In the summer of 1944, construction of underground facilities sprang up across the nation as Japan was preparing for a U.S. invasion of the main island of Honshu during the closing days of World War II.
Although the invasion never came to fruition, many of these tunnels remain. About 40 underground tunnels are scattered throughout a mountainous area in the Nariai district of northern Takatsuki, Osaka Prefecture. Known as Takatsuki Chika Soko (Takatsuki underground storehouse or Tachiso for short), these aged tunnels have fallen into disrepair, but a local preservation group has come to the rescue.
Members of Takatsuki Tachiso Senseki Hozon no Kai (Takatsuki Tachiso wartime site preservation society) spent about a year patrolling 15 of the tunnels and took photographs inside and around them because they "want to pass the lessons of war down to future generations." On Aug. 15, the society published a photo collection.
"Tachiso is actual proof of the war,” said 75-year-old Toru Hashimoto, the preservation society's secretary-general, who also serves as a tour guide of the tunnels. “We want to retain the tunnels so that the follies of war will be forever etched into our memory."
DEFEAT BEFORE COMPLETION
According to Takatsuki's history, the government broke ground on the tunnels in November 1944. Local residents, commandeered students and Korean laborers worked on their construction.
In February 1945, it was decided that the tunnels would house a munitions factory, but Japan surrendered before the tunnels’ completion.
According to the society, heavy rains in recent years have toppled trees that now block tunnel entrances. Water has pooled up inside the tunnels, and some sections have been buried where the ground has caved in.
63 PHOTOS COLLECTED
Fearing a crisis, the preservation society asked Takatsuki-based photographer Manabu Hashimoto to take photos in 2013 and 2014 of the tunnels' interiors, entrances, nearby water storage tanks and other structures.
Sixty-three of the photos were gathered to produce the photo book titled, "The disappearing war: Tachiso's 70th year," published by Toho Shuppan.
The photo collection also contains 10 photographs of the tunnels taken after the war in October 1945 by a U.S. military survey group. The 10 snapshots were discovered in May at the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration in Washington.
These photos from 1945 show heavy machinery, electrical wiring, drainage ditches and other equipment and construction inside the tunnels, as well as accommodations where laborers from Korea lived.
The photo collection is priced at 1,200 yen ($10), tax excluded, and is available at large bookstores in Takatsuki and elsewhere.