KASAI: A large air raid shelter used during World War II in western Japan is drawing attention for screening the last words of suicide attack unit members of the then Japanese military.
At the shelter in the city of Kasai, Hyogo Prefecture, a video on suicide notes left by those troops to their parents is shown.
The screening, held four times per day on the first and third Sundays of every month, with up to 20 people allowed each time, is fully booked until October. A flurry of inquiries are being made from schools planning to include the bomb shelter theater in their lists of destinations for student trips.
In 1943, the Uzurano airfield was constructed in the city to train pilots. About 500 youths from across the country received training there. Some 70 of them departed from the Kushira air base in the southwestern prefecture of Kagoshima as members of the Hakuro suicide attack unit, and 63 died in the mission.
Facilities at the Uzurano airfield, such as the runway, and the air raid shelter have been preserved by the Kasai municipal government as war ruins used for peace education.
The bomb shelter, made of concrete, is covered with soil as a camouflage. It is 5 meters each in width and height, and 14.5 meters in depth.
The 20-minute video sends visitors back to Japan 75 years ago and lets them meet suicide attack corps members just before their departures for the mission.
Suicide notes of three troops are shown on the wall inside the shelter and read out.
A note by Shigeru Shiine, a pilot of the defunct Japanese navy, who died off the Kagoshima island of Tokunoshima at the age of 21, explained the reason why he had not written to his parents at the time. “Probably because I’m still weak-willed, my heart somehow starts wobbling when I receive letters filled with love from my family.”
“When I charge, I’ll do so shouting ‘dad’ and ‘mom,'” the note added.
Chiyoko Fujii, a 63-year-old Kasai citizen, who visited the shelter with her family, said, “I think the troops were hiding their true feelings, such as ‘I don’t wanna die’ and ‘I don’t wanna go.'”
“I believe that watching the video at a facility that was actually used at the time will make visitors understand the horrors of the war,” a Kasai municipal government official said.
“I want people to think about peace” through visiting the shelter and watching the video, the official added.