Life and Death

 Commanding Officer of Kaiten Mission at Hachijo-jima Island Base (The war ended while the group was waiting for their dispatch.)
Lieutenant Toshiharu Konada (Chairperson of Kaiten Society)

In front of "Yushukan" at Yasukuni Shrine
(Chairperson Konada was explaining about Kaiten to the prince and princess "Takamatsu.")
A Brief Summary of his career: Born in Hiroshima and a graduate of the 72nd Naval Academy. After the war, he graduated from Kyoto University, Dept. of Fishery, then joined a fishery company and was engaged in whaling in the South Seas while he made a great effort to create the "Kaiten Kensho-kai" and "Kaiten-kai (Kaiten Society)."

Launch test at Kaiten Base (at Kabajima Island)


Life and Death 

Among the instincts that living things have, the strongest is the one to preserve individual organisms.

Whether one is conscious about it or not, life is the most precious thing to everyone. Each of us have only one life. It is quite easy to think about death vaguely. However, only those who face death know the horror of death. They themselves selected the way to death, trained to die and died without sharing any doubts only because they had the clear motivation beyond death.

Send-off ceremony, Sub-lieutenant Konada was offered Sake

Kaiten did not have any escape system, nor communication system. Once it starts, one could not stop and restart it. Once launched from its mother sub, there was no chance to return alive regardless of the results.

The 72nd Naval Academy graduates were on the whole, good-natured people of few words except wild Ishikawa who had his own way. Even if we all lived in the same room, I had no memory to talk about "Life and Death" with them. They remained calm when departing to their death place and they looked just the same even when they came back due to the disorder of Kaiten just before its launch. Fallen cherry blossoms... Even those remained would be sure to fall. Without saying anything, we all understood each other well.

Although I am not sure whether the others felt the same way, I would recall my days and would like to explain my mental process in order.

Afte arriving at Otsushima Island, I was told that all of us here would smash into the enemy fleet one month later from now. I stood in silent awe and felt both my body & soul as it grew tense. I was determined to exchange my life with the biggest enemy ship. In order to achieve that, the first thing I had to do was to realize how to make full use of the performance of Kaiten and to master it.

For Hachijo-jima Island
(From the left) Flight Petty Officer 1st Class Sakurai, Sato and Suzuki, Sub-lieutenant Konada, Sub-lieutenant Takahashi, Flight Petty Officer 1st Class Saito, Yamada and Nagata

When I recovered my composure, all kinds of memories were brought back in rapid succession. I tried very hard to make sure of and to systematize the meaning of my death.

...Stood on the hill in Otsushima Island and looked at the distant haze-covered mountains on Honshu, the main island of Japan. I realized, "I can give up my life in order to protect the beautiful mountains, rivers and the people living there. I could die without regret by changing myself into a bullet if my life could help to prevent the enemy's advance." I really felt like that. Since then, I had never worried about my own death.

At Sokodo, Hachijo-jima Island
(From the left) Flight Petty Officer 1st Class Suzuki, Sakurai, Sub-lietenant Konada and Flight Petty Officer 1st Class Sato

I appreciated and enjoyed every meal. I was surprised to find myself feeling how tasty each dish was.

Many soldiers died for the sake of the Emperor. However, didn't they have any doubt before their death only with this belief? I understand they could do that for the limitless love to their fellow countrymen, fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters through the Emperor. From the beginning, I admired the Emperor. Even now, the Emperor is one of the people I respect the most. However, I think something that abstract does not have enough power to make us convinced at the very critical moment.

Sokodo Base: Beside the Kaiten launch site

Kaiten pilots from Youth Flying Corps were all young and pure-hearted. Because of this, "life and death" did not seem to matter to them at all. However, I heard, when they had some doubt at the sortie, they told themselves, "we could lay our lives in order to protect Japanese chaste maidens"....  

...Before the war, the Japanese were really beautiful people. Japan was a wonderful country so we all thought we had to protect Japan by sacrificing our own lives. If we thought Japan was worthless, nobody would have tried to protect it by giving up their precious lives.

I would not like to see the day that Japan would face the situation which needs Special Attack Forces. However, I sincerely hope that we can create a great country where everyone can feel that "when the country faces danger, we would do anything to protect it."


Kaiten to Wagakurasu (Kaiten and my class) (Naval Academy 72nd graduate "Naniwa" Society)
Gyokusaisen to Tokubetsukogekitai (Banzai Charge and Special Attack Forces) (Shinjinbutsuorai-sha)