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Oga Kaiten Shrine
Hiji Town, Oita Prefecture

The Japanese Navy's fourth and last kaiten human torpedo training base opened in April 1945 at Oga Village [1] in Oita Prefecture. This base on Beppu Bay had about 2,000 men including kaiten pilots and maintenance personnel.

In the same month as the kaiten base's opening, Oga Kaiten Shrine was established at the base. After the war, this shrine (jinja in Japanese) was moved to the grounds of Sumiyoshi Shrine on the top of a hill overlooking the bay.

A sign at the bottom of the hill on which Oga Kaiten Shrine is located gives the following history:

In 1944 during the final stages of the Pacific War, torpedoes were converted so that one person could pilot each one in order to reverse the war situation. A battle strategy was devised to have them launched from mother submarines to crash into enemy ships.

On September 1, 1944, a kaiten training base was established on the island of Otsushima in Tokuyama City, Yamaguchi Prefecture. Next, Hikari Base (Hikari City, Yamaguchi Prefecture) and Hirao Base (Hirao Town, Yamaguchi Prefecture) were established. Here at Oga on April 25, 1945, a base opened with 2,000 men of the Oga Totsugeki [2] Corps under the command of Captain Yamada.

On August 2, 1945, eight men with eight kaiten advanced to Mugigaura on Sukumo Bay in Kochi Prefecture in order to sortie.

Since the men at Oga were dismissed at the end of the war on August 15, 1945, no one from the Oga Totsugeki Corps died in battle during an attack. However, there were victims from air raids in addition to Hidesuke Matsuo who took his own life at the base on the 25th, ten days after the end of the war.

At the war's end, the Kaiten Shrine that had been dedicated was moved to the grounds of Sumiyoshi Shrine at the request of Commander Yamada. The residents in that area started to worship there.

A memorial ceremony takes place every three years, and persons related to the former base gather here from around the country. In the two years in between when there is not a memorial ceremony, there is a service by local residents who live under the protection of the shrine's deity.

The sign at the bottom of the hill also has an illustrated map of how Oga Kaiten Base looked during WWII. Below the map is the following explanation:

In regards to the kaiten special attack military operations, there were two kinds of kaiten. One was carried aboard an I-class submarine, and the other was placed at a coastal base and launched from there. Oga Base was a training base for these kaiten.

In 1941, the Navy made forced purchases of vast coastal areas in the districts of Manai, Akisada, Nokinoi, and Makinouchi in Oga Village for the purpose of constructing a naval arsenal.

However, the construction of the naval arsenal in Oga Village was halted, and the site was converted to a special attack base. At the end of 1944, construction of a kaiten human torpedo base began in the Makinouchi area of Oga Village.

Based on wartime records and the memories of persons associated with the former base, the map shows the base facilities on an outline of the current area. The only things that remain today from the base are repair shops and some underground tunnels dug into the hillside during the war.

Interior of Oga Kaiten Shrine

 

Oga Kaiten Shrine has been reconstructed three times since it was originally established in 1945:

  • 1946 when moved from former base to Sumiyoshi Shrine
  • 1975 when first reunion of Oga Kaiten Corps took place at hotel in Beppu City
  • 2001 when four former Oga Kaiten Special Attack Corps members identified remains of a motor and propeller, found in the water off Oita Airport in 1995 by a fisherman, to be from a kaiten human torpedo. These were donated and put on display outside the shrine in 2002.

The interior of Oga Kaiten Shrine has various photos and drawings along with exhibits that summarize the kaiten's history and provide a chronology of the shrine's key dates. The lyrics and music of the Oga Kaiten Corps Song, written by Isamu Izuka who served at Oga Base in the Arashi Unit, are displayed inside the shrine:

  1. Eternal and indestructible Japan
    Someone must save her in time of crisis
    Young, loyal and strong
    Kaiten Corps with hot blood surging
     
  2. Their reputation pure before the gods
    Learned from the spirit of Kusunoki Masashige [3]
    Comrades now go smilingly
    Kaiten Corps with matchless honor
     
  3. Born seven times [4]
    Sinking giant ships, certain death
    Young cherry blossoms twenty years of age
    Kaiten Corps calmly goes to die in battle
     
  4. Even their waterlogged bodies as a foundation
    Believe in spring that heralds
    The Emperor's prosperity
    Ah, Kaiten Corps fiercely righteous

In 1981, a 1/3 scale kaiten model was put on display next to Oga Kaiten Shrine. A sign in front of the model provides the following information:

Kaiten

In the latter part of the Pacific War, young cherry blossoms at the age of twenty competed to join the Oga Totsugeki Corps to give their lives due to the dire national crisis. They strongly believed in the indestructibility of Japan and in certain victory for the Empire. They raised the great banner of Kikusui [5] on the clear, beautiful shore and totally devoted themselves with great enthusiasm to training for the kaiten special attack weapon.

Here we who are connected to the former base remember the old days and together dedicate this kaiten model.

April 25, 1981
Oga Kaiten Corps


1/3 scale kaiten model and
remains of kaiten engine and propeller

Notes

1. Oga Village was merged into Hiji Town in 1954.

2. The word totsugeki means "charge" or "assault" in Japanese.

3. Kusunoki Masashige was a 14th century samurai warrior who symbolized courage and devotion to the Emperor.

4. This line refers to Kusunoki Masashige, who wished that he had seven lives to give for the Emperor.

5. The kikusui (floating chrysanthemum) flower was the symbol of the family of Kusunoki Masashige. The Kaiten Corps used this symbol to show their loyalty to the Emperor.