Chiran Peace Museum for Kamikaze Pilots
History and museums
The airbase at Chiran, Minamikyūshū, Kagoshima, Japan, served as the departure point for hundreds of Special Attack or kamikaze sorties launched in the final months of World War II. A peace museum dedicated to the pilots, the Chiran Peace Museum for Kamikaze Pilots (知覧特攻平和会館, Chiran Tokkō-Heiwa-Kaikan), now marks the site.
The Imperial Japanese Army airbase at Chiran, Kagoshima, with its two runways, was the principal kamikaze base during the Battle of Okinawa. Of the 1,036 army aviators who died in these attacks, 439 were from Chiran. Of the total number, 335 were classed as "young boy pilots" (少年飛行兵).
In 1975 a museum was built to commemorate the lives of the pilots and document their "patriotic efforts for peace". Enlarged in 1986, exhibits include four planes: a Nakajima Ki-43 Hayabusa, a 1943 Kawasaki Ki-61 Hien, a 1944 Nakajima Ki-84 Hayate, and a Mitsubishi Zero recovered from the seabed in 1980. On a personal level, the exhibit includes letters, poems, essays, testaments, and other artefacts; as well as photographs of the 1,036 pilots, arranged in the order in which they died. There is also the grand piano on which two of the pilots played the Moonlight Sonata the night before their final mission.
The Tokkō Kannondō (特攻観音堂) is a temple dedicated to the "Special Attack Goddess of Mercy". The image enshrined within is a 1.8m replica statue of the Yumechigai Kannon (夢違観音 Dream-Changing Kannon), a National Treasure at Hōryū-ji. The names of the kamikaze pilots are written on paper within her womb. It was erected in 1955 thanks to donations collected by Tome Torihama, who ran the Tomiya Inn frequented by the pilots, and who sought to redeem their memory after the war. Stone lanterns dedicated to the pilots line the approach to the museum.
The Firefly (ホタル Hotaru): popular Japanese film of 2001, directed by Yasuo Furuhata and centered around the character of Tome Torihama, who ran the Tomiya Inn in Chiran and treated the young kamikaze pilots as if they were her own sons.
I go to die for you (俺は、君のためにこそ死ににいく Ore wa, kimi no tame ni koso shini ni iku): 2007 film with screenplay by Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara, based on his conversations with Tome Torihama, who died in 1992.
On 15 August each year, the anniversary of the date on which Emperor Hirohito announced the Japanese surrender, right-wing groups drive through Chiran in trucks blaring nationalist messages and songs. Over the rest of the year, up to a million visitors come to pay tribute to the fallen.