By HAYATO KAJI/ Staff Writer
May 22, 2022 at 08:00 JST
KANOYA, Kagoshima Prefecture--As the generation that experienced World War II is fast fading into history, local authorities here turned to virtual reality to preserve images of local military sites from that era as well as memories of residents who lived through the conflict.
Kanoya city in southern Japan hosted three bases used by imperial forces during the war. It also hosted the headquarters for a kamikaze suicide squad.
Officials said their aim is to provide postwar generations with tangible evidence of the horrors of war that allows them to reflect on the lasting value of peace in the hope history does not repeat itself.
City officials decided to act as numbers of wartime survivors are dwindling and many of those individuals are now too frail to hand down accounts of their experiences of those dark times more than seven decades ago.
“We want people to visit the former sites to learn what they looked like in bygone days,” said a Kanoya city official.
Whereas Minami-Kyushu in Kagoshima Prefecture is known primarily for its Chiran Peace Museum, Kanoya has many war-related sites.
It hosted bases called Kasanohara, Kanoya and Kushira during the war.
More than 900 kamikaze pilots flew from the Kanoya base on suicide missions toward the close of the war, more than at any other facilities in Japan.
Three virtual reality movies depict the Imperial Japanese Navy’s Kushira and Kasanohara bases as well as Kanehama beach, where U.S. occupation forces came ashore following Japan’s surrender in August 1945.
The video footage was created by using present-day landscapes as well as recollections of survivors and depictions from official documents. A QR code is set up at each location to provide smartphone access for on-site viewing.
In the video of the Kanehama beach landing, six U.S. Navy vessels appear in Kagoshima Bay and come close to shore to allow bulldozers and soldiers to make landfall.
One centering on the Kushira base portrays a suicide unit departing from the base and a communications officer receiving a message in a dugout by telegraph from a pilot on a suicide mission.
All the materials were developed based on peace lessons offered by local volunteer guides, the city’s historical records and the wartime experiences of residents.
Some scenes from the VR videos are available on the municipality’s website at (https://www.city.kanoya.lg.jp/furusato-pr/360vr.html).
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