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Chiran (知覧) is in Kagoshima prefecture, part of Kyushu in Japan.
Outside Chiran's peace museum, several WWII-era planes are on display


Tome Torihama and the Tomiya Shokudou

During the final period of the war when Japan was sending hundred of young pilots to their deaths on kamikaze missions, Tome Torihama ran a military eatery where many of the boys took their last meals. She became famous for the love that she showed to the pilots, and many stories have been written about her. Perhaps the most well-known story is the following incident, which Tome and her daughter always swore to be true until their respective deaths in 1992 and 2005.

After dinner at the restaurant on the eve of his suicide mission, Sgt. Saburo Miyagawa, Tome and her high-school age daughter Reiko were walking when they came upon some fireflies, at which point Miyagawa suddenly told the women that he wanted to come back and visit them the next day, promising to return to the restaurant in the form of a firefly at 7pm. "Promise me you'll sing for me when I come," he said, and they promised.

At 7pm the next day, Tome and her daughter were sitting in the dark restaurant listening to war reports on the radio, when Tome got up to go outside and found a firefly hovering just outside the door, as if waiting to get in. The insect flew in and flew straight to the apex of the building, flashing rhythmically. "It's Saburo-kun. He's come back!", she said. In the dark there, she and Reiko sang an old war song for the young sergeant, and then the firefly flew out and disappeared into the night.

This story, relayed in book form by Reiko's daughter, and in movie form as part of the semi-fictional 2001 film Hotaru, is responsible for a boom in Japanese tourism to Chiran.

Get in[edit]

By bus[edit]

Kagoshima Kotsu operates a bus from the Yamakataya department store in Kagoshima via the Kagoshima-Chuo (JR) and Hirakawa (JR) station to Chiran. Bus timetables can be found here. There is also a bus to going from Chiran to Ibusuki via Kiire station (JR), with the time-tables posted here. You can save some money by taking the JR train part of the way to the stations mentioned above and then taking the bus, though the bus could be filled up during Japanese tourism season (especially cherry blossom season).

By car[edit]

Chiran is about one hour from Kagoshima by car.

Get around[edit]

Walking from the Samurai gardens street to Chiran Peace Museum is about 30 minutes uphill through an uneventful residential area. Both buses (Chiran - Kagoshima, and Chiran - Ibusuki) run in between these two destinations.

See[edit][add listing]

  • Chiran Tokku Museum (Peace Museum) (知覧特攻平和会館) 0993-83-2525, open all year 9:00AM to 5:00PM (last admission 4:30PM). During World War II, Chiran was a base for kamikaze pilots and this museum displays photos, letters, and some of the airplanes of the pilots. The museum was founded in 1975. Admission: adults ¥ 500, children ¥300. [2] (signs in Japanese, English headsets available)
  • Tomiya Shokudou, the original location of Tome Torihama's military eatery.
  • Chiran Samurai District open all year 9:00AM to 5:00PM - While many small towns in the Japanese countryside advertise samurai streets or houses that lead to disappointment, Chiran's collection of samurai houses with gardens is quite good and the street makes a nice stroll in spring or autumn. There are 7 samurai gardens open to the public, admission ¥ 500. Buy the tickets before entering the samurai street, for example at the grocery store next to the bus stop. It is not possible to enter the samurai houses themselves.

Do[edit][add listing]

Buy[edit][add listing]

Eat[edit][add listing]

  • Fukiagean 吹上庵(ふきあげあん), 鹿児島県南九州市知覧町郡13725, 0993-83-1118, [1]. 10:30-21:00. Fukiagean is a soba chain and they have a branch located on the eastern side of town on the main road (Route 23). The food is delicious and inexpensive. The decor is very nice. They also serve tempura dishes. Sets from ¥750 to ¥1290.  edit

Drink[edit][add listing]

Sleep[edit][add listing]

  • Tomiya Ryokan (富屋旅館), 0993 83 1038, fax 0993 83 1038.

Get out[edit]

Ibusuki - A town famous for its sand onsen.

Kagoshima Create category

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