be glad if you cry to your heart's content.

I will be singing a hymn when I crash into an enemy ship.

There are still things that I want to write, but I will stop now.

Since you know anything and everything about me, I was thinking that my feelings are as you would think. Even though I joined the military, my spirit that depends on you has grown stronger since by no means have I lost my original spirit.

Mother, please live a long life in good health. Please.

Older Sister Chiyoko, Older Sister Hiroko, Makio, Junko, Yōko, and Hiroaki, please live long lives happily and comfortably.

It has become a strange letter, but I will send it as is since it is troublesome to rewrite it.

Mother, please take care of yourself. Please.

Day before sortie

Farewell, Ichizō

At Kanoya Air Base, Hayashi wrote the following final letter to his mother:

I trust that you are doing well.

Our name is the Kamikaze Shichishō Unit. Today half of the unit made crash dives against the enemy fleet in the decisive battle off Okinawa. Our sorties also will be decided in two or three days. Surprisingly, they may be on Buddha's birthday. I am stretched out on the floor of a makeshift officers' barracks in a school at Kanoya Base. Since there are no electric lights, we built a fire, and I am writing this with its light.

Military results have been achieved one after another, and we who will follow are in very high spirits. In the evening I took a stroll and lied down in a field of Chinese milk vetch, where I recalled the past. Coming from Korea to a southern land resulted in a complete change, and I was surprised that cherry blossoms were falling. However, the warm greenery of a southern place seems to thrill my eyes and reminds me of home.

Mother, even though I die, please do not feel lonely. I am grateful because it will be an honorable death in battle and also I will leave to go to a battle that will determine the Empire's destiny. I did not pass over Hakata after I entered Kyūshū by plane, but I sang songs to my heart's content and was reluctant to part. I do not have many regrets. I left with Umeno the things that I wanted to say. Here I am writing news.

After I die in battle, please handle my things as you wish. Since I have neglected my correspondence everywhere and have not sent letters, please do not forget to give my regards to others. I am making you clean up this final mess, but even though I want to write, there is no longer such free time.

Today again men who go and will not return departed one after another to pursue enemy ships. I wish that I could show you the gallant spirit at the base. Please be sure to burn my diary and other papers, since they absolutely must not be shown to others. It is fine if persons only like you read them. Be sure to do it.

As for the men's sortie uniforms, each person had a rising sun (red circle) hachimaki (headband) over the flight cap and wore a pure white muffler like the raid of the loyal retainers [3].

I will go carrying the flag that you gave me where these words are written, "even though a thousand may fall to the right and ten thousand to the left."

I will go with your photo firmly next to my heart. Also one of Makio.

I certainly will carry out a hitchū gōchin (sure hit, instant sinking). One ship among the battle results will be mine. Until the end I am determined to do it thoroughly and certainly.

You must be watching. Since you must be praying, I will carry out a crash dive with peace of mind.

At our farewell, we will get inarizushi (flavored boiled rice wrapped in bean curd) and yōkan (sweet jellied azuki-bean paste). It is very nice that we can bring a bentō box lunch. I kept the katsuobushi (small pieces of sliced dried bonito fish) that I received from Tateishi and will bring it with me, since I must go through the sea a little to go to your place.

I wrote a postcard to Makio and Older Sister Hiroko together. If we could somehow meet, there are many things to talk about, but there is nothing. It is because everyone was happy. On the contrary, I think that there is nothing to write, but give my regards.

It seems somewhat like a dream, since tomorrow I will not be here.

I can't imagine that the persons who left yesterday are dead. I feel like they somehow suddenly will return again. However, please simply accept it. "Let the dead bury their dead" [4], since afterward there will be lots of people. Everyone, please live happily. Among us there are also only-child with single-mother persons. When I reflect back, Hakata that I saw in the movie Rikugun (Army) was the last time. I wanted to return to Hakata once more.

Mother, since I will complain no longer, you also please do not complain about me. I do not mind if you cry, and please cry. Nevertheless, please do not mourn for me too much. I have been treated with affection by many people. Was there some good in me? I am confident that even for someone such as me there were a few merits. Dying as a good-for-nothing after all would be rather heart-breaking.

The enemy's actions are being blunted. There will be victory for us. It will be the last finishing blow by our crash dives. I am happy.

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain [5]. I truly can feel this keenly. I am grateful that I am living. However, it is a marvel that we are living now. Naturally we are persons who must die. I do not think to attach a reason to our dying. I only seek the enemy to make a crash dive.

I was spoiled by you. When I think about it now, it was more than I deserved. I am proud that my circumstances were good. I will maintain this pride until the end. If these circumstances were taken away from me, I would be nothing. I am quite a loafer, and I am grateful that I could go away alone in front of other people. It has become somewhat strange talk, but today I am a little sleepy. If there is time again, I will add to what I have written.

It is good not to be too reluctant to part. About here I will bid farewell to you. My sorrow at parting is never-ending. I will bid farewell. I go to heaven shortly before you. I wonder if you can help me get into heaven, so please pray for me, since it would be unbearable to not go to the place where you will come.

Mother, farewell.


He continued the letter to his mother with this part written on April 9. The section begins with a poem in haiku form (17-syllable poem with lines of 5-7-5 syllables).

Frogs croaking
Footpath between paddy fields
Quiet evening

Last night I remembered dearly my home when I went out for a stroll and lay down in a field of Chinese milk vetch. My friends told me that I smelled like my mother. They said that they felt a sense of mother and child.

I was happy. My gift that surpassed everything was that I was treated with affection by other people. Even though I may get angry, at this time I am calmed by thoughts of fondly-remembered persons and by thoughts of beautiful people.

I will continue my efforts until the end to not lose my pride that I had friends who were beautiful people. The Yoshino cherry blossoms already have fallen. Every morning when I wash my face in a stream, it reminds me of the stream where daffodil flowers bloomed at our countryside home where lotus flowers bloomed.

Tomorrow I will make a hitchū (sure-hit) attack on a group of enemy aircraft carriers. The anniversary of my death perhaps will be April 10.

If you have a Buddhist memorial service, you will have a happy meal with the whole family, won't you? A drizzling homeland rain is falling. Someone is playing on the organ the song that begins "Rain rain, fall fall, mother." There is nothing to write. If I could talk to you, there probably would be a lot to talk about, but it is because you know everything about me. My memories are never-ending, but being absorbed in memories is not very manlike, is it?

Hayashi continued the letter to his mother with this part written at the end of the day on April 11:

While I have been saying that today is the day, today is the day, the 11th also has passed. I wonder if my figure looked dashing at the command post. From among several men who were there, a press crewman specially took photographs of two or three of us.

Afterward, the Commander in Chief of the Combined Fleet went out of his way to visit our barracks and gave us words of encouragement, "Please do your best." Thinking that the Empire's fate rests on our shoulders, we were made to feel truly grateful for innumerable honors. Tomorrow I will carry out a hisshi hitchū (certain-death, sure-hit) attack.

Mother, I wrote about general things, didn't I? Today I gathered with friends at the school's organ and sang hymns.

Letters translated by Bill Gordon
September and October 2019

The letters come from Kaga (1995, 55-79). The biographical information in the first paragraph comes from Kaigun Hikō Yobi Gakusei Dai 14 Ki Kai (1995, 77), Matsugi (1971, 61), and Osuo (2005, 200). The photograph comes from Tada (2007, 39).


1. Shichishō means "seven lives." According to legend, "shichishō hōkoku" (seven lives to serve the country) were the last words of 14th-century samurai Kusunoki Masashige.

2. Nihon Senbotsu Gakusei Kinenkai 1995, 343.

3. This is a reference to an 18th-century historical event when 47 rōnin (masterless samurai warriors) avenged the death of their master.

4. This is a quote from Jesus in the Bible (Matthew 8:22).

5. Matsugi (1971, 66) has the following words: "For to us, to live is Christ, and to die also is Christ." However, this is not the correct quotation from the Bible for Philippians 1:21. The King James Version reads, "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." This is the same as the words in Kaga (1995, 71), so these have been used.

Sources Cited

Kaga, Hiroko, ed. 1995. Hi nari tate nari: Hayashi Ichizō ikōshū / Nikki, haha e no tegami (Sun and shield: Writings left by Ichizō Hayashi / Diary, letters to mother). Fukuoka: Tōka Shobō.

Kaigun Hikō Yobi Gakusei Dai 14 Ki Kai (Navy Flight Reserve Students 14th Class Association), ed. 1995. Zoku Ā dōki no sakura: Wakaki senbotsu gakusei no shuki (Continuation Ah, cherry blossoms of same class: Writings of young students who died in war). Tōkyō: Kōjinsha.

Matsugi, Fujio, ed. 1971. Kaigun tokubetsu kōgekitai no isho (Last letters of Navy Special Attack Corps). Tōkyō: KK Bestsellers.

Nihon Senbotsu Gakusei Kinenkai (Japan Memorial Society for the Students Killed in the War), comp. 1995. Shinpan kike wadatsumi no koe: Nihon senbotsu gakusei no shuki (Listen to the voices of the sea new edition: Writings of Japanese students who died in war). Originally published in 1949. Tōkyō: Iwanami Shoten.

Osuo, Kazuhiko. 2005. Tokubetsu kōgekitai no kiroku (kaigun hen) (Record of special attack corps (Navy)). Tōkyō: Kōjinsha.

Tada, Shigeharu. 2007. Haha e no isho: Okinawa tokkō Hayashi Ichizō (Final letters to his mother: Ichizō Hayashi, Okinawan special attack corps member). Fukuoka: Genshobo.