Koukuu tokkou "Chiran" o
jugyou suru (Teaching classes about "Chiran" aerial special
edited by Isao Saruwatari
Meiji Tosho, 2003, 146 pages
Over 400 Japanese Army kamikaze pilots departed from Chiran Air Base between
March and June 1945 to make attacks on Allied ships near Okinawa. The small town
of Chiran, located in the southernmost prefecture of mainland Japan, has become
famous for its two museums and other memorials related to kamikaze pilots. This
book by the Kagoshima chapter of the Teacher's Organization of Skill Sharing
(TOSS) contains sixteen one-hour lesson plans about Chiran for classes primarily
in upper-elementary grades.
Sixteen different elementary school teachers in Kagoshima Prefecture, where
Chiran is located, wrote the lesson plans included in this book. The authors
used these lessons for the curriculum in elementary school ethics or social
studies, with one exception being a Japanese language lesson with focus on last
letters written by kamikaze pilots. The objectives of the various lessons fall
into three main categories: (1) explain basic facts concerning the Pacific War and the
kamikaze attacks, (2) tell about young men who gave their lives for their
families and country, and (3) describe the love that Tome Torihama, who ran a
restaurant in Chiran, showed toward the young men about to depart on suicide
The methods used to teach the classes include showing photos, telling basic facts of kamikaze operations and Japan's war from 1931-45, asking opinion
questions, reading short letters written by kamikaze pilots, and having students
write their own opinions and feelings. A few teachers also showed excerpts from a
video documentary that displays actual footage of kamikaze attacks on Allied
ships. Several lesson plans include the question as to whether the kamikaze
pilots volunteered, were ordered, or were partially coerced. The students in one
sixth-grade class had the following answers: 12 for "volunteered," 14 for
"ordered," and 4 for "partially coerced" (p. 137). The
teacher explains in the book that cases existed in each of these three categories.
Historical photos play a large role in these classes on Chiran's
aerial special attacks made by kamikaze pilots. Teachers most frequently use the photo of five smiling
pilots with one holding a puppy (see photo on Home
Page) in order for students
to recognize the pilots' young ages. The lesson plans use this photo to explain that most
kamikaze pilots were from 17 to 22 years of age. Several teachers also use the
photo at left, which shows Tome Torihama smiling together with six kamikaze
pilots. These classes on ethics explain that Tome treated the pilots as if they
were her own sons when they visited the restaurant she operated in Chiran.
with kamikaze pilots
Kagoshima Prefecture had several Navy and Army air
bases from which kamikaze planes took off to attack ships off Okinawa. As a
result, the lessons in this book can successfully be taught as local history to
young students in Kagoshima, since some may have visited the Chiran Peace Museum
for Kamikaze Pilots or may have some previous knowledge about kamikaze from
their family. However, teachers outside of Kagoshima rarely teach these lessons.
Even in Kagoshima, these classes on Chiran and kamikaze pilots have only started
recently as Chiran has grown in fame over the past couple of decades.
Interestingly, in comparison to the Army Air Base at Chiran, about twice as many
kamikaze pilots took off from Kanoya Naval Air Base, also located in Kagoshima.
However, this book barely mentions Kanoya, which reflects the much greater
promotional efforts of Chiran that have resulted in the town becoming better
known than Kanoya for kamikaze.
Although most lesson plans target students in
fourth to sixth grades, the book includes a third-grade lesson plan, and one
teacher even taught this subject to first graders. The first-grade teacher read
aloud from a picture book entitled Hotaru (Firefly), which tells the
story of a kamikaze pilot who told Tome Torihama that he would return as a
firefly the next evening since he planned to fly to Okinawa the following day.
The next evening a firefly entered Tome's restaurant, and everyone there thought
it must be the pilot who said he would return. The teacher also read two
letters, one to a kamikaze pilot's five-year-old son and two-year-old daughter
and the other to another pilot's younger sister. The first graders gave
their impressions at the end of class, including the following ones (pp. 54-5):
- Returning as a firefly was interesting.
- I cried a little, but this class was interesting. There were times there
were tears in my eyes.
- I was sad. I almost cried. It was sad.
- It was sad. It would be scary if there were a war now.
- The story about kamikaze pilots was sad.
- It was sad that the planes exploded.
- When people went to war, it was sad.
- When there is a war, it's sad that everyone dies.
- It's bad if a person dies.
- It was sad. If there were war now, I would want it to stop.
- The kamikaze pilots were also lonely. (comment about letters)
- I thought it was great that Tome told everyone about the
war even after the war ended.
- What would have happened if I had lived then?