Kamikaze Pilot
All personal stories are true and printed in italics as spoken.

He had been given an overnight leave and hurried home to ask the hand of his sweetheart in marriage. His childhood sweetheart agreed, “I will do as Haruo wishes.”

“It’s decided, then. Let’s arrange for the ceremony!” Everyone seemed to say it at once. My mother was weeping. She was my mother, after all. There was no sake, but we had some potato liquor. Mother brought it from the kitchen, together with some sweet-potato stalks and a little dried squid. It was all we had.

We then performed the nuptial ritual, exchanging toasts three times from a tiny cup. My father started to sing the “Takasagoya” wedding song, but when he got to the part about living forever, he fell totally silent. We couldn’t help crying then. We all wept. He knelt in the formal way. I tried to control my tears. My mother ran off to the kitchen. Even now, I can’t take that song. I don’t like going to weddings. I’m reminded of my wedding, not theirs. I can’t seem to keep from crying. At last, my father started again and sang through to the very end.

It was after two o’clock when we finally retired. Dawn came so soon. He didn’t say a thing to me, not one word. He probably couldn’t say what I should do after his death. I wanted to say something to him, but I couldn’t find the words either. At a time like that nothing seems right. I had so many things to say and felt frustrated at my inability to voice my thoughts.

There was the air-raid warning, too. If it had only been a preliminary alert, we could have had some light. Unfortunately, it was a full alert. My mother made some noise in the kitchen. The rain shutters were shut tight. The all-clear probably came about two o’clock. No enemy planes came over, but along the coast the blackout was very strict. Your eyes get used to the dark and you can make things out dimly. I could hear a suppressed sob from my mother.

I sat formally. He did too. I noticed something move and felt his hand grasp mine. I returned his grip. We were so modest. Why were we that bashful in the darkness? We didn’t know anything. We rose at four o’clock in the morning. He left home just after five, not telling us where he was going. “When can I see you again?” I asked. He said only, “I’ll be back when it rains.” He left with those words. We were husband and wife only four hours.

Fate was cruel to the pilots of the kamikazes (Divine Winds), but even more so pilots of the Kaitens (Turning of the Heavens). A few kamikaze pilots were able to survive their fate, but for Kaiten pilots, none that were launched ever survived.

For eleven-year-old Nishihara Wakana, she remembered her brother well. When Minoru entered Tokyo Imperial University, it was a matter of great pride for the family that he was able to gain admission to such a fine school. When he was called to the colors, the family was proud. I remember it quite well. I was really proud of his joining the navy. The year I entered elementary school, they had all become “National Schools” so we received a thorough indoctrination in the notion that we were the Emperor’s children, “little patriots.” It was entirely natural that we would offer our lives to the Emperor.

Besides, we didn’t expect Japan to lose. Even if you went into the military, we believed that would bring brilliant results and we were certain a return home was assured. It never occurred to us to oppose this. On the contrary, a little girl, a third-grader, could brag, “My big brother’s going to war. He’ll be in the navy.” I’m sure my parents felt anxious that their precious son was leaving, but I don’t believe even they imagined he would really die.

When Minoru returned home on leave before leaving for Okinawa, We asked “How come they let you come back?” He just said, “I’ve become important so they allowed it.” I was a child so it didn’t occur to me to doubt the meaning of his words. I took what he said at face value. I clung to him until late into the evening. If I were not careful, I felt, he might disappear, I was so desperately happy! He stayed two nights and returned to the base in Hikari on the third day. This was, according to his diary, his last farewell prior to his departure in a Kaiten.

On his way home to us he wrote in his diary, “I have no confidence in myself. I feel like I may spill it all if I see my parent’s faces,” but he didn’t give us even the slightest inkling of what was ahead. Only my father may have sensed something, because by May 1945—this was after the Tokyo air raid—the word gyokusai (sacrificial battles) was heard everywhere.