Shiragiku rensō (Shiragiku Associations)
by Yasuo Kikuchi
Bungeisha, 2007, 206 pages
Shiragiku, meaning white chrysanthemum, signifies a Japanese Navy training
plane used for suicide attacks during the latter part of the Battle of Okinawa.
Although the author, Yasuo Kikuchi, briefly explores his mental associations
with the Shiragiku trainer, the book seems to be mistitled since most material
has little or nothing to do with the Shiragiku. Instead, Kikuchi focuses on his
experiences as a meteorologist in the Japanese Navy during the last year of
In October 1944, Kikuchi entered the Hamana Naval Unit in Shizuoka Prefecture
after graduation during the previous month from the Physics School in Tōkyō. He trained
to be a technical junior officer in the specialty of meteorology. He received
practical training at a weather observation post in Odawara City in Kanagawa
Prefecture. In early May 1945, he transferred to the Ōi Air Group in Shizuoka
Prefecture, where he made weather maps and prepared weather forecasts. In June
1945, he transferred to the newly formed Yamato Air Group in Nara Prefecture.
These transfers reflect the reorganizations carried out by the Japanese Navy
late in the war to prepare for the expected American invasion of mainland Japan.
Kikuchi mentions that the Yamato Air Group sent Shiragiku trainers to Kanoya Air
Base for special (suicide) attacks, but no planes ever participated in suicide
missions as only those Shiragiku trainers from Kōchi Naval Air Group took
off from Kanoya toward Okinawa during nighttime special attacks.
Right after the end of the war in August 1945, Kikuchi traveled by train and ferry to
Sado Island, off the coast of Niigata Prefecture, to where his parents had
evacuated to escape American bombings of Tōkyō. He soon returned to Tōkyō and
began his career as a science and physics teacher at several high schools and
junior high schools. He also served as vice-principal and in retirement
continued to work part-time as an educational consultant for a Tōkyō educational
The book has a loose structure with no explanation at the beginning of its
scope and purpose. Various articles on different topics written in varying years
from 1969 to 2007 cover mainly Kikuchi's war experiences but also other subjects
such as his postwar trips, his time in the Physics School in Tōkyō, bushidō (way
of warrior), and the postwar collapse (kuzure) of those men who had been members
of the Special Attack Forces. The book's first half generally has stories
related to the war, and the last half mostly covers other subjects or specific
wartime topics. His postwar trips to war museums at Chiran and Kanoya and to war sites in Okinawa provide settings for his reflections on his wartime
experiences. For example, as he views a small wooden model of a Shiragiku
trainer on display at Kanoya Air Base Museum, he reflects on the slow
nighttime flights at 120 knots per hour only 100 meters above the waves in order
to avoid American radar. He explains in this section what Shiragiku means to him
For me, the word Shiragiku (white chrysanthemum) is not the flower of the
beautiful, pure chrysanthemum plant. It is a word that extends to tragic
associations: training planes, tokkōtai (special attack squadrons), Kanoya Base,
and flying in the sky toward Okinawa.
Although this memoir has the title of Shiragiku Associations, this does not
mean that information presented about Shiragiku trainers is accurate. The book
incorrectly states that about 107 Shiragiku planes took off toward Okinawa and
did not return (p. 55). Actually, the Shiragiku was a two-man plane, and only 54
Shiragiku trainers sortied on suicide missions and did not return. The author
erroneously writes that all Shiragiku aircraft took off from Kanoya Air Base (p.
80), but in reality 26 went from Kanoya, and 28 sortied from Kushira Air Base.
In the section describing his visit to the Chiran Peace Museum for Kamikaze
Pilots, he mistakenly writes that 1,036 men died in sorties from Chiran Base
whereas actually only 402 pilots died in special attack missions from Chiran . The number
of 1,036 represents the total number of Army airmen from all bases (mainly
Chiran, Kengun, Bansei, and Miyakonojō) who died in attacks around Okinawa,
starting on March 26, 1945.
This wartime memoir presents some interesting experiences of a meteorologist
who was a junior naval officer, but the book suffers from disorganization and
repetition. The cover shows the outline of a Shiragiku trainer above the clouds,
but this image and the title fool the reader since Kikuchi never served as an
1. Chiran Tokkō 2005, 69.
Chiran Tokkō Irei Kenshō Kai (Chiran Special Attack
Memorial Society), ed. 2005. Konpaku no kiroku: Kyū rikugun tokubetsu
kōgekitai chiran kichi (Record of departed spirits: Former Army Special
Attack Corps Chiran Base). Revised edition, originally published in 2004. Chiran Town, Kagoshima
Prefecture: Chiran Tokkō Irei Kenshō Kai.