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 19:00. "Promise me you'll sing for me when I come," he said, and they promised.
At 19:00 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.
From Kagoshima, take the JR Ibusuki Makurazaki line to Hirakawa (平川) station. Then take the Kagoshima Kotsu bus to Chiran. The train ride is about 30 minutes. The bus ride is also about 30 min and the bus leaves approximately hourly.
Chiran is about one hour from Kagoshima by car.
Kagoshima Kotsu operates a bus from the Yamakataya department store in Kagoshima to Chiran.
- Chiran Special Attack Peace Museum (知覧特攻平和会館), ☏ . During World War II, Chiran was a base for kamikaze pilots and this museum displays photos and letters of the pilots. The museum was founded in 1975. In Japanese, English headsets available. Adults ¥500, children ¥300.
- Tomiya Shokudou, the original location of Tome Torihama's military eatery.
- Samurai Street - while many small towns in the Japanese countryside advertise samurai streets or houses that lead to disappointment, Chiran's collection of samurai houses is quite good and the street makes a nice stroll in spring or autumn.
- Tomiya Ryokan, ☏ , fax: . (富屋旅館).