I recentl went down to Nagasaki Prefecture to spend time with a dear old friend, Takekuni Ikeda, who lives on a little wooded peninsula jutting into Omura Bay. He’s an incredible man.
During the Pacific War, Mr. Ikeda was the navigation officer of the cruiser Yahagi, which accompanied the mighty 65,000-ton battleship Yamato on its suicide mission to Okinawa in April 1945. On the way, both the Yahagi and Yamato were bombed, torpedoed and sunk by U.S. Navy planes. An explosion hurled Mr. Ikeda off the bridge into the sea. He suffered burns all over his head, hands and face, but made a scar-free recovery due to the chilly sea water and a covering of thick bunker oil, which kept the air off the burns. Now aged 80, he still has a shock of thick, natural black hair.