Yokaren Monument in
Park Next to Museum
Yokaren Museum - Tsuchiura
The Yokaren (Japanese Naval Preparatory Flight Training Program) started in 1930, and the number of entrants to the
Yokaren increased dramatically in the last two years of World War II. Numerous
Yokaren-trained pilots and crewmembers carried out kamikaze attacks on Allied
ships, and many more young men were still in training at the end of the war.
About 80 percent of the graduates of the Yokaren died in battle . In 1940,
the air base at Tsuchiura, located 55 km (34 miles) northeast of Tokyo, became
the base used by the Yokaren, but the Navy added several other bases (e.g.,
Kagoshima, Mie, Matsuyama) later in the war as the number of trainees sharply
increased. The Yokaren Museum was established in 1968 at the site of the former
Tsuchiura Air Base, now the location of the Ordnance School of the Japan Ground
Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) [2}.
The Yokaren Museum's one large exhibition room has photos,
letters, and other items of Yokaren-trained soldiers who died in battle. About
twenty percent of the museum's displays relate to kamikaze pilots and other
naval special attack corps members who carried out suicide attacks, such as the
pilots of kaiten (manned torpedoes). Each photo includes the person's name,
Yokaren training class, home prefecture, date and place of death, and an
indication whether the person participated in a special attack suicide
operation. The photos do not have the men's ages at death, and almost all
appear to be in their late teens and twenties. The museum has over 300 photos
of individuals, but there is no explanation as to why only these are displayed
out of over 18 thousand Yokaren-trained men who died in war .
The museum displays many original letters and other items
donated by the families of dead soldiers. Visitors will not be able to read
several letters, wartime newspaper articles, and other written items since they
are too far from the glass in the vertical display cases. Some photos,
especially of groups of soldiers, do not have identification labels. The
display room has summaries of the history of the three principal Navy's suicide
attack operations: kamikaze (by plane), kaiten (manned torpedo), and ohka
(piloted bomb powered by rocket engines and launched from plane). Other items
on display include photos of several special attack corps, a model ohka, model
planes, uniforms, hachimaki (headbands), senninbari
(thousand-stitch belts worn for good luck), textbooks used by Yokaren trainees,
medals, and sundry items used by soldiers.
The JGSDF Ordnance School, where the museum is located, has
very tight security. After ten minutes of discussion among security personnel
and their superiors, I was allowed to enter the base with a U.S. passport.
Visitors must be escorted from the base entrance to the museum and are under constant
surveillance at the museum as soldiers rotate guard duty there about every
hour. Museum entrance is free. All exhibits are in Japanese, and the museum
does not provide any information on the Internet. The museum provides a
pamphlet with photos that gives the history of the Yokaren. No book on museum
exhibits is available, but the store next to the museum has one book of letters
of Yokaren soldiers and one book on the general history of Japan's special
Date of Visit: July 1, 2004
1. From inscription on Yokaren
Monument in Ami Town, Ibaraki Prefecture.
2. The address of the Ordnance School of the
Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force, where the museum is located, is in Ami Town,
which is next to Tsuchiura City.
3. Figure from display at Yokaren Museum.