Ikezawa Natsuki’s Kadena カデナ


Ikezawa, Natsuki. Kadena. Tokyo: Shinchosha, 2009.

Ikezawa’s quasi-historical novel concerns the role of the US Kadena military base and the massive
B-52 Stratofortress bombers that flew out of Kadena on its bombing missions to North Vietnam during the Vietnam War. The novel is divided into seventeen unnumbered chapters, each marked by the name of that chapter’s narrator. The narration alternates between Frida-Jane Miller, Kadekaru Chōē, and Taira Takahiro (Taka), all of whom play a role in passing information about the B-52 missions to Vietnamese in the north. The main plot revolves around the spying operation run by the three protagonists. Frida-Jane, a Filipino-American who works as a secretary for a top general on Kadena base, passes information concerning the bombing dates and targets to Taka, who carries the information to Chōē, who then decodes and radios the information to someone in North Vietnam. The entire operation is organized and overseen by Annan, a Vietnamese friend who knew Chōē’s family when he lived in Saipan.

Historical Background to the Novel

1- Vietnam War (1955-1975)

The main events in the novel take place during 1968, generally considered an especially demoralizing year in the war for the US. In January, the North Vietnamese Army launched the Tet Offensive, which made clear to the US media and general public that the war was far from over. This was also the year that both Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King were assassinated. Anti-war protest throughout the country intensified.

2- Sinking of the Amerika-maru 亜米利加丸

On March 4, 1944, the Japanese Amerika-maru, which was evacuating civilians from Saipan, was torpedoed and sunk by a US submarine. Including the crew, 602 passengers were on board. All of the crew and 508 of the 511 civilians perished.

3- Intrepid Four

The Intrepid Four was a group of four deserters from the USS Intrepid, a navy aircraft carrier stationed in Japan. With the help of JATEC, the group of four escaped to the U.S.S.R. and then to Sweden.

4- Beheiren (Betonamu ni Heiwa o! Shimin Rengo)

A Japanese anti-war group that operated during the Vietnam War. The group also organized JATEC (ジャテック), a group that helped deserters escape.

5- Koza Riot コザ暴動

A spontaneous, unplanned riot that took place in Koza (now Okinawa City) on December 20, 1970. The riot clearly reflected the anger that many Okinawans felt towards the US military occupation.

6- B-52 Crash at Kadena Air Force Base

On November 19, 1968, a B-52 bomber crashed at the end of the runway during an aborted take-off. The plane burst in flames, triggering explosions of the bombs on board. For a detailed account of the crash, including eyewitness accounts, go to the following site:

B-52 Crash at Kadena AFB

Main Characters

Sergeant Frida-Jane Miller フリーダ=ジェイン

An attractive Filipino-American woman who works as a secretary for a general on Kadena’s base, Frida-Jane begins passing information concerning the B-52 bombing targets and dates. As her name suggests, Frida-Jane has a mixed identity (her father is American and her mother is Filipino) and also mixed loyalties. Having experienced the war in the Philippines, she is sympathetic to the plight of the North Vietnamese, but at the same time, she falls in love with Patrick Behan, a B-52 pilot who has grown tired of the war. Frida-Jane is first drawn into spy activities when her mother, who is involved in anti-war activities in the Philippines, sends her a coded message asking her to call a certain phone number.

Kadekaru Chōē 嘉手苅朝栄

An older Okinawan man, who lost his entire family in Saipan during the Pacific War, Chōē now operates a remote-controlled model airplane and ham radio shop. One day, Annan, an older friend from his days in Saipan. Asks Chōē to assist in sending information to North Korea.

Taira Takahiro (Taka)  平良高弘(タカ)

A drummer in the band Jira- and Sanra-, Taka is drawn into the spy operation when Chōē asks him to work as a gardener for Becky and Frida-Jane. Taka’s role is to carry information passed from Frida-Jane to Chōē, who then decodes and radios the information to Vietnam. Through his older sister, Tamiko, Taka also gets involved in helping US soldiers desert.

Annan 安南

A Vietnamese man, who knew Chōē’s family when they lived in Saipan, Annan organizes and oversees the spying operation carried out by Frida-Jane, Chōē, and Taka.

Patrick Behan パトリック・ビーハン大尉

A captain and B-52 pilot, Patrick begins dating Frida-Jane shortly after arriving in Kadena. On their first intimate date, Frida-Jane discovers that Patrick is impotent, and that this problem is somehow connected to his work. Patrick dies when his plane crashes during take-off.


1 Frida-Jane
(pages 5-28)

The B-52s fly in Kadena from Guam, and Frida-Jane participates in the welcoming ceremony. Because of their size, the bombers are called BUFF (big ugly fat fuckers), or in Japanese demideba (dekai mittomonai debu no baka). A few days later, Frida-Jane meets Captain Patrick Behan, one of the B-52 pilots, and invites him to go for a drive off base.

2 Frida-Jane (pages 29-56)

Patrick and Jane decide to fly a Cessna light plane to Okuma Resort in the northern part of Okinawa. Jane receives a coded letter from her mother asking for her help in the anti-war movement. The letter gives a phone number for Jane to call. On the trip to Okuma, Jane flies the plane to Kume Island, where she and Patrick walk on the beach together. In Okuma, the two end up going to bed together, but Patrick cannot perform sexually. On the flight back, Patrick performs various acrobatics and terrifies Jane when he intentionally stalls the plane. Back at Kadena, she slaps him for his behavior.

kadena4 Kadena Base in 2010

3 Kadekaru Chōē (pages 57-80)

At the age of thirteen, Kadekaru Chōē moves to Saipan, where his father makes
awamori liquor and his mother makes tofu. When he is seventeen, he begins working in a sugar factory, where he learns to repair the machines. Later, he works as a conductor on the railroad. He brother lives with a Saipan girl, who gets pregnant. During the war, his parents die on the Amerika-maru, which is sunk by a US submarine. When the Americans take over, he lives in camps in Saipan and later in Okinawa. Chōē learns that his brother also died and that he is now the only member of the family. After the war, he gets his own truck and works transporting black market and base goods. He marries Sachiko, a strong woman who takes care of all family events, even though she and Chōē do not have children. After Chōē hurts his leg in an accident, Sachiko focuses on running her soba shops, while he runs a small shop specializing in radio-operated model planes and ham radios.

4 Kadekaru Chōē (pages 81-106)

After the war, Chōē makes good money transporting black market goods and rice from Taiwan, while stealing (“spoils of war”) from shipments of base goods. In 1953, he meets Sachiko when he needs someone to help him back up his truck. After they are married, Sakiko spends much of her time helping Anko and Kuniko, her brother and his wife. Sachiko is a great cook and is very successful with her soba shops. One day, Chōē meets Annan, an older man who knew Chōē’s family in Saipan. Later, Annan asks Chōē whether he will listen to his special request, and Chōē decides that he will.

5 Frida-Jane (pages 107-131)

Patrick calls Jane and apologizes for his behavior and later they meet. Patrick explains that he became impotent shortly after the Tet offensive. He asks Jane to be his girlfriend. Becky, Jane’s roommate, returns home from the Philippines with a letter from Jane’s mother. The letter urges Jane to accept the request to get involved in the anti-war movement. Jane decides to accept her mother’s request, but first stops at the Catholic church she attends and talks with the priest about her moral dilemma. She calls the phone number her mother gave her and meets a man named Annan. They agree that Jane will pass on information concerning bombing dates and targets, but do not come up with a solution for how to deliver the information. Jane decides that she will date Patrick.

6 Frida-Jane (pages 132-158)

Jirā and Sanrā, a local band that Jane likes, must stay on Kadena base for their own protection, after being threatened by a local gang. After the next meeting concerning B-52 missions, Jane sneaks out the notes for the meeting. She calls Annan and they meet. She gives him the information, and they discuss possibilities for how to deliver information in the future. At home, Becky talks about their garden, and Jane realizes she can get Becky to hire a gardener to whom she can pass the information. Patrick, drunk and depressed, calls Jane for help to sober up before his mission the next morning. Jane and Becky let him stay with them, and they help him recover. Later, Jane calls Annan and asks him to find a gardener who can serve as their carrier.

7 Taka (pages 159-185)

As he is putting up posters for his band, Taka also stamps the back of various posters with a stamp that has a message for deserters. His sister, Tamiko, had brought him to an anti-war meeting, which was headed by Chibana-sensei, a teacher at the University of the Ryukyus. He visits Chōē, who has been like a father to him, and is asked to be the gardener for Becky and Jane. Taka then visits Becky and Jane’s home, where he receives instructions about the garden from Becky and an envelope from Jane. After he brings the envelop to Chōē’s house, Chōē fills Taka in on the spy operation.

8 Taka (pages 186-211)

Sachiko, Chōē’s wife, returns home and makes
tofu chanpuru for them. Chōē and Taka go into Chōē’s ham radio room, where Chōē decodes the message using a Bible and code book. After sending the message, he burns it. Chōē tells Taka that he has gotten involved because of his experience in Saipan. Taka receives a phone call from Tamiko, who explains that a deserter has appeared and then need help talking to him in English. Taka goes and meets the group and the deserter, who is scared but becomes willing to talk after Taka tells the deserter about his own life. The deserter explains that he is B-52 gunner and that he has started to suffer hallucinations during his missions. Professor Chibana decides to accept the deserter and says that they will contact Japan and start planning for an escape to another country.

9 Taka (pages 212-230)

The deserter, named Mark Robinson, and the students go out for dinner. Mark stays with Mr. Chibana for a night and then goes with Taka, who takes Mark to his grandmother’s house. Mark asks to call his girlfriend, Sanae, and Taka says okay. Taka’s grandmother dislikes Americans, so she refuses to stay with them, but she lets Taka have the house. Sanae arrives by bus and spends the night with Mark. Taka tries to sleep while they are making noise while having sex in the next room.

10 Frida-Jane (pages 231-255)

After a delay for peace negotiations in July, the bombing intensifies. Jane hides her notes from meetings in her underwear before leaving Kadena base to go to her apartment. One day, a thorough search is carried out at the gate as Jane is leaving. Just before Jane is about to be searched, the woman in front of her is caught with drugs hidden in her car’s spare tire, allowing Jane to escape. Jane talks with Father Ignatius, the priest her at her church. He encourages Jane and tells her that lying is a lesser sin than allowing civilians to be killed by the bombing. Patrick seems to be losing confidence in himself and spends all of his free time with Jane, partly to prevent himself from drinking. In bed, they talk about the Philippines, Jane’s decision to join the Air Force, and other things. As a child, Jane experienced the bombing of Manila and the Japanese occupation. Although she agonizes over her spying and betrayal of Patrick, she pictures a 4-year old girl in Hanoi experiencing the same kind of horror that she experienced at that age.

11 Kadekaru Chōē (pages 256-278)

Chōē and Sachiko go to Sashiki for the
obon holiday. Sachiko does much of the work, and Chōē helps by driving her and carrying supplies in his new big American car. Chōē talks with Anko, and helps with the shopping. After obon, Chōē receives a phone call from Annan, and they meet on a hill overlooking the Kadena base airstrip. After Chōē is given a new codebook, he and Annan talk about Vietnam and the United States, which Annan calls “an uncivilized country.” One day, Captain Behan and some other Americans come to Chōē’s shop with the general. Calling themselves Team 29, the group wants to build a model B-29. Chōē explains about the Piper plane on the roof of his shop. Taka comes in and sneaks into the back. Later, he explains to Chōē that Behan is Freda’s boyfriend.

12 Taka (pages 279-306)

Taka buys a motorcycle. After a large increase in messages from Jane concerning bombing missions, there is a decrease in August. During the obon holiday, Taka goes to his grandmother’s house in Nakagusuku. When she hears that Mark is a deserter, her attitude towards him changes completely. Tamiko appears and explains that Mark and three others (one from Okinawa) made it to Sweden. She also says that Beheiren will come to Okinawa. Later, Taka reads in the newspaper that Beheiren came to Okinawa to protest the war and that many members were arrested. Tamiko was also arrested. The Beheiren members were sent back to Japan. During one of Taka’s concerts, Sanae comes in and tells Taka that she has received a letter from Mark, addressed to her and Taka. Taka goes to her house and reads the letter, in which Mark explains how he escaped to Sweden: In Tokyo, Mark spent much time moving from house to house and was extremely bored until he received a radio from a JATEC member. He went on a plane with a sexy girl (to distract people from noticing him), met three other Americans, and was brought to a fisherman’s house in the north. The group then took a boat to the U.S.S.R., where they were picked up by the Soviet Coast Guard. Finally they took a train to Sweden. After they finish reading the letter, Sanae asks Taka to spend the night.

13 Frida-Jane (pages 307-332)

Jane and Patrick go to dinner with the Captain Washowitz and his wife, both of whom are conservative and pro-military. They talk about the Mexico Olympics [1968 summer Olympics], hobbies, and Mark (the deserter). They call Mark a coward, and then start talking about other gunners that have gone crazy. Elizabeth suggests that they should just end the war by using a nuke, and everyone grows quite; however, no one strongly opposes her. The rumors about nuclear weapons cause Patrick to become even more depressed. One day, Taka comes to the apartment when Becky is away, so Taka and Jane are alone. Taka tells her that rowdy soldiers at his performances have made his work dangerous. Jane asks Taka to suggest an interesting place for a date, and he tells her to go to Abuchira, south of Itoman. The following weekend, Jane and Patrick search for Abuchira, and after asking many people along the way, finally find a cave that is filled with bones and relics from World War II. They talk about the nuke rumors, and although these rumors upset Patrick, Jane knows that they are a sign of frustration. She suspects that the end of the war is near.

14 Taka (pages 333-358)

Taka gets a phone call from Tamiko about another gathering with the students and Professor Chibana. Apparently, someone was arrested in Japan because of a decoy deserter. Chibana emphasizes that each and every students is free to drop out of the movement. He suggests that this is a healthy way for activist movements to continue, and that this is what sets them apart from the military. The students and their teacher have a lively discussion about spies and the anti-war movement. Taka goes to see Chōē, and they go to test fly a model plane together. They talk about all that they have done so far, and Taka tells Chōē about Tamiko, Mark, and their activities.

15 Frida-Jane (pages 359-386)

Patrick begins to feel more confident, so he asks Jane to go to Okuma again. Before they go, Patrick picks up a remote-controlled model Piper plane at Chōē’s model plane shop. When they land in Okuma, Jane does a “touch and go” before landing again. In Okuma, Patrick plays with his plane like a little boy, and Jane thinks that she wouldn’t mind being his wife. In their room together, Patrick has an erection for the first time since being with her, so they quickly go to bed. Afterwards, they take a walk on the beach and talk about marriage. Shortly after they return to Kadena, Jane is awaken at four in the morning by a phone call from her office. When she arrives at work, she finds out that a B-52 has crashed on take off. She then finds out that the pilot was Captain Behan. Jane wanders around outside and walks close to the crash site. With her face pressed against the fence, she witnesses the burning plane and the numerous explosions of its cargo. Later, she writes a letter to her mother explaining that she has lost her lover.

16 Taka (pages 387-412)

Taka hears about the B-52 accident and the various explanations concerning the causes. Some believe the pilot was a hero for preventing the plane from going outside the base. Chōē doesn’t believe the hero stories. Taka joins another band, called Hibiscus, but then goes with Jirā and Sanrā to perform at the Osaka World Exposition. Before going, he hears from Professor Chibana that Okinawa was mistreated at this Exposition, just as it had been many years ago in the
Jinruikan incident. A few months after he returns to Okinawa, he gets caught up in the Koza Riot, during which he finds Jane sitting in the street. He takes her home, and they talk about Patrick and the old times when they were spies together. Jane tells Taka that Patrick was strongly affected by pictures of Hiroshima that he saw. Now late at night, Jane tells Taka that he can spend the night, but that there won’t be any hugging.

17 Kadekaru Chōē (pages 413-434)

Four years later, Chōē is watching the news coverage of the final evacuation of South Vietnam, along with his wife Sachiko and their adopted daughter Yuriko. He recalls the summer of 1971, when Taka came in with Frida and introduced her as his girlfriend. Taka also explained that they had been living together (since just after the Koza Riot). They all become friends with each other. Chōē also recalls the spring of 1973, when Annan came to the house and the group got together for the first time. They all reminisce about their spy activities. Sachiko hears about everything for the first time. Annan told them that he will move back to Vietnam to help rebuild his country. Later that year, Frida came to visit Chōē and explained that she was pregnant, but that she would separate from Taka and move back to the Philippines and live with her mother. Apparently, Taka had accepted this. Back in the present, Chōē looks at the TV again and sees helicopters being pushed off the deck to make room for others. He thinks about the game of moving a stack of disks to another pole, and about a Hannoi temple that has 64 disks, which would take 58,449,000,000 years to move to another pole. He imagines that an equal number of bombs were dropped on Hannoi. He remembers Patrick Behan. Finally, he thinks that he would like to visit Hannoi, where his oldest friend, Annan, might be living.

Report by Takuma Sminkey