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Sakudari Kannon Temple Wakazakura Kanzeon Bosatsu
Aizumisato Town, Fukushima Prefecture

Sakudari Kannon Temple (see photo at bottom of page), a three-story wooden structure built against a rocky cliff, is said to have been built in 830. The temple had major repairs in 1358. The third floor can be reached directly by a walkway to the left of the temple, and this floor has an inner room with wooden lattice walls surrounded on all sides by a terrace. The first and second floors, which do not have any items on exhibit, can be reached from the third floor by stairs. The cliff to the back right of the third floor has a cave with stones that have been dressed in red stocking caps like jizo, a popular Japanese Buddhist deity.

The Wakazakura Kanzeon Bosatsu, placed at Sakudari Kannon Temple in 1998, honors those young men in the Japanese Navy who died in WWII in suicide attacks using shinyo motorboats loaded with explosives. Wakazakura means "young cherry blossom" and represents the shinyo crewmembers who died in battle at a young age. Kanzeon Bosatsu is the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy. The wooden lattice walls of the third-floor room are locked, so the Wakazakura Kanzeon Bosatsu and other items on display can only be viewed from a distance.

Hanging from the ceiling of the third-floor room is the following handwritten information:

History of Wakazakura Kanzeon Bosatsu

This Wakazakura (Young Cherry Blossom) Kanzeon Bosatsu, with a height of 80 centimeters, was carved from a noble 550-year-old Japanese red pine on the grounds of Sakudari Kannon Temple.

Young cherry blossoms willing to do anything for their country
In dying will realize a worthy life

Youths put their lives on the line in response to the national crisis during the Pacific War and volunteered to be trainees in the Navy's Yokaren (Preparatory Flight Training Program) 20th Otsu Class. They resolved as members of the Shinyo Special Attack Corps to carry out taiatari (body-crashing) attacks against enemy ships, and they achieved great battle results.

Including Terukata Ichinose born and raised here in Aizuhongo Town [1], 134 men died in battle. With their ages being 17 and 18 years, the same as the Byakkotai (White Tiger Corps) [2], they were just like young cherry blossoms.

As we offer our respect for the last wishes of their spirits who thought of their country, on October 11, 1998, we put up this Wakazakura Kanzeon Bosatsu to protect the youths who carry the future on their shoulders.

Wakazakura Kanzeon Bosatsu Erection Committee
Sakudari Kannon Temple Preservation Committee

A sign before the Sakudari Kannon Temple tells the meaning of wakazakura

Wakazakura (young cherry blossom) refers to Navy Yokaren (Preparatory Flight Training Program) trainees who entered former Naval Air Groups when they were 15 years of age at the time. They call those who died in the former war "Yokaren Wakazakura." In about 1944, there were many signs of defeat for the Japanese Navy. Members of Yokaren's 20th Class also gave their lives in battle in order to protect the country as part of the Special Attack Corps. They were 17 and 18 years of age at the time.

With our hands together in prayer,

Yokaren 20th Class and Other Supporters
October 11, 1998

Sakudari Kannon Temple is one of 33 Kannon Temples of the region of Aizu, which is located in the western third of Fukushima Prefecture. The temple stands about 800 meters up the mountain from the main road. A car can be driven up part of the way, but the last 300 meters must be walked.

Notes

1. In 2005, Aizuhongo Town, another town, and a village merged to form Aizumisato Town.

2. Byakkotai (White Tiger Corps) was a reserve unit of samurai teenagers in the Aizu domain of Fukushima Prefecture. In 1868 during the Boshin War, 19 Byakkotai members committed suicide by seppuku (literally "stomach-cutting) when they saw smoke rising in the distance and thought that their lord's castle had fallen to the enemy. They have been remembered since then as models of bushido (way of samurai warrior) in their demonstration of loyalty to their lord, and the Byakkotai has been the subject of many books, films, and plays. The reference at the Sakudari Kannon Temple Wakazakura Kanzeon Bosatsu links the teenage members of the Byakkotai and Shinyo Special Attack Corps as both being loyal to the point of giving their lives.


Sakudari Kannon Temple