Kyushu Island Part II — Kanoya Naval Air Base Museum 当鹿屋航空基地史料館 — Kanoya, Japan 鹿屋日本
An encouraging message to travel to Kyushu, as well as the rest of Japan.
As a history buff I was long aware of the Kamikaze missions that were undertaken in WW II. During my learning in my formative years, as a US citizen, I was taught that they were desperate and occasionally devastating. As I matured I learned from my father, a military man and thinker, that they were more than that as they forced a large change in the Allied naval and air forces (albeit they were primarily US) strategies, as well as deployments. Finding the history of the Kamikaze, the term that I knew them at the time, without a US slant was more than difficult, and one must always seek to see at least two sides to a story. First, I learned the Japanese called these units “Special Attack” and not Kamikaze. My earnest thanks go to Bill Gordon who — in his pursuit of a Master of Arts degree — researched these Special Attack Units, went to many sites, interviewed and developed the web site “Kamikaze Images” — or, as written in Japanese language, 神風.
From other sources I learned that road and street signs in Japan are subtitled in English. Once I learned this I was off for a small trip to Japan, only able to visit Kyushu as this island has the most sites to see — four of them. I chose to land in Fukuoka City, rent a car and drive to these four museums. Happily, an elderly gentleman at the Information Booth helped me by writing the names of the museums in Japanese for me as we spoke about these units and their importance to the Japanese people. I was off and learned the average pace I anticipated of 45 mph (72 kph) was optimistic, primarily since the coastal roads I drove on were limited to half that speed. I also learned of a nice use of technology not used in the USA — the rental car had a GPS unit but in Japanese, naturally. However, if one inputs a phone number of the place you intend to drive — voilá — up pop the instructions! I was able to see the two most important sites, viewed wondrous scenery and met warm people so I consider the trip immensely successful.
Later I learned that Google’s language tools will translate English to the Japanese character language. So, I will not hesitate to return to Japan to revisit the two sites (the Tachiarai Peace Museum 大刀洗平和記念館 and the Kanoya Air Base History Museum 当鹿屋航空基地史料館) as well as see several more across the nation — and would suggest anyone else to do the same.
Another note: Kyushu Island Part I was published on 5 August 2009 (8/5/09)
CORRECTION: after a communication with Bill Gordon I must apologize for, and correct, a mistake. As it turns out the Japanese people did refer to the Special Attack Units as the Kamikaze. Specifically, the Imperial Japanese Navy used the term Kamikaze Special Attack Unit. The Army used a different term — when interpreted in accordance with Chinese reading (the formal Kanji characters) it means Shinpu, but when interpreted with either the Hiragana or Katakana sets it means Kamikaze. My thanks, again, to Bill Gordon for his expertise.
Kanoya Air Base History Museum 当鹿屋航空基地史料館
31º 22′ 53″ N / 130º 50′ 11″ E
Rugged ridges that are sharp and verdant, the way only volcanic regions can be, outline Japan’s island of Kyushu. Though not frequently touristed by westerners the island is popular with Japanese on holiday. There are many ways to get to Kyushu and getting to Fukuoka City is the easiest with Kagoshima City being the next easiest on the island. Once there, it is an easy drive to the town of Kanoya — home of a military airbase and the Kanoya Air Base History Museum (this is a Navy Air Base so this is a naval air museum). I traveled there for a few reasons. As it is a major museum, I wanted to see the Japanese presentation of their history and specifically the only remaining flying boat left of the Kawanishi 川西 H8K 二式大型飛行艇 (Type 2 Large Flying Boat, Allied codename “Emily”).
Kawanishi Aircraft Company evolved ultimately into ShinMaywa which has developed the latest of seaplanes outside of Russia, the US-1A and US-2. An example of the US-1A is also there. Not only is this aircraft amphibious it also has STOL capabilities and accomplishes this ability with complex ducting of engine air over the wing surfaces. Details also include a wiper over the forward observation ports as well as the cockpit windscreen.
A special treat is a restored Mitsubishi 零式艦上戦闘機 (Rei shiki Kanjō sentōki, Type 0 Carrier Fighter, Allied codename “Zeke” but also called “Zero”) in an innovative display with an overhead mural of the sky and a platform for viewing into the cockpit. Displays inside the museum abound with artifacts, models and photos while outside there are about a dozen additional aircraft, as well as additional interesting objects.
Almost all of the museum’s information is written in the Japanese language, naturally, but that did not deter the staff from welcoming this unannounced non Japanese speaking visitor warmly and graciously. There is a café located across the shared parking lot from the museum. The museum is extremely comfortable with seating areas and exhibits meant for children, as well as history buffs — and there is no entry fee.
A note: Part I describes my visit to the Tachiarai Peace Museum 大刀洗平和記念館 and their rare Nakajima 島 Ki-27 九七式戦闘機, (Kyūnana-shiki sentōki, or Type 97 Fighter, Allied codename “Nate”).