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Tokkoubana (Tokko Flowers)
by Chiho Nakata
Poplar Publishing, 2009, 83 pages

Chiho Nakata, a professional Japanese photographer, authored the 2008 book "Tokkoubana" tte shitteru? (Do you know about "tokko flowers"?). Although she wrote in detail in 2008 about her photos of tokko (special attack or kamikaze) flowers, that book only had small black-and-white photos throughout it, seven pages in front and back with larger color photos, and two pages in back with about 70 very small photos. This 2009 book entitled Tokkoubana (Tokko Flowers) complements very well her prior book, since this more recent book is filled with large color photos.

The photos focus on tokko flowers of Kikaijima, a small island about halfway between Kyushu and Okinawa that was used by both the Japanese Navy and Army for kamikaze sorties during the Battle of Okinawa. The book also includes various photos of Kikaijima landscape and young and elderly residents. The book has several photos of three WWII veterans who Nakata has met:

  • Yasuto Ichikawa - former naval transport plane pilot whose friend, Atsushi Ohshima, planted some tokko flowers at Kikaijima when he landed there, but his transport plane that took off from Kikaijima got shot down when it was ambushed by two enemy fighters
  • Tadamasa Itatsu - former Army kamikaze pilot who served as first director of the Chiran Peace Museum for Kamikaze Pilots and accompanied Chiho Nakata on one trip to Kikaijima
  • Shigeyoshi Hamazono - former Navy kamikaze pilot who survived two kamikaze missions

In much the same way as her book "Tokkoubana" tte shitteru? (Do you know about "tokko flowers"?), Nakata presents her personal story chronologically from when she first went to Kikaijima in 2001 to photograph tokko flowers at age 19. However, only ten or so pages of text greatly limit the details of her biography in this book filled with photos, so reading her prior book will provide a better understanding of the reasons for her emotional ties to tokko flowers.

Although many photos are the same between Nakata's 2008 and 2009 books, the most recent book shows her photos in color, provides larger photos, and includes several new photos not included in her earlier book. Nakata explains her interest in Japanese special attacks, "If you know about war, I think you can know about peace" (p. 77). Former kamikaze pilot Tadamasa Itatsu told her when he visited Kikaijima, "A young person like you continuing to do this (take photos of tokko flowers) for so long is proof that the deaths of kamikaze pilots [1] were not in vain" (p. 25).


Tadamasa Itatsu, former kamikaze pilot and
first director of Chiran Peace Museum
for Kamikaze Pilots, lies down among
tokko flowers of Kikaijima

Note

1. Itatsu uses the word tokkoutaiin, which literally means Special Attack Corps members.