Memorial for a Kamikaze pilot unveiled at Ogimi

Memorial for a Kamikaze pilot unveiled at Ogimi

At the Rural Environment Improvement Center of Kijoka, Ogimi, Misako Oyama, the head of the district and Ayako Asano (right) gave a speech on May 26 at the unveiling ceremony of the tanka inscription for a Kamikaze pilot.

May 27, 2012 Kyoko Ishii of Ryukyu Shimpo

On May 26, at the Rural Environment Improvement Center of Kijoka, Ogimi, the unveiling ceremony was held of a tanka inscription dedicated to Major Hiroshi Terauchi, a Kamikaze pilot who died during the battle of Okinawa. Tokyo resident 86 year-old Ayako Asano, younger sister of the fallen pilot, wrote the tanka to express her gratitude for the local people’s dedication. Twenty year-old Terauchi was killed in aerial combat with U.S. forces off the coast of Kijoka on April 6, 1945, and local people buried his body after it was washed up on the coast of Kijoka the next day.

Her voice tinged with emotion, Asano said, “My brother was able to buried thanks to the kindness of the local people. This was rare among the many kamikaze pilots killed during the war.”

In the midst of fierce fire from the U.S. forces the local people, including Tonzou Kamiyama, who was a member of a civil defense unit, recovered the body of the young pilot. Misako Oyama the head of Kijoka district said, “We heard that local people recovered soldiers’ bodies regardless of whether they were American or Japanese because they too had parents, brothers and sisters in their countries.”
In 1950, the Veterans Administration returned Terauchi’s remains to his family. A personal relationship between Asano and the villagers started from there.

The tanka inscription that Ayako Asano wrote as a requiem to her late brother and to express her gratitude to the residents of Kijoka.

Asano has been to Okinawa many times since she first visited Kijoka in 1967. In recent years, the number of people who know of the incident during the war has dwindled, but Asano has continued to keep in touch with local residents. Zenko Yamashiro, a writer, and Shintaku Yamada, a former principal of the Kijoka Elementary School had the idea of erecting a tanka inscription of a poem by Asano, but have both have passed away, so the younger generation in the district undertook to realize this for them. Asano has also visited former battlefields in Okinawa many times and has entered into a more profound relationship with the prefecture and its people.

She said, “Just when the war was on their doorstep, the villagers kindly buried the body of my brother without regard to personal risk.

I have never forgotten about Okinawa where such a tough situation has continued since the war. This might be the last opportunity that I have to meet with them, because maybe we getting too old to meet up again. But I was very moved to see the monument.”

At the unveiling ceremony, Asano’s nephew Yushi Terauchi said, “I would like to tell the people of the main islands of Japan about the ongoing hardships of the people of Okinawa. I do not have the words to express my gratitude to all you.” After the ceremony, he looked back, saying, ” While it was a national policy, it must have been very hard for my uncle when he made up his mind to do what he did to defend the country at the age of 20.”

About 20 residents, including 90 year-old Matsu Fukuchi, performed the usu-deku of Kijoka at the ceremony. When you read the lines of the tanka inscription set up near the coast you can hear the tranquil sound of the waves. It says: “Led by the Gods, my brother came down to rest in peace on a beach where warm-hearted people live.”

(English translation by T&CT, Mark Ealey)

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