The Kamikaze suicide attacks of World War 2 are without a doubt the most famous manifestation of Japanese fanatism. But hardly anybody knows that the Japanese military generally had a thing for self-destructing soldiers – they blew up their own people not only in airplanes, but in mini-submarines, speed boats and as divers with mines on top of a 5 meter long bamboo stick. Maybe the weirdest weapon of the “Japanese Special Attack Units” were the kaiten, a strange mix of submarine and torpedo. And all of those poor souls were trained in small town in the south of Japan.
In 1944 the Japanese Navy moved their special training school from Yokosuka (of Shenmue-fame) to the Kyushu countryside – there they set up squadrons for shinyo (“sea quake” – explosive speedboats), kaiten (“change the world” – manned torpedos), koryu (“sea dragon” – mini-submarines) and fukuryu (“crouching dragon” – frogmen). The remains of that training school, including an observation tower and a launching platform for the different vehicles can still be found at a northern shore of Omura Bay.
Arriving at the train station closest to the Training School you would never expect an institution like that in the area – the surrounding is picture book countryside, a great place to go for a summer vacation. Located at the tip of a peninsula you have to walk down a small mountain (well, more like a hill) with some beautiful gardens. Except for the one where the owner took the term “scarecrow” too literal and hung up a dead crow to scare away its fellow species.
After passing through a small fishing village we (like I mentioned in earlier postings: haikyo trip with Enric) reached the remains of the school – one rather big building without a roof, with a smaller, overgrown one next to it. Right in front of main building the already mentioned bridge lead into the lake to a launching platform for the vehicles that were the school’s main subject. Further along the coast and a few meters into the lake, once connected by a metal bridge, was a still standing observation tower.
Coming closer I realized that we weren’t the only people there: Two (female) cosplayers and a photographer were in the back of the main building, a fellow haikyoist was shooting the front from the outside – later on two or three more haikyoists joined us; seems like the location isn’t really a secret…
The Training School must have been a lot bigger when opened in 1944 – there were foundations and wall remains on both sides of the main building, indicating a much bigger complex. The remaining building had some pits in the ground and two rather big doors with a track once leading right onto the bridge, so I guess it’s safe to assume that it was used to repair and / or store the different kinds of vehicles. The school itself as well as the accommodations for the staff and soldiers must have been someplace else. Sadly only the walls remained, some of them with leftover fixtures for rainwater gutters and things like that; the same applied for the other remaining structures, too. Enric found a shard somewhere – of course I can’t say for sure that it was from the time the Training School was in use, but I took a picture anyways as I like (broken) items from daily life.
When choosing the Training School as a place to go to I mainly did it because it was located on the way between the two main attractions of the Kyushu trip (one of the two we had to cancel thanks to scheduling conflicts – more about that in the next blog entry…). The pictures I’ve seen on several Japanese sites weren’t that spectacular, but it was on our way, so why not have a quick stop and take a few pictures? Initially we wanted to go there the previous day, but in the end I was glad we didn’t. The weather was nasty that day and I’m sure I would have felt miserable and the pictures would have been quite dull. Instead we went a day later and while the weather still wasn’t good enough to go to Gunkanjima (the boat trip was cancelled – but we made it there the next day, so not much harm was done in the end… you will be able to read all about that in the next blog entry) it was absolutely gorgeous for a photo shoot. A cold, bright, windy day at first the whole place was flooded with warm light when the sun went down…
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