Continuation • Ah, Cherry
Blossoms of Same Class (1995)
Last Letter of Ensign Hiroshi Nishikawa to His Parents
Sometime between 1130 and 1150 on April 12, 1945, Ensign Hiroshi Nishikawa took off
from Kokubu No. 1 Air Base as pilot in a Type 99 Carrier Dive Bomber (Allied
code name of Val) carrying a 250-kg bomb and died in a special (suicide) attack
off Okinawa at the age of 23. He was a member of the Kamikaze Special Attack
Corps 2nd Hachiman Gokō  Squadron from Usa Air Group.
He was from Shiga Prefecture, attended Waseda University in Tōkyō to study
law, and was a member of the 14th Class of the Navy's Flight Reserve
Students (Hikō Yobi Gakusei).
He wrote the following final letter:
It has become a balmy spring.
The cherry blossoms are blooming splendidly in full glory. Tomorrow on
April 6 is my birthday. When I think back, until now for my 24 years 
from when I was born in the country of Japan, I received four kinds of
blessings, and I lived without any inconveniences. I am only extremely
grateful. Tomorrow on the 6th I will make a sortie from Usa Air Base at 9:30
a.m., and on the same day between 4 and 6 p.m. I will become a spirit to
protect the country. It is my greatest honor. Please be glad. I will attack
the landing fleet of the detestable enemy heading for the mainland of Shinshū .
I will carry out a taiatari (body-crashing) attack in the sea off
Okinawa and strike terror into the enemy's heart.
I will fall splendidly as a member of the Special Attack Corps Hachiman
Gokō Unit. I intend to keep protecting admirably the Nishikawa Family honor.
With the time right on my birthday, it will be a fine day to be able to
repay my life of 24 years to the Emperor. I believe that I certainly
will succeed. Thus, even though I am given honor, I think that it is only
due to you Father and Mother and everybody. At the same time as I appreciate
this, I apologize from my heart that up to now I was not able to repay your
kindness at all and I showed you only lack of filial piety. According to
Akiko's letter, Tomisaburō, Yoshinosuke, and all my brothers and sisters
have returned home, so I am extremely happy. Since Yoshinosuke made a joyous
engagement, it is good farewell present for me. While I received a letter
from Older Sister Kuniko, I am sorry that I was not able to send her a
response. Since I will avenge Older Brother, with that please forgive me.
Please tell everyone to raise my nephews excellently.
Right now it is 12:30 a.m. With special permission I went out. I am
writing this letter in a room at the Navy Club called Unryūsō. Ensign
Matsuba is sleeping next to me. He also will go as my number 1 plane. I am
the number 2 plane. This evening I will sleep in a fondly-remembered futon.
Father and Mother, take care. I will go in high spirits. Thank you for what
you have done for me for a long time.
Finally, I end writing with the belief in the indestructibility of
April 5, 1945
Tomorrow I also with god will fall
I offer myself hoping for Empire's prosperity
Praying earnestly for permanence of Shinshū
I will go to sea off Okinawa
Letter translated by Bill Gordon
The letters come from Kaigun Hikō Yobi Gakusei Dai 14 Ki Kai
(1995, 71-3). The biographical information in the first paragraph comes from
Kaigun Hikō Yobi Gakusei Dai 14 Ki Kai
(1995, 71) and Osuo (2005, 217).
1. Hachiman is the Japanese god of military power.
Usa City in Ōita Prefecture has the first Hachiman Shrine, which was established
in the early 8th century. Gokō means "protecting the Emperor" in Japanese.
2. The traditional Japanese method of counting
age, as in much of East Asia, regards a child as age one at birth and adds an
additional year on each New Year's day thereafter. This explains why the letter
indicates his age as 24 whereas the current way of counting age based on his
birth date in Kaigun Hikō Yobi Gakusei Dai 14 Ki Kai (1995, 71) indicates that
his age was 22 on the date when the letter was written.
3. Shinshū refers to Japan and literally means
Kaigun Hikō Yobi Gakusei Dai 14 Ki Kai (Navy Flight
Reserve Students 14th Class Association), ed. 1995. Zoku
• Ā dōki no sakura (Continuation
• Ah, cherry blossoms of same class). Tōkyō:
Osuo, Kazuhiko. 2005. Tokubetsu kōgekitai no kiroku (kaigun
hen) (Record of special attack corps (Navy)). Tōkyō: Kōjinsha.