Chiran   知覧

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Samurai suicide bombers

This village in southern Kagoshima was once a residential area for samurai, and an important kamikaze air base.

In the center of the Satsuma Peninsula - between Kagoshima and Ibusuki - Chiran is a good place for a nice excursion (one day or half a day) in a rural and less visited Japan, where green tea plantations stretch as far as the eye can see (especially in the spring, just before the first harvest).

Like a samurai

The small town has retained the charm of the Edo period through the many samurai houses lining Bukeyashiki Dori.

Having been rehabilitated, several are open to the public - although only some rooms, as some are still inhabited by the descendants of the Shimazu clan, which once ruled the region (see Shôko Shusei-kan Kagoshima) Their gardens are worth visiting, they are models of sophistication. bordered by stone walls topped with moss.

You can even lunch "like a samurai" in Taki-an, one of the last houses in the street, which offers dishes inspired by the cuisine of the local aristocracy under the old regime.

Tora Tora Tora *

It is particularly the Kamikaze Peace Museum that tourists come to see in Chiran, from where many planes full of explosives took off during the battle of Okinawa (1945).

A moving and silent visit, through the testimonies left by the lost generation: farewell letters, personal effects, photos, and a few (unscathed) aircraft used in kamikaze attacks (Mitsubishi Zero).

On the way out small stalls offer one of the local specialties: sweet potato satsuma imo.

* The title of a Japanese-American film about the attack on Pearl Harbor (1970).

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