Chiran Special Attack Peace Kannon Temple
Minamikyushu City, Kagoshima Prefecture
The temple at right houses a bronze Special Attack Peace Kannon (Goddess of
Mercy), which is shown in the photo below. A memorial service is held each year on May 3 in
front of the temple to remember the young men who died in aerial suicide attacks
carried out by the Japanese Army during the Battle of Okinawa.
In 1955, two former high-ranking former Army officers brought the kannon
statue to Chiran for placement in the temple. General Masakazu Kawabe, Air
General Army Commander, and Lieutenant General Michio Sugawara, 6th Air Army
Commander, visited Chiran together with the kannon statue (Chiran Tokkou 2004,
Tome Torihama, who ran a restaurant where she served kamikaze
pilots during the war, played a major role in the establishment of the kannon
statue in Chiran. In the early 1950s, she repeatedly proposed to the Chiran mayor
that there be a kannon to console the spirits of the kamikaze pilots who sortied
from Chiran Air Base and to tell future generations about the great sacrifice these young
men made for their country. On September 28, 1955, the kannon was completed and
placed in a temple at the corner of the former Chiran Air Base.
After the kannon was placed in the temple, Tome walked to
the temple every
day to pray in remembrance of the kamikaze pilots. However, even though Tome's desire
for a kannon in Chiran had come to fruition, others did not come to pray at the
many years. Tome also cleaned the temple. Sometimes she brought candy and gum
from her restaurant, and she said to the young children playing nearby,
"Everyone, if you clean the Kannon Temple, I'll give you some gum and
candy" (Akabane 2001, 218).
Even when Tome grew older and used a cane, she sometimes
went to the temple with her grandson in a taxi. Eventually many people started
coming to the Special Attack Peace Kannon Temple, especially after the opening of the
Peace Museum for Kamikaze Pilots in 1986. By the year 2000, the number of annual museum
visitors had grown to 540,000.
Next to the temple is a plaque with the following inscription telling the
history of Chiran Air Base and the Special Attack Peace Kannon:
In March 1942, the Tachiarai Army Flight School Chiran Branch was
established here, where pilot training took place day after day. Eventually
in 1945, as the tense international situation became critical, Chiran became
the Army's last special attack base as the mainland's southernmost air base.
This is a land with deep feelings toward the about one thousand young brave
men who died far beyond the flowing clouds as they set off on a bold mission
and did not return. We honor the sincere pure spirits of these young men,
and we pray for eternal rest of their spirits as they died a glorious death
in the everlasting skies. The Special Attack Peace Kannon was made with
donations from former officers and men related to Chiran in order to
contribute to the restoration of eternal peace to their homeland. Now,
through persons closely connected to Chiran with this same wish, we enshrine
the kannon at the site of the former airfield in Chiran Town. In addition to
this kannon statue, there is another Army kannon statue together with a Navy
kannon inside the
Special Attack Kannon Hall at Setagayasan Kannon Temple in Tokyo. Chiran's kannon statue with a height of 54.5 centimeters is patterned after the
Yume-Chigai Kannon at Yamato Horyuji Temple, and it contains a scroll inside with
the names of special attack pilots who died. Donations from Chiran Town
residents were used to construct the temple to hold the kannon to honor and
console the souls of these one thousand brave men for eternity and to extol
their spirits. The monument inscription states the reasons for this kannon as we pray
for the restoration of peace to our homeland.
Takeo Iino, Chiran Town Mayor (excerpt)
Erected on September 28, 1955
Behind the Special Attack Peace Kannon Temple, rows of stone lanterns honor
the deaths of special attack (kamikaze) pilots who departed from Chiran and
other Army air bases during 1945. Stone lanterns also line the main street of Chiran Town.
memorialize the deaths of the 1,036 kamikaze pilots who departed from Chiran and other
Army air bases mainly during the Battle of Okinawa. The planned number of stone
lanterns to be erected is 1,036.
Donations from all over Japan financed the
erection of these stone lanterns, based on specifications set by Chiran Town. In
addition to the main street, the stone lanterns also line the entrance road to
the Chiran Peace Museum for Kamikaze Pilots.
The base of each stone lantern has a stylized depiction of a
kamikaze pilot. The two main types are a full-length figure and a pilot's head
and upper body. The photos at right and at the bottom of the page show examples of kamikaze pilot depictions on
the stone lantern bases. Donor names and
erection dates also are engraved on the bases.
Excerpts from Chapter 13 of Akabane and
Ishii (2001, 216-22) were used for paragraphs 3 to 5 about Tome
Akabane, Reiko, and Hiroshi Ishii. 2001. Hotaru kaeru
(The firefly returns). Tokyo: Soshisa.
Chiran Tokkou Irei Kenshou Kai (Chiran Special Attack
Memorial Society), ed. 2005. Konpaku no kiroku: Kyuu rikugun tokubetsu
kougekitai chiran kichi (Record of departed spirits: Former Army Special
Attack Corps Chiran Base). Revised edition, originally published in 2004. Chiran Town, Kagoshima
Prefecture: Chiran Tokkou Irei Kenshou Kai.
Kamikaze pilot depictions
on stone lanterns