Vintage Wings of Canada has published “Inn of the Divine Wind,” a selection of excerpts from Reiko Akabane’s Hotaru Kaeru, a memoir of the Kamikaze pilots in World War Two.
As the Second World War wound down, more than 2,800 young Japanese pilots, many barely able to fly, took off on one-way suicide missions against Allied warships. A recently translated memoir sheds new light on their emotions, fears and tribulations in the final days before they went to their deaths.
Japanese to English translator, Nick Voge of Hawaii, himself a commercial pilot, has selected three vignettes from the memoirs of Reiko Akabane, narrated by Hiroshi Ishii, to shed light on the humanity and tragic last days of the Kamikaze. Reiko Akabane was the young daughter of a Japanese restaurant and inn keeper by the name of Tome Torihama. Tome’s inn and restaurant, called the Tomiya Inn, near the Japanese Imperial Army airfield at Chiran on the southern Japanese island of Kyushu, were frequented by Kamikaze pilots training at Chiran as well as by their families who came to visit them before their one-way flights. Tome became something of a surrogate mother and confidant to many of these young men during their final days.
The book, Hotaru Kaeru (in English, “Firefly Return”) by Akabane and Ishii was published in 2001 in Japanese. It tells the story of Reiko Akabane, and her mother Tome Torihama and their real life interactions with these tragic but beautiful men and their families. The title comes from one of the vignettes as told by Akabane. One pilot tells her mother that when he dies, he will return to her inn as a firefly. On the evening of his death the garden at the inn was visited by one particularly bright firefly, which Tome took to be the reincarnated pilot.
“Inn of the Divine Wind” presents the three short vignettes, for the first time translated from the Japanese, which may, in a small and gentle way, teach us who these men were. Despite what you may feel about the sins of the Japanese in China, Korea, and the Far East prior to and during the Second World War (and they were many), these men were young, courageous and doing what they truly believed would, in the end, save their country. They did not come from a martial background, but were mostly schoolboys and young working citizens. They were not terrorists, but uniformed soldiers and sailors attacking uniformed enemy combatants in a one-way mission. Think what you may, but they do deserve our respect.
Vintage Wings of Canada, a web site dedicated to preserving and continuing the heritage of Canadian aviation, presents this and many other articles completely free of charge “to honor our heroes of yesterday and today.” “Inn of the Divine Wind”
on Vintage Wings of Canada may be accessed at: http://www.vintagewings.ca/VintageNews/Stories/tabid/116/articleType/ArticleView/articleId/566/The-Inn-of-the-Divine-Wind.aspx