Located on the border of Kumamoto and Satsuma (now Kagoshima) domain, Izumi was a samurai stronghold. Today it features the largest preserved fumoto, a fortified samurai neighbourhood with two samurai residences open to the public. The samurai spirit is still present and during World War II it proved fertile ground for recruiting young kamikaze pilots. 41 kamikaze took off from Izumi Naval Air Base never to return.
Duration: 1 day.
Season: From 1 September til 31 May. Private guided tours upon request.
Calendar. If the tour is not scheduled or the dates in the calendar don’t suit your travel schedule, please contact us for a private or custom tour for you and your group.
Start & End: Izumi, Kagoshima.
Level 1: a flat 40km ride.
Rental Bike Details
We set out from the station and ride along Komenotsugawa river to the gate of the Satsuma domain. Now we can enter Satsuma as proper samurai and head straight for Fumoto, the fortified samurai neighbourhood (bukeyashiki). Izumi is the birthplace of the Shimazu clan. The first head of the clan, Shimazu Tadahisa (d. 1227), established the castle in the Kamakura period and built the clan’s foundation. In Kannōji Temple, the first five heads of the clan are resting peacefully. During that time, travelers and shipments passing through Izumi were strictly searched, for the location was on the border between Satsuma and Higo. On the foot of the hills still remain numerous residences of samurai. In later times, to prevent rebellion in renegade Satsuma, the Shoguns forbade the Shimazu Lords to have castles. The smart Shimazu’s resorted instead to these bukeyashiki. We visit two samurai residences Takezoetei and Saishotei, open to the public thanks to the volunteers of the Fumoto Townscape Preservation Society. Time for a delicious soba noodles lunch in a delightfully authentic restaurant.
Next we ride to the Izumi Special Attack Monument Park. We visit the command bunker, which has information on the base’s history, and the remains of a guardhouse at the former entrance to the base. There is a piece of the main wing of a Type 96 land-based attack bomber belonging to the Matsushima Air Group. The plane was shot down in a dogfight in the skies above Izumi Air Base. The park also has an aircraft propeller caught after the war in a fishing net off the coast of Izumi. In nearby Kamikaze Shrine (Tokko Jinja) a bronze statue of a kamikaze pilot stands on a 15-foot concrete arch with a plaque that says “Distant South”.
Then through the rice fields we continue to the bukeyashiki in Noda. This samurai neighbourhood is smaller than Izumi’s but the meticulously kept gardens are worth the ride. And in passing we pay a visit to Kannoji, the oldest rinzai zen buddhist temple in Japan. After offering our prayers it is time to head back to Izumi station.
The Japanese word Kamikaze is translated as “divine wind” and was first used for the major typhoons in 1274 and 1281, which dispersed Mongolian invasion fleets under Kublai Khan. The tradition of death instead of defeat was deeply entrenched in Japanese military culture. It was one of the primary traditions in the samurai life and the Bushido code: loyalty and honour until death.
Izumi Air Base opened in April 1943 as a training base. The base was used during the war by a wide variety of plane types including Zero fighters, Ginga (Frances) bombers, Suisei (Judy) dive bombers, Type 1 (Betty) bombers, and Shiden (George) fighters. The 210th, 701st, 762nd, 763rd, 951st, Yatabe, and Tsukuba Air Groups, the 401st Attack Hikotai, and other units made use of the base. Numerous kamikaze special attack squadrons made up of Ginga bombers took off from Izumi, Miyazaki, and Kanoya Air Bases toward Okinawa during March and April 1945.
Clouds mark their graves
The setting sun adorns their epitaphs
(from Burial in the Clouds by Hiroyuki Agawa)