Niigata Gokoku Jinja Yokaren Monument
Niigata City, Niigata Prefecture
Niigata Gokoku Jinja was established in 1868 as a Shinto shrine to remember
persons from Niigata Prefecture who lost their lives in wars to protect Japan (gokoku
means "defend country"). The long path from the torii entrance gate to the
main shrine building has several monuments, including one erected in 1988 to
honor Navy Yokaren (Preparatory Flight Training Program) graduates from Niigata
Prefecture who gave their lives in battle.
Yokaren graduates who died in battle included many members of the tokkotai
(Special Attack Corps) who carried out suicide attacks against Allied ships near
the end of World War II. The Yokaren Monument displays a bronze statue of two young
Yokaren men, one in a flight suit (left) and another in a Navy uniform (right).
The monument base has a poem written by the Chief Priest of Niigata Gokoku
Seven Yokaren buttons
Cherry blossom on an anchor
Even today flying, flying
Clouds of high hopes appear
We erect this monument with the hope for eternal peace and consolation of
the spirits of the young cherry blossoms.
Niigata Prefecture Gokoku Jinja
Written by Chief Priest Takashi Higuchi
In the above poem, the first two lines refer to the Yokaren uniform with
seven buttons that each had a cherry blossom on an anchor. The fourth line of
the poem refers to the main Yokaren training base at Tsuchiura Air Base, located
at the western edge of Lake Kasumigaura in Ibaraki Prefecture.
The following history of the Yokaren is recorded on the back of the monument
The Navy's system of Hiko Yoka Renshusei (Preparatory Flight Trainees)
had a short 15-year history from June 1930, when trainees in the 1st Class
joined Yokosuka Naval Air Group, until the war's end in August 1945. Youths
just in their teens, with aspirations to defend the skies, endured rigorous
training and faced a national crisis.
Changes were seen in the system during that period, and a total of more
than 140 thousand persons entered Yokaren training programs called Ko, Otsu,
Hei, and Toku Otsu. In fact, more than 18 thousand promising young men died
in battle in the sky and on the sea and land. Spirits of several hundred men
from Niigata Prefecture are enshrined here at this gokoku jinja.
Although long overdue, we erect here this Yokaren Monument to comfort the
spirits of classmates and graduates and to record the history of the
Erected in November 1988
Niigata Prefecture Yokaren Monument Erection Committee
Chairman: Fumio Sekigawa
Sculptor: Mitsuo Shigemura, Omiya City
Bronze statue of two Yokaren men
(Niigata Gokoku Jinja Yokaren Monument)
Two large plaques on each side of the Niigata Yokaren Monument
list organizations and individuals who made contributions for erection of