Japan's Secret WWII Tunnels Finally Open

Site served as Imperial Navy headquarters in war's final days
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 24, 2015 11:15 AM CDT
Japan's Secret WWII Tunnels Finally Open
In this Tuesday, June 23, 2015 photo, Takeshi Akuzawa of Keio Senior High School, speaks from the chief commander’s room below Hiyoshi Campus.   (Eugene Hoshiko)

On a hillside overlooking a field where students play volleyball, an inconspicuous entrance leads down a slope—and seemingly back in time—to Japan's secret Imperial Navy headquarters in the final months of World War II. Here, Japan's navy leaders made plans for the fiercest battles from late 1944 to the war's end in August 1945. They knew when kamikaze pilots crashed to their deaths when signals from their planes stopped. They cried when they monitored cables from officers aboard the battleship Yamato as it came under heavy US fire and sank off southern Japan. Today, the barren, concrete tunnels sit quietly underneath a high school and university campus, largely untouched and unknown, opened to the media for the first time to raise public awareness of the site and the tragic history it represents.

Keio University leased the Hiyoshi campus in Yokohama to the navy in 1944, after thousands of teachers, staff, and students were sent to the battlefield. The navy commanded from a dorm, rushing to the underground command center whenever US B-29 bombers flew over. The tunnel had ventilation ducts, a battery room, food storage with ample stock of sake, and deciphering and communications departments. Experts say the significance of such war remains is increasing as a growing sentiment among conservatives favors their removal if they are seen as portraying the negative side of the history. However, a man who monitored Morse code in the tunnels, and can't get the lost kamikaze signals out of his head, says this site must be preserved as "proof why we should not wage war ever again." (More Japan stories.)

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