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
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.
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:
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
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.
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).