Kamikaze
   Images


Only search Kamikaze Images

 

 
Last Letters of Second Lieutenant Toshio Kuramoto to His Wife and Other Family Members

On May 11, 1945, Second Lieutenant Toshio Kuramoto took off from Miyakonojō East Airfield as a member of the 60th Shinbu Special Attack Squadron and died in a special (suicide) attack west of Okinawa at the age of 30. He piloted an Army Hayate Type 4 Fighter (Allied code name of Frank). After his death in a special attack, he received a promotion to Captain. He was from Kagoshima Prefecture, graduated from Kagoshima College of Commerce, and was a member of the 1st Class of the Army Special Cadet Officer Pilot Training (Tokubetsu Sōjū Minarai Shikan) Program.

He wrote the following after assignment to the 60th Shinbu Special Attack Squadron:

Born a single subject of the Empire, I perform my patriotic loyalty. There is nothing that surpasses this honor as the long-cherished desire of a young man. Smiling for joy and in hushed silence, I am focused only on accomplishment of my mission of instantly sinking a ship.

60th Shinbu Squadron
Toshio Kuramoto

He wrote the following final letters to his wife Kimiko and other family members. The wedding ceremony for Toshio and Kimiko was held on February 14, 1945. Their engagement was very quick. The final letters include ones to Kimiko's father and mother, Kitao and Shigeko Kabu. Kimiko's father was in a foreign country at the time of Kimiko's engagement. While his family was waiting for his return home from abroad, diplomatic relations were broken off. Toshio never met his father-in-law before his sortie. Kimiko was pregnant when Toshio died in battle, and their daughter Ryōko was born in January 1946.

Dear Mother,

I warmly thank you for your great kindness for thirty years. Please forgive me for going without showing filial piety to you. Now I go in high spirits. There is nothing that surpasses this as the long-cherished desire for a man. I earnestly pray that you will have a long life. I ask that you please take care of Kimiko.

Farewell.

May 4, 5:05 a.m.

Toshio


Dear Kimiko,

Please forgive me for the time of departure. Only because I loved you, my heart was filled with the desire to not cause you sadness for a while. I absolutely was not lying.

Please be cheerful and fight off all of the pain and sadness. I earnestly desire that you live with a strong heart.

Now I will depart.

I pray for your happiness and health.

May 4, 5:12

Kimiko, I earnestly request you to show filial piety to Mother for my part.

Toshio


Dear Older Sister,

You cared for me in many ways. I warmly thank you. I ask that you please take care of Kimiko. I pray for your health and happiness.

May 4, 5:15

Toshio


To my dear child,

If you are a boy, please do not be second to me and become a fine Japanese person.

If you are a girl, please become a woman with a kind nature.

Also, please take care of Mother and show sufficient filial piety to her.

From Father


Kuramoto's letter to his yet-to-be-born child


To Kitao Kabu

Dear Father,

In the end I go before you without being able to call you Father. I received Kimiko and truly was happy. I warmly thank you.

This simple note is just to thank you.

May 4, 5:23

Toshio


To Shigeko Kabu

Dear Mother,

I am going. I ask you to care for Kimiko. I pray that you may have a long life.

Toshio


Aki,

Show filial piety to Mother. Be a kind-hearted woman.

Shin,

Take care of yourself. No matter the work that you do, do not forget your duty as a young Japanese man. Do your best. Now I go.

May 4, 5:28


Kimiko,

Thank you. Thank you.

I was happy.

I go gladly.

He also wrote the following two pages to designate the name of his child with the first one for a boy and the second one for a girl:

Naming of Hiroshi Kuramoto
May 10, 1945, evening before sortie
Written by Father Toshio

Naming of Ryōko Kuramoto
May 10, 1945, evening before sortie
Written by Father Toshio

Axell and Kase (2002, 64-8) present the following story of Toshio Kuramoto and his wife Kimiko. This is a condensed version in English of the original from Takagi (1973, 149-77).

Kimiko Kabu, the wife of a Kamikaze pilot, kept a diary from the day she became engaged to Toshio Kuramoto in the autumn of 1944, at which time Toshio gave his fiancée a diary. She was 18 and he was ten years older. When Kimiko graduated from a women's high school in Kyushu in the spring of 1941, Toshio was working for the Mitsui Mining Company and he had an apartment near Kimiko's home. Later, Toshio Kuramoto was conscripted by the Army and fought in China as an infantryman. Afterwards, a corporal in the reserves, Toshio was recalled to active service in 1943 and volunteered as a cadet in the Army Air Force.

In January of 1944, Kimiko was allowed to visit her fiancée at Chiran Air Base. She took a train that crossed Kyushu and Toshio greeted her in his cadet's uniform. At the base, she was invited to observe his flight training from the command post situated under a tent. Everyone treated Kimiko kindly, knowing that she was engaged to a cadet. In April, Toshio was transferred to Tachiarai Flying School which was closer to her home and meant she could now meet with Toshio more often. On October 29, 1944, Kimiko made an entry in her diary upon learning from newspaper reports that a Kamikaze attack (obviously Lieutenant Yukio Seki's) had been launched against the American invasion fleet in Philippine waters. The entry reveals the depth of Kimiko's feelings:

So divine! A group of young eagles led by a 24-year-old. I am utterly speechless by their action. But however worthy the sacrifice they made, they were not orphans. They must have parents, wives, children, brothers and sisters. When they took off, did they see the faces of their wives or lovers? Their sweet faces? . . . . The newspaper reports broke my heart. I was so deeply moved.

Kimiko did not then imagine that Toshio and she would face the very same trial in just a short period of time.

Kimiko and Toshio were married on February 15, 1945 when Toshio was a second lieutenant assigned to Kameyama Air Base, near Osaka. Because he was not able to take a long leave, they were united at a Shinto shrine near the base with Kimiko's mother in attendance. Kimiko wore a pair of blue trousers made from the kimono she had on when she visited Chiran for the first time. She remembered that Toshio had told her it was his favourite colour. In those days women were encouraged to wear trousers rather than skirts as this was more in accordance with wartime conditions when Japan was beginning to feel the austerity accompanying the punishing effect of air raids.

Toshio told his bride that he was going through the most strict training, learning 'how to fly extremely low so that enemy vessels will be hit without fail'. She did not realize then what this meant – that her husband and the other pilots were undergoing training for a suicide mission.

Lieutenant Kuramoto had joined a Kamikaze squadron at Akeno Air Base in Mie Prefecture on March 27. Then he and his men were transferred to Kumanosho Air Base on Kyushu so they took a train to that southern main island. On the way to the base, Toshio got off the train at Moji in northern Kyushu and visited Kimiko at her parents' house. Although they had dinner together, Toshio did not confide to Kimiko that he had joined the Special Attack Forces. He was able to spend only two hours with her and then hurried to the railway station.

In April, Kimiko received a telegram from Toshio to come and visit him. She was excited that she was now able to live with her husband. Toshio was lodged at Wataya Ryokan, a Japanese-style inn in Kumamoto City. Kumamoto City, the prefecture capital, is known for the majestic Kumamoto Castle that stands in the heart of the city. When Kimiko arrived at the inn, the maid who met her at the entrance told her that Lieutenant Kuramoto left for the air base this morning in haste as they were shortly taking off on a mission. The maid paused for a moment and said gravely:

'Please, dear madam, this is the moment to master one's courage.'

Kimiko now sensed for the first time that her husband was going on a suicide mission. She was jolted and unable to speak. In a state of panic, Kimiko was led to her husband's room by the maid who was surprised at the wife's unpreparedness. The maid apologized, saying: 'Sorry, madam, I shouldn't have told you.'

At this moment she introduced Second Lieutenant Osamu Shibata, who belonged to her husband's unit. Shibata wore a head bandage from an accident that occurred during a training flight and had, therefore, been left behind. Shibata said the unit was not taking off that day and that he would escort her to the base the next morning. The base was not very far from the inn.

Kimiko, alone in the room, had a frightful night. In the morning, Kimiko and Shibata started out for the base as a heavy rain kept pouring down. They took a train from Kumamoto and got off at Namazu, which was the third stop from Kumamoto, taking only ten minutes. A bus from the base met them at the station, re-entered the base and stopped before a triangle-shaped billet. (One of these oddly shaped billets is on display at the Chiran Peace Museum.) In the makeshift billet a few flyers were idling. While one of them went out to find her husband, she was told that because of the rain all flights had been cancelled.

Soon, however, Toshio arrived. He told her that thanks to the rain they were able to meet. Using an umbrella they went on foot to a nearby farmhouse where he was lodging, Toshio carrying his wife's travel bag. They walked on a footpath through a field of rapeseed. Yellow rapeseed flowers were in bloom and glistened in the rain. The peaceful scenery suddenly aroused in Kimiko an earnest hope that peace would soon return to the world.

She folded up the umbrella so that her action would hide the tears running down her cheeks.

Kimiko was pleasantly surprised to see that Toshio was living at a well-to-do farmhouse. On the way to his room she saw purple hydrangeas in the garden outside the window. Once they were settled in, she timidly hesitated for a moment, then asked her husband:

'Did you volunteer as a Kamikaze flyer?'

'Where did you get that idea,' Toshio responded.

'From the maid at Wataya.'

Toshio looked jovial and lied to his wife.

'No. Never! That's wrong!'

But Kimiko felt that he was not telling the truth. She thought that he was probably too tormented to speak frankly.

The rain continued and Toshio went to the base every morning and returned every evening for dinner. Kimiko would often stand under the eaves of the farmhouse, watching the rainfall.

Rain, rain, rain. The gentle sound of spring rain. She found it delightful. After all, it was the rain that ensured her husband's life – and hers, too. She had many chances to think about life, and the thought that dominated her thinking was that without him there was no life for her. During these rainy days she would tuck in her sleeves and stretch her arms in the rain, thinking meantime that Toshio would never admit to her that he had joined a suicide unit.

The rain continued for a week.

Then Toshio's unit received orders to transfer to another air base called Miyakonojo, also on Kyushu. The unit returned to Kumamoto for one night before proceeding to the newly assigned air base where the couple lodged at the Wataya Inn.

That night everyone in the unit was invited to a gala farewell dinner. Kimiko was not invited but she heard the men singing loudly together. Listening to the songs and the conversation of the men, she could sense the wistful mood of the gathering.

At last, Toshio returned, inebriated, to their room. Soon, she felt deep in her heart, they would be parting from each other for good.

The next morning, she went to Kumamoto Station to see Toshio off. It was raining again. The front of the station was slippery with dirt as workmen were constructing an underground air raid shelter. She tried not to show her tears. But she cried profusely the moment after the train pulled out from the platform. She went back to her uncle's house in Hakata to wait for her husband's call. It was at Hakata that a Mongol fleet landed on Japanese soil in foiled invasion attempts in the thirteenth century.

That evening, Toshio telephoned from Miyakonojo, saying he would be there for a week and asking her to join him there. She was instantly overjoyed and went immediately to her parents' home where she told her mother that she was convinced that Toshio had volunteered as a Kamikaze flyer. Hearing this, her mother began sobbing.

At Miyakonojo, Kimiko and Toshio stayed at the Fijinoi Inn. As before, rain continued to fall. In the morning, Toshio went to the base, leaving Kimiko crying alone in their room, writing something in her diary, then Toshio suddenly returned.

'Lucky you to have been born a girl!' he said laughingly. 'You can shed tears while we boys are not allowed such a luxury.'

That evening the rain stopped and the pair went for a walk. Dusk was gathering and the town appeared immensely beautiful, Kimiko was thinking, with its lush trees and flowers, and its shiny wet pavements. Everything was so eerily peaceful. Toshio had yet to tell her the truth but Kimiko had gathered herself together and was filled with happiness as she strolled with him. It was a halcyon night, she thought.

On April 22, she wrote in her diary:

'Let's not think of tomorrow. Live today to the full. What happy days I am having! I have such a kind husband. He loves me deeply. Even if we were to be parted for good, he will always live in my heart.'

On May 3, a dinner for the unit was held at a restaurant that stood next to the inn. She heard, by accident, a corporal, Tadashi Mukai, say to the proprietress of the inn, after letting out an ironic laugh: 'This is going to be our last big feast!'

Late that night, Toshio came back to the room. He had, like the others, been drinking. Kimiko pretended to be nonchalant.

'Do you sally tomorrow?'

'No,' he lied. 'It is just going to be another training flight.'

In the morning, a military vehicle pulled up in front of the inn. Everyone from the inn and from the restaurant lined up on both sides of the street to see the men off. Toshio stopped in front of them and said: 'Thank you very much for taking good care of us.' And he gave a smart salute. Just before he boarded the vehicle, he turned around and looked intently at Kimiko. He then executed a salute in her direction.

But Toshio returned to the inn later that day. His plane had a minor collision with another plane as they were taking off.

At dawn on May 11th, Toshio left, this time for good. Kimiko assisted him in getting dressed. She helped him put on his underwear. This was the last time she touched the skin of his body. Toshio took off for the Okinawan waters never to return.

Kimiko was then pregnant. On January 27, 1946, five months after peace had returned to Japan, she gave birth to a girl, naming her Ryoko, a name that had been chosen by her late husband.


Letters translated by Bill Gordon
August 2018

The letters come from Terai (1977, 43-8). The biographical information comes from Chiran Tokkō Irei Kenshō Kai (2005, 218), Osuo (2005, 199), and Terai (1977, 43, 47-8). The image of the letter to Kuramoto's yet-to-be-born child is from Terai (1977, 45). The photo below is from Osuo (2005, 109).


Members of 60th Shinbu Special Attack Squadron.
Toshio Kuramoto is standing second from the right on the back row.

Sources Cited

Axell, Albert, and Hideaki Kase. 2002. Kamikaze: Japan's Suicide Gods. London: Pearson Education.

Chiran Tokkō Irei Kenshō Kai (Chiran Special Attack Memorial Society), ed. 2005. Konpaku no kiroku: Kyū rikugun tokubetsu kōgekitai chiran kichi (Record of departed spirits: Former Army Special Attack Corps Chiran Base). Revised edition, originally published in 2004. Chiran Town, Kagoshima Prefecture: Chiran Tokkō Irei Kenshō Kai.

Osuo, Kazuhiko. 2005. Tokubetsu kōgekitai no kiroku (rikugun hen) (Record of special attack corps (Army)). Tōkyō: Kōjinsha.

Takagi, Toshirō. 1973. Tokkō kichi Chiran (Chiran, special attack force base). Tōkyō: Kadokawa Shoten.

Terai, Shunichi, ed. 1977. Kōkū Kichi Miyakonojō Hayate Tokkō Shinbutai (Miyakonojō Air Base Hayate Special Attack Shinbu Unit). Tōkyō: Genshobō.