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Last Letters of Ensign Bun'ya Motoi to His Family and Younger Sister

On January 12, 1945, Ensign Bun'ya [1] Motoi died in a special (suicide) attack at the age of 19 when submarine I-36 launched his kaiten manned torpedo at Ulithi Atoll. On December 30, 1944, submarine I-36 made a sortie from Ōtsushima Kaiten Base in Yamaguchi Prefecture with four kaiten pilots who were members of the Kaiten Special Attack Corps Kongō Unit. All of submarine I-36's four kaiten pilots died when launched on January 12. Motoi was from Niigata Prefecture and graduated in the 54th Class of the Naval Engineering College. He received a promotion to Lieutenant after his death by special attack.

He wrote the following final letter to his family:

These are matters that I leave with you.

When I die, I absolutely request that you do not construct a separate grave just for me apart from the family's ancestral grave.

Furthermore, since there is not one thing to be buried, I enclose here ahead of time my hair. Please place this in the Motoi family grave.

My spirit certainly will return to the place of my ancestors.

Also, I pray for prosperity forever for the Empire.

Motoi wrote the following letter to his younger sister two days before his death:

Dear Masako,

When I depart, my only worry is about the family. Father has worked very hard since he was young. My aspiration to be a military man was my desire from elementary school, and my determination only strengthened all the more when I entered junior high school. At that time Father already had become elderly. In addition to this, try as I might I would not have been able to make Father work so that I could go to the university. Also, for the family, I knew well that I did not have any spare time. A military man was a person who quickly became independent. And Father also desired that I become self-supporting quickly. (portion omitted) What I have mentioned were all dreams in a period of peace.

In 1941, it finally was the Greater East Asia War. With battles that would decide the fate of our country and fighting for our homeland, at that time I already was thinking about what would be good for our family.

As the oldest son, I perhaps showed a great lack of responsibility. My Father and Mother truly were wonderful as a father and mother. They always were devoted to me and said, "Do as you like in a way that you want to advance. Do what you want without thinking of family matters." Because of that, I came here with peace of mind. (portion omitted)

Human feelings are shallow. Do not depend on people. From now on there will be still more hardships for the Motoi Family. However, please bear that bravely as a family of a military country. Whether you succeed me in the Motoi Family or whether Younger Brother Fumiaki succeeds me as older brother, either one is fine. Only one word, I trust you with this afterward. Please raise little Fumiaki excellently.

Finally, as the oldest son and as your older brother, I regret that there was nothing that I did for the family and was not able to do anything for you. I apologize.

When I saw the film Young Girl's Friend (Shōjo no Tomo), the people on a South Seas island were glad for the days that rain fell. That was because afterward fine weather would come. They did not know whether it would come several days later or several years later. However, it certainly would come. Hardships are coming after this. Do your best to bear them well.

Older Brother

January 10, 1945

Letters translated by Bill Gordon
January 2019

The letters come from Matsugi (1971, 106-8). The biographical information in the first paragraph comes from Konada and Kataoka (2006, 101-4), Matsugi (1971, 106), and Mediasion (2006, 48-9, 79).


1. Mediasion (2006, 79) and Kaiten Group "Kongo" (January 2, 2019) give the pronunciation of Motoi's given name as Bun'ya, but Konada and Kataoka (2006, 101) indicate the pronunciation is Fumiya.

Sources Cited

Konada, Toshiharu, and Noriaki Kataoka. 2006. Tokkō kaiten sen: Kaiten tokkōtai taichō no kaisō (Special attack kaiten battles: Kaiten special attack corps leader's reminiscences). Tōkyō: Kōjinsha.

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

The Mediasion Co. 2006. Ningen gyorai kaiten (Kaiten human torpedo). Hiroshima: The Mediasion Co.