Senninbari (thousand stitch) belt : Chief Petty Officer Toyoshima Hajime, Imperial Japanese Navy Aircraft Carrier Hiryu

Accession Number REL49365
Collection type Heraldry
Object type Personal Equipment
Physical description Cotton, Hair, Ink, Metal
Maker Unknown
Place made Japan
Date made c. 1940-1942
Conflict Second World War, 1939-1945

A traditional Japanese senninbari '1000 stitch belt' made from white cotton. The belt consists of a central hand sewn design of a pair of pink flowers attached to a brown branch. The middle of each flower has a small circular metal coin sewn in, the smaller one a 5 Yen coin. Both coins have a central hole. The brown coloured 'L' shaped branch has an internal pocket which contains black coloured human hair, strands of which are visible at either end of the branch. On either side of this are hundreds of small faded red stitches. The reverse surface has some small red ink blotches which may be the remnants of red ink stamps which were commonly stamped onto the belts. A small folded piece of cotton and paper is inside the internal pocket. These are small good luck talismans.

History / Summary

This senninbari '1000 stitch belt' was carried by the first Prisoner of War captured on Australian territory, Chief Petty Officer Toyoshima Hajime, a fighter pilot with the Imperial Japanese Navy. Toyoshima was the pilot of a single seat Mitsubishi A6M2 Reisen 'Zero' fighter plane from the aircraft carrier Hiryu ('Flying Dragon') when he was shot down by a single .303 bullet through his oil tank, on the first massive Japanese attack on Darwin on 19 February 1942.

After crashing his aircraft and surviving the traumatic impact (his face was badly hit by the machine gun breeches and 'dash board' of his aircraft) Toyoshima was captured by a traditional warrior of the Tiwi people living on Melville Island, Uncle Mattias Ulungarra. After being handed over to the Australian Army he gave a false name (Tadao Minami) and false story that he was the crewman in a recently shot down Japanese Navy patrol bomber.

Taken to the southern states of Australia and interogated he was one of the leaders of the infamous Cowra 'breakout' in August 1944 where he was seriously wounded by Australian rifle and machine gun fire. Lying wounded in the middle of the camp, known as the 'broadway' he took his own life and he was buried under his false name at the Cowra War Cemetery. This rare piece of Australian and Japanese history was given to the Memorial by the family of one of the Australian Intelligence Officers who interogated Toyoshima before his imprisonment at Cowra.