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Hirao Kaiten Monument
Hirao Town, Yamaguchi Prefecture

Hirao Kaiten Base opened in March 1945 as the Japanese Navy's third kaiten training base after Otsushima and Hikari, also located in Yamaguchi Prefecture. Nine kaiten pilots from Hirao died during WWII, and this monument erected in 1959 honors these men. A sign in front of the monument summarizes the history of the kaiten base and monument:

Special Attack Corps
Human Torpedo Kaiten Monument

In March 1945 when the buds on the cherry trees were swelling, a kaiten sortie and training base was established here at the tip of Atata Peninsula. At the base petty officers not even 18 years of age and youthful officers in their early twenties sacrificed themselves and devoted their time to rigorous training day and night in order to protect their country.

The word "kaiten" has the meaning of "restore power of waning country." This kaiten special attack weapon, also called a "human torpedo," had a length of 15 meters, a diameter of 1 meter, and a speed of 30 knots or 56 km/hour. It was designed based on the Type 93 torpedo, considered to be world-class in those days. The front tip was filled with 1.55 tons of explosives, and one pilot rode in a seat in the middle section. It was called a "sure-death" weapon as he rammed the kaiten into an enemy ship while steering it.

For training in the beginning stages, there were round trips around Hirao Bay. Later they left the waters of Zoshiseto and made crossings between the three small islands of Ushima, Umashima, and Kanoushima. They had rigorous training in which they practiced attacks against moving ships at dawn or dusk. They usually carried these out while submerged, but at times they surfaced and hit a target ship while making visual observations through a periscope.

On July 18, 1945, Submarine I-58, carrying six kaiten, left from Hirao Base. Five young men gave their lives in kaiten attacks in Okinawan waters. In addition, three kaiten crewmen died during rigorous training at Hirao, and one person took his own life soon after the end of the war.

In August 1945 came the end of the tragic war that had taken the precious lives of these youths who had great promise. Soon Japan miraculously recovered its national strength and started to enjoy peace. This was a gift based on the noble sacrifices of all of those men who went before. Here at Atata we again offer up our true thanks, and we solemnly pray for the souls of those for whom Atata was the final place of their lives.

In July 1959, this monument was erected here to pass down to future generations the importance of peace. This kaiten monument was erected through the cooperation of Kouji Tani, factory manager at Matsukura Kaiji Corp., and placed on the company's land. Afterward, the monument was maintained with care by persons associated with Matsukura Kaiji Corp. and Hirao Kogyo Corp. Now due to repair work of the Hirao Bay harbor, there was no choice but to move it. In November 2004, the monument was restored and moved here through donations from the Hirao Kaiten Association and with the cooperation of various persons related to the kaiten monument.

The Hirao Branch of the Otake Submarine School also had a training base, adjacent to the kaiten base, that was principally used for Koryu and Kairyu special submarines.

November 2004

Hirao Town Tourism Association
Hirao Town

The front of the kaiten monument has the following inscription:

Kaiten Monument

Gods weep and spirits cry at the kaiten's exploits
Young lives committed their all to the southern seas
They with smiles gave their lives for the Empire
Regrettably the odds in battle were against them
The mountains and rivers were barren in a world of constant changes
But devoted and faithful sincerity
Fills the blood of the Japanese people
And shines clearly to countless generations
We erect a monument where the kaiten began
And silently worship their eternal spirits

July 18, 1959
Yojiro Kuwabara

A bronze kaiten replica lies in a bed of gravel in front of the monument. In front of this replica, the right-hand plaque has engraved the five names of the I-58 kaiten pilots from Hirao who died in battle, and the left-hand plaque has the names of the three men who died in training and the one man who took his life when the end of the war was announced.

The Atata Exchange Center, located a short distance from the Hirao Kaiten Monument, has many photos and other exhibits related to the Hirao Kaiten Base.


Bronze kaiten replica
in front of monument