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  • Writer's pictureOlivier

Japan: The Kaiten Training Center, Remain of World War II in Kawatana

Updated: Mar 9

The Kaiten Training Center has a history that leaves one perplexed. Unlike other monuments, witnesses of World War II that I have talked about in previous posts, such as the Atomic Bomb Dome in Hiroshima or the "One-Legged Torii" at the Sanno Shrine in Nagasaki, the Kaiten Training Center is not a commemorative relic.

Japan: The Kaiten Training Center, Remain of World War II in Kawatana

Indeed, this building is not a ruin resulting from the atomic bombs dropped in 1945 on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This center was built to train Japanese soldiers who were preparing for combat through Kamikaze missions.

Photography and the Duty of Discretion

There are places steeped in history that arouse intrigue. As mentioned in previous articles related to the history of Japan and World War II, photographing locations laden with a sensitive past raises some questions. How can an artist, focused on the aesthetic values of landscapes, bear witness to this painful history without detracting from its memory? How can one respectfully convey the heavy emotional burden it carries? Do I even have the right to show my personal vision of this past through my photographs? These questions have not always found clear answers.

I like to believe that every photographer instinctively expresses their emotions in images in a genuine, honest, and profound manner, just as they received them through observation. And that there is nothing inappropriate or disrespectful about expressing oneself in this way.

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The Kaiten Training Center

Kaiten means "Human Torpedo" in Japanese. The term speaks for itself. It involved training soldiers for suicide missions by placing them inside torpedoes piloted from within, aimed at the enemy fleet.

Beyond the horror represented by these missions and training, the Kaiten building dedicated to them boasts astonishing architecture. The depth of the sea in this area is very shallow, and the tide is not significant.

Additionally, this building, consisting of a simple concrete cube, appears to be floating on the water. Originally, a bridge connected the structure to the mainland. It was destroyed and never rebuilt to prevent visitors from venturing inside. However, ironically, it has become a favorite spot for local fishermen who spend entire days sitting on the concrete slab.

The building is located in Omura Bay, on the island of Kyushu. This bay is a relatively tranquil inland sea that offers numerous photography-friendly sites. Due to its remote location, the Kaiten Training Center has not yet become a tourist destination. Fortunately.

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Photographing the Kaiten Center

Given the interest of fishermen in the tranquility of the area, photographing this building does require a bit of luck. It's not easy to be there alone, according to the locals. However, I have always found myself alone on the site and have been able to take all the time I needed to photograph it, regardless of the season.

The Kaiten Center is about twenty meters from the shore, making it conveniently positioned for photography. However, it can be challenging to vary the angles of shots because there is limited space around it. Only a small pebble beach offers a different perspective. You can also venture into the sea with your tripod if you visit during a season other than winter, given the shallow depth.

Getting to Kawatana to Photograph the Kaiten Center

The building is not easy to find. It is located at the end of a peninsula called "Kata Island" or Katajima in Japanese. To get there, you will need a vehicle. The Kaiten Center is a 10-minute drive (4 km) from Kawatana Station or a 1-hour drive from Nagasaki (60 km).

If you are already in Kyushu to photograph the Ariake Sea, you can also reach Kawatana by crossing the volcanic massif through Ureshino from the town of Kashima. The journey takes about 1 hour to cover the 36 km distance between Kashima and Kawatana.

A day trip is more than enough to photograph the Kaiten Training Center.

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