Let me start this post with a letter from the mother of Cpt. Saburou Ishikura. A short letter and probably written in tears.
“Don’t forget to say “Namuamidabutsu”
When you are going to attack with the bomb
This is the last letter from your mother
I wont say anything else
Don’t forget to say it. “Namuamidabutsu”
I will see you in heaven in front of Amida Buddha
This is the deepest desire from your mother.
Don’t forget to say it.
The Kamikaze Peace Museum in Chiran was built to commemorate the short lives of 1036 bright young Japanese warriors called Kamikaze pilots between the ages of 17-32, who valiantly fought during the final stage of the second world war.
The word Kamikaze was aptly used to describe these young and bright pilots which literally translates to “Divine Wind”. The word Kamikaze was the name of the great typhoon that saved Japan in 1281 when the great warrior Kublai Khan of Mongolia sailed with a huge armada from China to invade and conquer the country.
Japan at that time was very poor and didn’t have the machinery and warriors to fight the enemy. But as the armada was so close to the shores, the typhoon struck, destroying almost all the ships and soldiers. The Japanese people revered the typhoon and came to believe that another typhoon will come and save Japan if ever the country will have a crisis again.
When the Allied Forces landed on the Kerama archipelago, southwest of Okinawa, the Japanese military leaders believed that they will lose the war. It is with this thought that they have to defend Okinawa at all cost as the island was really important to the country’s defense. Then the government decided to attack the Allied Forces warships using airplanes loaded with 550 pound bomb crashing into ships and aircraft carrier. It was a battle between the material strength of the Allied Forces and the spiritual strength of Japan.
As soon as we enter the museum, we were greeted by the loving portraits of these warriors, taken one by one before they took off. Everything was written in Japanese and my initial reaction was how unfriendly the museum was for a non-Japanese speaking visitor like me. We couldn’t be more luckier as the Director of Museum invited us to the Conference Hall and there he gave us the lecture about the Mind of a Kamikaze . His name was Takeshi Kawatoko. By the way, they provide headsets too, just in case you come and visit this museum one day and I fervently hope so.
With the help of of Mr. Kawatoko, we were able to relate to the overflowing emotions of the Kamikaze pilots. With his powerpoint presentation, we were able to understand the meaning behind the strokes, the love behind the words, the fear beyond death, and the courage beyond life. It takes a lot of self control before one actually says, I cried, I wept, I loved.
Below are some of the letters written the night before they took off…. And by the way, “Namuamidabutsu” is believed to be uttered before dying so one would be assured of dying peacefully in heaven. His mother would have wanted to write more. But Death is such a tricky friend, a lonesome companion and someone you should never be acquainted to. At least in this scenario.
In the letter of 2nd LT Hujio Wakamatsu, 19 years old, his love to his mother was overflowing. We could feel his heart pounding, crying as if he wanted to get out…
I am satisfied with my life
I will smile when I get to the ship
This is my last and first piety for you, mother
Please do not cry for me. Please encourage me with praise
I enclose a doll. You can keep him as me”
How could one write a letter before dying? I could only surmise the gamut of emotions, the loneliness and fear and most importantly, the need for such tender loving care, be it brief, short and utterly fleeting……it was never too easy to be a Kamikaze.
In the short letter of Cpt Hokkaido Maeda “ Who will cry for me when I die?” shows that death could just be a number, easily forgotten.
And in the letter of 2nd LT Torao Kato, he mentioned in his brief letter, probably the shortest one to his mother.
“ Dearest Mother,
Please live a long life with full of vigor
I will destroy a big one”
I hope we’ll never use humans as shields again. And yes, Namuamidabutsu!
Long live the spirit of the Kamikaze!
————Special thanks to Takeshi Kawawotoko (some of his words were used here…)