Kaiiki, by Hiroshi Uemoto


 

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Although the story of Japanese kamikaze suicide air pilots during World War II is well-known, lesser known -- and indeed less effective, if such a word can be used -- was the suicide manned torpedos known as kaiten, literally "turning the heavens".

The training site for this program was Otsushima island in the Seto Inland Sea, and photographer Hiroshi Uemoto first traveled there in his 20s in search of material to shoot, but it wasn't until 30 years later than Uemoto felt he could make sense of the place and convey some of what the young soldiers sent there must have felt as they pondered their impending fate.

The book is primarily made up of seascapes taken from the island, though there is the occasional reminder of the military history of the place. The images are dark and murky, yet beautifully composed and realized. They can be appreciated on their own without needing to know the "back story" as it were. Nevertheless, in their totality and in the context of what we know about the place, there is the very clear sense of menace and tragedy lurking underneath the surface.

Hardcover, 24.5cm x 24.5cm, 72 pages, 64 b/w reproductions. Published October, 2013.