Nagasaki Prefecture Yokaren Monument
Sasebo City, Nagasaki Prefecture
The Imperial Japanese Navy opened a major base in 1889 at Sasebo in Nagasaki
Prefecture. Higashiyama Navy Cemetery, now part of Higashi Park in Sasebo City,
has about 60 monuments with 45 of them built after the end of the war. The
cemetery's older section contains 417 individual gravestones erected before
WWII. The cemetery honors over 176 thousand men who died while serving their
country as part of the Imperial Japanese Navy. In 1959, Sasebo City took over
maintenance and upkeep of the former Navy cemetery.
The Navy established the Yokaren in 1930 as a preparatory flight training
program. The Ko program of study started in 1937 for graduates of junior high
school. Numerous Navy Yokaren graduates died in battle including many Special
Attack Corps (tokkotai) members who made suicide attacks against American
ships. In 2005, the Nagasaki Prefecture Ko Class Yokaren Association planted a
memorial cherry tree at the former Navy cemetery in Sasebo and erected a small monument
next to the tree.
The large engraved characters on the monument's front side can be translated "Memorial
Cherry Tree." The back of the monument has the following history:
The Japanese Navy Ko Class Preparatory Flight Trainee (Yokaren) system
began in 1937. About 140 thousand persons joined the Yokaren from the 1st
Class that entered in September 1937 until the 16th Class that started in
They constituted the air power that decided outcomes of battles after the
outbreak of the Sino-Japanese War in 1937 until the end of the Pacific War
in 1945. The Navy prepared for this great war by planning for the increase
of aircraft crewmen. Among measures taken for immediate fighting capability
was the Ko Class Preparatory Flight Trainee system in which efforts were
made to provide early training.
During this country's critical situation, young men burning ardently with
patriotism volunteered for the Ko Class Yokaren in order to protect the
country. They said farewell to their parents and left their hometowns. They went
to battle and fought courageously. However, at the end of bitter fighting
against the American military with its exceptional material superiority, they
died in battle in the skies. Eventually, they left for the battlefront never
to return as they died carrying out special (suicide) attacks in the skies
and and seas.
The number of these war dead reached 6,800 men, and many from Nagasaki
Prefecture were recorded among the dead. The Ko Class survivors from this
prefecture organized the Nagasaki Prefecture Ko Class Yokaren Association
and have continued to hold memorial ceremonies for the war dead. Sixty years
after the war's end, we plant here this memorial cherry tree to communicate
to future generations the sincerity of those who died, and we pray earnestly that their
spirits may rest in peace.
The former Navy cemetery in Sasebo City has a small visitor's center with
various displays related to the Imperial Japanese Navy such as photographs, ship
models, and maps. There is a also a free color brochure in Japanese with a cemetery map,
photos and descriptions of several monuments, and a history of the cemetery.
Former Navy Cemetery in Sasebo