Last Letters of Ensign Ichizō Hayashi to His Mother
Between 1304 and 1328 on April 12, 1945, Ensign Ichizō Hayashi took
off from Kanoya Air Base as pilot in a Zero fighter carrying a 250-kg bomb and
died in a special (suicide) attack east of Yoronjima at the age of 23. He was
a member of the Kamikaze Special Attack Corps 2nd Shichishō  Squadron from Genzan
(Wonsan) Naval Air Group in Korea. He was from Fukuoka Prefecture, attended Kyōto Imperial
University, and was a member of the 14th Class of the Navy's Flight Reserve
Students (Hikō Yobi Gakusei).
Hayashi wrote the following letter dated March 31, 1945 ,
at Genzan Air Base in Korea. The poem at the beginning of the letter is the
death poem of Yoshida Shōin (1830-1859) in tanka form (31-syllable poem
with a syllable pattern of 5-7-5-7-7). Yoshida strongly advocated the Emperor's
restoration to power, which challenged the ruling shogunate at the end of the
Finally the time has come when I must send you a sad letter.
Parents' heart surpasses children's heart for parents
How will they hear the news of today?
I keenly feel this poem.
I truly was fortunate. I persisted only in my selfishness.
However, I think that even so I behaved like a spoiled child, so please
I am happy to have been selected as a Special Attack Corps member and to
depart for the front, but I am moved to tears when I think of you.
When I think that you raised me with your hopes and struggles, it is
difficult to go and die without doing anything to bring you joy and without
providing you peace of mind.
I am an imperfect person, but I cannot possibly tell you to give me up or
for you to please be happy that I died splendidly. However, I will not say
too much of this type of thing, because you know well my feelings.
When I received a letter a second time about an engagement and other
things, I already knew, but I could by no means refuse. In addition, I also
still wanted to be taken care of by you. There is nothing that made me
happier than letters in those days. I wanted to see you one time and talk
seriously, and also I wanted you to hug me before I went to sleep, but Moji
turned out to be the final time. I am writing this letter as I wait for the
sortie the day after tomorrow. I am looking forward to it since perhaps I
may pass above Hakata. I will bid farewell from a distance.
It is regrettable that I could not see Older Sister Chiyoko, since I
wanted to tell her thanks. I recall the consideration when I was at home to
take the high school examination along with the home in Miyazaki-chō.
Mom, in the end I came to here by going against your advice to me. I want
to think that I am happy by following my wishes, but it may have been better
if I had done according to what you said.
However, please be glad because I was selected based on exceptional
skills. The truth is that with flight hours like ours one cannot go to the
Even among the persons who were selected, it is a special honor to be
lead another student like me. Even though I die, Makio is there. Perhaps I
am important for you, but if you look on the whole Makio also has points
where he can do things and is absolutely a person who can hold his own.
There are also Older Sisters Chiyoko and Hiroko. Isn't there also your
promising grandchildren? Since I also always will be next to you, please
live your life happily. Your happiness is my happiness. If you are sad, I
also will become sad. Please live happily with everyone.
Mother, I am a man. All men born in Japan are men who will take
responsibility for the country and go to die. Mother, it is appreciated that
you bore and raised a worthy man. You gave to me exceptional enthusiasm. I
who you created at this time do not know any way other than to go and fly
into the enemy.
I splendidly will sink an enemy aircraft carrier. Please boast to people.
I wrote when I was very ready, and the learning that I received taught me
to wait for the feeling to write at the correct time.
In wily thoughts that I am prone to, I am tempted by thoughts that I want
to return home to your side, but I cannot do this. When I was baptized, I
was told that "I die." Before dying by American bullets, I was told to kill
myself by the hands of the savior. Everything is in God's hands. For us who
are under God, life and death in this world do not become a problem.
Jesus also prayed before He did what was in His heart. Recently I am
reading the Bible every day. When I am reading, I feel that I am near you. I
will carry a Bible and hymn book on my plane when I make a crash attack.
Also, I will bring the mission medal that I received from the principal
and the good luck charm that I received from you.
On the talk of marriage, since in these conditions it seems that a joke
has been played on those people, please politely refuse. I had intended to
do so. I thought that if there was time I truly would have married and made
I must say to you, please forgive me, but I have peace of mind since you
will forgive me for everything that I have done.
You are a remarkable person. I always felt that I could not reach your
level no matter what I did. You can undertake even things that cause you
pain. I could not possibly imitate this. Your weakness is that you love
children too much, but it is impossible to say no to this since I like it.
I can go with peace of mind because only you, and also my siblings and
friends, know me.
I will make a crash attack while praying to you, since God always attends
to your prayers.
I will leave this message with Umeno to pass to you, but absolutely do
not show it to other persons. After all, I am embarrassed about it. My dying
soon feels in some way like another person's affair. I feel like I can see
you again at any time. When I think that I cannot see you, I truly am sad.
Please burn and dispose of my belongings and diaries since they are
really dirty things. Please. I am reluctant for you even to look at them. If
it is only you, it cannot be helped. However, as for only this, absolutely
do not show it to other people, because my superficiality would be
exposed. After all, I who am a vain person am reluctant to show my faults.
Without fail please burn and dispose of them and do not show them to others.
Please dispose of other books in the manner that you wish.
When I joined the military, I strangely gained self-confidence. We were
brought up to at least have a beautiful spirit. On the matter of my spirit,
I have self-confidence to not be defeated by most things. My surroundings
were good. I am grateful for my family, friends, and high school friends.
It has become extremely uncomfortably busy with tomorrow morning's
sortie, but I want to at least take advantage of my last words.
Since I only begin to cry with gratefulness when I remember home, I no
longer will write about this. I am happy that I was there.
Older Sister Chiyoko probably is worried about Older Brother Hikaru, but
he is all right. I have an uncanny conviction.
I hope that Junko and Yōko instead of me will make you happy.
Now the cherry trees are in full bloom. In the schoolyard also horsetail
plants must be sprouting. I fondly remember spring vacation. Give my regards
to Hagio-sensei, Principal, Senoo-sensei, Aunt Tateishi, Matsuda, Aunt
Iguchi, and others. I enjoyed being inside a packed train where a person could
not move. As for talk of marriage, I gave my decision that will be commented
on by everyone, but I will remember that also as embellishing my end.
My course is plotted on a chart received from Umeno. We will pass above
Hakata. We also will pass over Munakata. Looking from a distance from the
skies far above I will give my farewell to Nishi Park with its cherry trees.
Mother, please be glad that a person like me could become a Special
Attack Corps member, since it will be a splendid death in battle even though
I die and since we can rely on Christianity.
However, Mother, even so you will be sad. Please cry when you are sad. I
also am sad and will cry with you. I will be glad if you cry to your heart's
I will be singing a hymn when I crash into an enemy ship.
There are still things that I want to write, but I will stop now.
Since you know anything and everything about me, I was thinking that my
feelings are as you would think. Even though I joined the military, my
spirit that depends on you has grown stronger since by no means have I lost
my original spirit.
Mother, please live a long life in good health. Please.
Older Sister Chiyoko, Older Sister Hiroko, Makio, Junko, Yōko, and
Hiroaki, please live long lives happily and comfortably.
It has become a strange letter, but I will send it as is since it is
troublesome to rewrite it.
Mother, please take care of yourself. Please.
Day before sortie
At Kanoya Air Base, Hayashi wrote the following final letter to his mother:
I trust that you are doing well.
Our name is the Kamikaze Shichishō Unit. Today half of the unit made
crash dives against the enemy fleet in the decisive battle off Okinawa. Our
sorties also will be decided in two or three days. Surprisingly, they may be
on Buddha's birthday. I am stretched out on the floor of a makeshift
officers' barracks in a school at Kanoya Base. Since there are no electric
lights, we built a fire, and I am writing this with its light.
Military results have been achieved one after another, and we who will
follow are in very high spirits. In the evening I took a stroll and lied
down in a field of Chinese milk vetch, where I recalled the past. Coming
from Korea to a southern land resulted in a complete change, and I was
surprised that cherry blossoms were falling. However, the warm greenery of a
southern place seems to thrill my eyes and reminds me of home.
Mother, even though I die, please do not feel lonely. I am grateful
because it will be an honorable death in battle and also I will leave to go
to a battle that will determine the Empire's destiny. I did not pass over
Hakata after I entered Kyūshū by plane, but I sang songs to my heart's
content and was reluctant to part. I do not have many regrets. I left with
Umeno the things that I wanted to say. Here I am writing news.
After I die in battle, please handle my things as you wish. Since I have
neglected my correspondence everywhere and have not sent letters, please do
not forget to give my regards to others. I am making you clean up this final
mess, but even though I want to write, there is no longer such free time.
Today again men who go and will not return departed one after another to
pursue enemy ships. I wish that I could show you the gallant spirit at the
base. Please be sure to burn my diary and other papers, since they
absolutely must not be shown to others. It is fine if persons only like you
read them. Be sure to do it.
As for the men's sortie uniforms, each person had a rising sun (red circle)
hachimaki (headband) over the flight cap and wore a pure white muffler
like the raid of the loyal retainers .
I will go carrying the flag that you gave me where these words are written,
"even though a thousand may fall to the right and ten thousand to the left."
I will go with your photo firmly next to my heart. Also one of Makio.
I certainly will carry out a hitchū gōchin (sure hit, instant
sinking). One ship among the battle results will be mine. Until the end I am
determined to do it thoroughly and certainly.
You must be watching. Since you must be praying, I will carry out a crash
dive with peace of mind.
At our farewell, we will get inarizushi (flavored boiled rice
wrapped in bean curd) and yōkan (sweet jellied azuki-bean paste). It
is very nice that we can bring a bentō box lunch. I kept the
katsuobushi (small pieces of sliced dried bonito fish) that I received
from Tateishi and will bring it with me, since I must go through the sea a
little to go to your place.
I wrote a postcard to Makio and Older Sister Hiroko together. If we could
somehow meet, there are many things to talk about, but there is nothing. It
is because everyone was happy. On the contrary, I think that there is
nothing to write, but give my regards.
It seems somewhat like a dream, since tomorrow I will not be here.
I can't imagine that the persons who left yesterday are dead. I feel like
they somehow suddenly will return again. However, please simply accept it.
"Let the dead bury their dead" , since
afterward there will be lots of people. Everyone, please live happily. Among
us there are also only-child with single-mother persons. When I reflect
back, Hakata that I saw in the movie Rikugun (Army) was the last
time. I wanted to return to Hakata once more.
Mother, since I will complain no longer, you also please do not complain
about me. I do not mind if you cry, and please cry. Nevertheless, please do
not mourn for me too much. I have been treated with affection by many
people. Was there some good in me? I am confident that even for someone such
as me there were a few merits. Dying as a good-for-nothing after all would
be rather heart-breaking.
The enemy's actions are being blunted. There will be victory for us. It
will be the last finishing blow by our crash dives. I am happy.
For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain .
I truly can feel this keenly. I am grateful that I am living. However, it is
a marvel that we are living now. Naturally we are persons who must die. I do
not think to attach a reason to our dying. I only seek the enemy to make a
I was spoiled by you. When I think about it now, it was more than I
deserved. I am proud that my circumstances were good. I will maintain this
pride until the end. If these circumstances were taken away from me, I would
be nothing. I am quite a loafer, and I am grateful that I could go away
alone in front of other people. It has become somewhat strange talk, but
today I am a little sleepy. If there is time again, I will add to what I
It is good not to be too reluctant to part. About here I will bid
farewell to you. My sorrow at parting is never-ending. I will bid farewell.
I go to heaven shortly before you. I wonder if you can help me get into
heaven, so please pray for me, since it would be unbearable to not go to the
place where you will come.
He continued the letter to his mother with this part written on April 9. The
section begins with a poem in haiku form (17-syllable poem with lines of
Footpath between paddy fields
Last night I remembered dearly my home when I went out for a stroll and
lay down in a field of Chinese milk vetch. My friends told me that I smelled
like my mother. They said that they felt a sense of mother and child.
I was happy. My gift that surpassed everything was that I was treated
with affection by other people. Even though I may get angry, at this time I
am calmed by thoughts of fondly-remembered persons and by thoughts of
I will continue my efforts until the end to not lose my pride that I had
friends who were beautiful people. The Yoshino cherry blossoms already have
fallen. Every morning when I wash my face in a stream, it reminds me of the
stream where daffodil flowers bloomed at our countryside home where lotus
Tomorrow I will make a hitchū (sure-hit) attack on a group of enemy
aircraft carriers. The anniversary of my death perhaps will be April 10.
If you have a Buddhist memorial service, you will have a happy meal with
the whole family, won't you? A drizzling homeland rain is falling. Someone
is playing on the organ the song that begins "Rain rain, fall fall, mother."
There is nothing to write. If I could talk to you, there probably would be a
lot to talk about, but it is because you know everything about me. My
memories are never-ending, but being absorbed in memories is not very
manlike, is it?
Hayashi continued the letter to his mother with this part written at the end
of the day on April 11:
While I have been saying that today is the day, today is the day, the
11th also has passed. I wonder if my figure looked dashing at the command
post. From among several men who were there, a press crewman specially took
photographs of two or three of us.
Afterward, the Commander in Chief of the Combined Fleet went out of his
way to visit our barracks and gave us words of encouragement, "Please do
your best." Thinking that the Empire's fate rests on our shoulders, we were
made to feel truly grateful for innumerable honors. Tomorrow I will carry
out a hisshi hitchū (certain-death, sure-hit) attack.
Mother, I wrote about general things, didn't I? Today I gathered with
friends at the school's organ and sang hymns.
Letters translated by Bill Gordon
September and October 2019
The letters come from Kaga
(1995, 55-79). The biographical information in the first paragraph comes from Kaigun Hikō
Yobi Gakusei Dai 14 Ki Kai (1995, 77), Matsugi
(1971, 61), and Osuo (2005, 200). The photograph comes from Tada (2007, 39).
1. Shichishō means "seven lives." According to
legend, "shichishō hōkoku" (seven lives to serve the country) were the
last words of 14th-century samurai Kusunoki Masashige.
2. Nihon Senbotsu Gakusei Kinenkai 1995, 343.
3. This is a reference to an 18th-century
historical event when 47 rōnin (masterless samurai warriors) avenged the death of
4. This is a quote from Jesus in the Bible
5. Matsugi (1971, 66) has the following words:
"For to us, to live is Christ, and to die also is Christ." However, this is not
the correct quotation from the Bible for Philippians 1:21. The King James
Version reads, "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." This is the
same as the words in Kaga (1995, 71), so these have been used.
Kaga, Hiroko, ed. 1995. Hi nari tate nari: Hayashi
Ichizō ikōshū / Nikki, haha e no tegami (Sun and shield: Writings left
by Ichizō Hayashi / Diary, letters to mother). Fukuoka: Tōka Shobō.
Kaigun Hikō Yobi Gakusei Dai 14 Ki Kai (Navy Flight
Reserve Students 14th Class Association), ed. 1995. Zoku
• Ā dōki no sakura: Wakaki
senbotsu gakusei no shuki (Continuation
• Ah, cherry blossoms of same class:
Writings of young students who died in war). Tōkyō:
Matsugi, Fujio, ed. 1971. Kaigun tokubetsu kōgekitai no isho (Last letters of Navy Special Attack Corps).
Tōkyō: KK Bestsellers.
Nihon Senbotsu Gakusei Kinenkai (Japan Memorial Society for
the Students Killed in the War), comp. 1995. Shinpan kike wadatsumi no koe: Nihon senbotsu gakusei no shuki (Listen to the voices of the sea new edition:
Writings of Japanese students who died in war). Originally published in 1949. Tōkyō: Iwanami
Osuo, Kazuhiko. 2005. Tokubetsu kōgekitai no kiroku (kaigun
hen) (Record of special attack corps (Navy)). Tōkyō: Kōjinsha.
Tada, Shigeharu. 2007. Haha e no isho: Okinawa tokkō
Hayashi Ichizō (Final letters to his mother: Ichizō Hayashi, Okinawan
special attack corps member). Fukuoka: Genshobo.