Saturday, January 05, 2019

One Chance for Glory

1931: The first pilot to fly across the Pacific was Clyde Pangborn, and here is a great documentary on Youtube (only about 500 views, how about it).

Great film clips from back in the early 1930s.

He is remembered in Misawa, Aomori Prefecture in northern Japan, and in Washington State, U.S.

For their accomplishment, Pangborn and Herndon were awarded the the White Medal of Merit of the Imperial Aeronautical Society by Consul General Kensuke Horinouchi. The presentation took place at the Japanese consulate on 21 November 1931.

The United States National Aeronautic Association awarded the two men its 1931 National Harmony Trophy.

And here is a novel that tells the story.

One Chance for Glory by Edward (Ted) Heikell and Robert (Bob) Heikel, both from Washington State, U.S.


Pangborn flew 4500 miles over water in a Single Engine Land airplane, jettisoned his landing gear into the ocean to save drag, climbed outside at 17,000 feet in the frigid air at night to make repairs, put the airplane into a terrifying dive to 1400 feet to restart the engine, diverted the flight path to avoid collision with Mt Rainier and finally belly-landed (crash landed) on a dirt strip cut out of the sage-brush land above Wenatchee, Washington, to complete his trip over the Pacific Ocean in 1931. Charles Lindbergh became a household name four years earlier by flying the 3600 miles solo over the Atlantic.

His co-pilot was Hugh Herndon, Jr. who had marginal flying experience. He was taught to fly in a private school in France and had very little practical knowledge about aviation or navigational skills. What he did have that Clyde needed was the financial backing of his mother. If Hugh could be trained to be a worthy co-pilot, Clyde would have all of the ingredients he would need to continue his career as an aviator.

The custom airplane that they bought was a modified version of the Bellanca Sky Rocket. It was not a fast airplane, but was known to be very reliable, had long-range capability and a strong engine and big wing to get heavy fuel loads out of short unimproved fields. While its specified limits were well established, using it to cross the Pacific Ocean was not part of the design criteria. Whenever the specifications were violated, they would have to rely on Clyde Pangborn’s knowledge, which was referred to as the “Pangborn Factors”.

Clyde Pangborn and Hugh Herndon took off from Sabishiro Beach, Misawa, Aomori, in Japan on October 4, 1931. From the moment they took off the flight was plagued by problems, but they managed to land safely at Fancher Field in Wenatchee, Washington, forty one hours and fifteen minutes after they took off.

Be that as it may, but why has the name of Pangborn been so well kept off the history books?

Edward T. Heikell and Robert L. Heikell mix history with some fiction to create a well-rounded view of lesser known pilot Clyde Pangborn in “One Chance for Glory: First nonstop flight across the Pacific” (ISBN 1468006088). 
Pangborn was the first pilot to successfully cross the Pacific Ocean nonstop, but his accomplishment was lost in the shuttle of other pilots who accomplished great things and became household names. The Heikell brothers contacted sources who were associated with Pangborn during the time of his flight, and all questioned why Pangborn’s incredible feat was never advertised in history books. 

During the era of pilots like Amelia Earhart, Charles Lindbergh and Jimmy Doolittle, Pangborn was overlooked; however, some suspect it was a result of a gag order placed on him by the sponsors of his trip. The Heikells use emotions and fictitious conversations to piece together what sketchy historical information existed about the flight and link the emotional stresses that must have existed between Pangborn and his loved ones. 

“The book is based on history, but some of it had to be fiction,” Edward Heikell says. “Actual pictures of the event have been included, but all of the conversations, emotions, some people and sub stories were made up to make a complete story out of the fragmented history trail.” 

Pangborn and his co-pilot Hugh Herndon Jr. ventured on their trip to save the barnstorming business and make a name for themselves. A dangerous journey within itself, Pangborn was shocked when he discovered Herndon was not the flyer he appeared to be, thus nearly killing them on numerous occasions. The discovery of situations like this prompted the Heikells to add in made-up emotions that would present a complete story of Pangborn.

So, Who Was The First To Fly Across The Pacific Ocean?

Quiz time - we all know the name of Charles Lindbergh flying from the US to Europe in 1927. Many other flight records were as important, but who did the first flight across the Pacific Ocean?

What sets Lindbergh's record apart is that it was a solo flight. Not particularly useful, but in that day an age, it caught the attention of the general public and the media. More realistically, a pilot needed a navigator, as in my novel, Kamikaze to Croydon. Breaking the record and flying from Japan to Europe in just four days in 1937 could not be done solo.

American Wiley Post and Harold Gatty did the first round-the-world flight in 1930, after the German Graf Zeppelin, piloted by Hugo Eckener had pioneered that particular feat (including a landing in Japan).

Canadian pilot Harald Bromly was the first to make a serious attempt at the Pacific, but failed when starting from Tacoma, Washington State, U.S.

''I find it difficult to convince many persons that this proposed flight is not sheer suicide,'' Mr. Bromley said in July 1929 as he prepared to fly alone to Tokyo in a Lockheed Vega low-wing monoplane. 

Source: The New York Times 1998 obituary

He failed again when trying to fly from Japan and eastwards, as his plane was too heavy. He had to dump fuel and then return. On September 15, 1930 Bromley again tried to make a trans-Pacific flight, this time in an Emsco monoplane, dubbed 'City of Tacoma', with Harold Gatty as his navigator. This time the flight was from Tokyo to Tacoma.

Engine trouble after about 1,250 miles forced them back to Japan, where they landed on a beach.

Harold Bromley became a test pilot for Lockheed and later opened a flying school in Tacoma. He died in 1999 at the age of 99 years.

With him was a fascinating character, his navigator Harold Gatty. Born in Australia, he had shown an interest in navigation that was to serve many other pioneering pilots of that era.

One of the first professional air navigators, Harold Gatty instructed such aeronautical elites as Anne Morrow Lindbergh in air navigation and invented new equipment. He developed the Gatty drift indicator for use in aircraft. Gatty served as Wiley Post's navigator on his record breaking around the world flight. He had been trained in air navigation by P. V. H. Weems and managed the Weems System of Navigation while Weems was on sea duty during the Depression. Gatty and Lindbergh convinced Pan American Airways to adopt the Weems System. Gatty became the Army Air Corps' chief navigation engineer—a remarkable position for a foreign (Tasmanian) national. There he tutored the cadre of officers who would be decisive in implementing the strategic bombing campaign during World War II, including Curtis LeMay.

Source: The Smithsonian

Oh, the irony. Anyway, we can safely say that the early pilots and daredevils quickly learnt that there had to be a science to the art of flying.

So, who was the first to fly across the Pacific?

After other aviators also failed to cross the Pacific, the feat was accomplished in October 1931 by Clyde Pangborn, a veteran barnstormer, and Hugh Herndon, a wealthy New Yorker who financed the flight, flying a Bellanca. Their flight, beginning at Sabishiro Beach and ending in Wenatchee, Wash., was part of their round-the-world trip in an unsuccessful effort to break the record time set in June 1931 by Wiley Post and Harold Gatty. Mr. Pangborn and Mr. Herndon received a $25,000 prize from the Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun.

Source: The New York Times

This is a fantastic trip back in time, a compilation of news reels with sound and interviews from 1931:

Sabishiro is in Misawa, Aomori Prefecture, and their plane was the Miss Veedol, a Bellanca (a US company founded by the Italian Giuseppe Mario Bellanca, who first cam to the US in 1911).

Clyde Pangborn was born in Washington State and ought to be as well known as the rest of them aviation pioneers. 

Monday, December 31, 2018

Tokyo Yamanote Line Melodies

If you have ever been to Tokyo, you must have taken the Yamanote Line around town. Here are the melodies for the different stations. Sometimes, when I have an hour to spare, I take the Yamanote Line one way around, but I do hate the recent all-video trains. Let's keep the stress level down, shall we. Please, less ads, more train pleasure.

Still, the JR East Yamanote Line has to be the best service around.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Water Privatization?

With water privatization, Japan faces crossroads in battling its aging pipes
Japan Times -- Dec 18 2018

Japanese water is clean and readily available, as evidenced by drinkable tap water and a nearly 100 percent penetration rate.
But perhaps less known is the dire decay that has slowly chipped away at its infrastructure, casting doubt on its sustainability.
To address this, the Diet passed an amendment earlier this month to the Water Supply Act, paving the way for effective privatization.
But critics say this flies in the face of a global trend toward “re-municipalizing” — or reinstating public control over — water management after years of soaring bills and compromised service quality, which they say underscore the profit maximization ethos of the private sector.
So what’s the status quo of Japan’s water system and what does the revised law do? Here is our look into those questions:
What’s the situation that prompted changes to the law?
Water pipes nationwide, many of them holdovers from the early postwar era that marked Japan’s rise as an economic superpower, are rapidly aging.
Adding to the disrepair is a staff shortage and reduced water use stemming from Japan’s ever-shrinking population that have made it increasingly difficult for municipalities, especially smaller ones, to run their water businesses in a sustainable manner.
Government data show that about 30 percent of water suppliers nationwide have seen their business slip into the red — a situation predicted to only worsen amid a further decline in manpower.
Health ministry statistics meanwhile show that about 15 percent of water pipes across the nation had outlived their 40-year duration as of fiscal 2016 and are thus in need of upgrading. But at the current pace, it is estimated it will take Japan about 130 years to bring all pipes up to date. Only 37.2 percent of major pipes are sufficiently quake-resistant, pointing to the danger of a prolonged water outage in the event of natural disasters, according to the health ministry.

The Kurashi opinion is of course that water is Japan's single major important resource. You can drink it, grow rice and vegetables and soy bean and other protein crops, and anyone with a well can live comfortably. If you start selling that to corporations and overseas investors, well, Japan has no other valuable resource. No iron, gold or oil. But water, is that much more valuable, since we all depend on it.

Sunday, December 09, 2018

Toru Takemitsu - L.A., New York, Paris, Rome, Helsinki (1991)

The wonderful things that happen. Or not.

In 1991, Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu was invited by American director Jim Jarmusch to write the original music for his film "Night on Earth", but his finished work was subsequently rejected by the director. The supposedly lost music by Takemitsu was aptly titled “L.A., New York, Paris, Rome, Helsinki” - five cities featured in Jarmusch’s film.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

New Photos From Croydon

Amazing images from April, 1937 as the Kamikaze-go landed at Croydon, London. From my new friends at the HCAT Archives, Peter Skinner and Ian Forsyth.

Record breaking flight from Tokyo. Can you spot Tsukagoshi climbing out of the airplane in the first picture? That's the easy one. Finding Iinuma in the last image may be more difficult, what with all the London policemen escorting him. He smiles a lot, holding on to a bunch of flowers, and is rather sun burnt from the long flight over the desert. Don't you think he was the happiest man on earth, that day. It inspired my wish to write about his long flight from Japan to Europe.

And you can order my novel about it here, Kamikaze to Croydon.

Bonus image: I took this photo of Iinuma Masaaki's pilot licence at his museum in Nagano:

Friday, November 16, 2018

WW1 Pilot Harry Ohara Remembered

First time I heard of this guy and his great story. Harry Ohara was born in Japan, studied at Waseda University in Tokyo, went to British India and worked for a newspaper. When war broke out, he joined the British Army. Later he flew after having started as a mechanic.

Kyodo notes that he is thought to be the Royal Air Force's first - and only - Japanese pilot:

O'Hara applied to become a pilot at exactly the right time, according to RAF Museum curator Peter Devitt. A portrait of an intense looking O'Hara stands out among the heroes -- the only Asian among the portraits -- that decorate the wall at the RAF Museum.

More details at the Great War London blog, that notes (correctly) that he must have been flying for the Royal Flight Corps, not the RAF (RAF was formed on 1 April 1918):

In March 1917, O’Hara transferred to the RFC as a 2nd-class air mechanic (the basic rank for RFC men – equivalent to his rank of private in the Middlesex Regiment).  He was soon undergoing flying training, though, and living in London at 25 Fitzroy Square, a boarding-house run by Jukicki Ikuine, another Japanese man living in London. In 1911 Ikuine and his English wife had run a boarding-house entirely populated by Japanese men (servants, cooks and waiters), so perhaps his properties were a standard place for Japanese men to board.
O’Hara qualified as a pilot on 21 July 1917 at the London and Provincial flying school in Edgeware, and was immediately promoted to Sergeant by the RFC.  It is not clear where he was stationed between then and March 1918, when he was posted from France to the No 1 School of Military Aeronautics (in Reading), but at some point he became engaged to Norfolk-born Muriel M McDonald. They married in Lewisham in September 1917.

No 1 Squadron with their SE5As and dog

Top photo showing the handsome young pilot, proudly posing in front of his SE5A, which has become known as "the Spitfire of Word War One."

Harry Fusao O’Hara died in Hampstead in 1951.

Thanks Our Man in Abiko, Patrick, for finding!


Thursday, November 08, 2018

Imperial Airways in 1937: Hanno at Al Mahatta Airport in UAE

If you have read my novel, Kamikaze to Croydon, you know that our two Japanese flyers went straight from Karachi to Basra. Their Mitsubishi Ki-15 had that much power.

Out in the desert, there were many other established aerodromes or airfields, but what were conditions there and what did they actually look like?

You can order Kamikaze to Croydon here at Amazon as a paperback, and also at Kindle as an eBook.

I hope you will also be kind enough to leave comments and rate it.

Here is an excerpt:

Our altitude was again near 3,000 metres, which the Ki-15 seemed to find most agreeable, no matter what the conditions were. We had Iran on our right, and there was Arabia proper and Oman, according to the new maps. Tsukagoshi read the names. We reached Musandam and the Strait of Hormuz, which was just 54 kilometres wide.

I clearly recalled all we had back a few months ago was a terrible old chart, with no elevations indicated, and Charles Lindbergh’s new maps were such a revelation. “These maps,” Tsukagoshi muttered, “I have to say, are rather detailed.” He was thinking aloud, and clearly not sure what he was seeing from his windows, compared to the maps in his lap. “My oh my.” I waited for the next burst of intelligence from my trusted navigator, hoping he was not becoming too immersed in his musings.

He slowly continued: “Interesting way to deal with elevations. Would be useful for military missions in these parts of the world. Nothing like the tourist maps we saw before. I am not sure we are allowed to have them.”
“Better keep quiet about them, then.”
“Every oil field is indicated. Topographic profile... It is explained here: 'One type of profile that helps visualize topographic data aids the pilot to understand the topography of rivers is called a longitudinal profile. A longitudinal profile allows you to visualize the changing gradient. A longitudinal profile is a graph of a river's elevation versus its length.' How about that. Applies to flying over deserts, too, apparently. And...”
“Very well. Tsuka? Enough of that. You have any thoughts about how we might get to our next destination, without any of that, whatever you call it.”
“Navigation? It is such an art, and a science. The map here, it is amazing. Such details. You should study it.”
“I might, if you got on with the task of getting us to Basra.”

Our direction now was a smooth curve, I knew that much. West north-west up towards Europe, and compared to the small ships down below, I had no such troubles that they must have, navigating that narrow strait.

Once we were again over land, Tsukagoshi easily found Basra, the desert town in Iraq. We landed promptly at 9:45 am, local time. That was a fine runway, it was very good to land on, we should have that in Japan. They called it bitumen or tarmac, I noted that in my notebook. That stretch over the deserts took us about 4 hours. We were now further in towards the central British possessions, with clear signs of civilization all around, in spite of the remote location. Clearly, they were doing very well there due to their oil wells, according to Tsukagoshi.

I suspected he took a brief nap back there over the Persian Gulf. It was hard to fly yesterday with the sun setting in the west, right in front of me. The small curtain helped. This morning, the sun was behind me and rising. It didn’t bother me much except for the glare from the instruments. If they really wanted pilots to do these long flights on a regular basis, they would have to sort out all such issues, and more.

Tsukagoshi was paying attention to all he saw below, and gave me updates: “Basra is 2,000 km from Karachi, are you tired up there in the front, you Japanese pilot in a rush to get to London?” But I was not tired. It was more the rush of the adrenaline that kept me up and happy. It was a kind of joy that I could not help but feel, as if it was pumping in my blood vessels and veins and recharged each time it hit my heart. “I am a civilian aviator from Nagano, Japan,” I said. “...Who flies with his heart on his sleeve,” shouted Tsukagoshi, explaining the English idiom.

I got it, I got it, I told him I did get it, but he was in one of his splendid moods and had more to explain.

He was such a dear, suddenly he started quoting in his very best English what he said was from Othello:

It is as sure as you are Roderigo,
Were I the Moor, I would not be Iago:
In following him, I follow but myself;
Heaven is my judge, not I for love and duty,
But seeming so, for my peculiar end:
For when my outward action doth demonstrate
The native act and figure of my heart
In compliment extern, 'tis not long after
But I will wear my heart upon my sleeve
For daws to peck at: I am not what I am.

From Shakespeare's Othello (1604)

We both rolled over laughing, well, not literally of course, and he could not hide his exuberance: “'I am not what I am'! You hear that down there, all of you Moors!?”
“Hahaha, yes, we all got it, so who are you?”
“I am air, I am sky! And you would be Roderigo, captain.”
“So am I, we are one and the same.”
“’Heaven is my judge’!”
“Whatever that means. Hey, Tsuka. We may just have reached Arabia, on our little trip, can you believe that?”
“I cannot, Iinuma-kun, I truly cannot believe my eyes. I thought to myself, that this is a magic flying carpet, and we are about to wake up from an ancient dream, straight out of the Arabian Nights stories.”
“You woke up alright. Do admit it. I think you had a nice nap back there while I was busy getting us from there to glorious here.”
“Oh, I might have closed one or two of my eyelids for a second or two, be that as it may…”
“Just joking, dear old chap, we made it all this way.”
“Isn’t the view just marvellous?”
“Not much for me to see, I am just here to fly straight and make sure we land and get to our next destination. But I do dip a wing once in a while to look out of my windows, I will admit to that.”
“Admit all you like. This might be the best flying carpet I have ever had flown on, except for your landings.”

Watch the 1937 video below for an amazing journey back in time. If you were rich enough, the Imperial Airways would take you there - or if you had an important diplomatic mission. Or, as in the case of the Kamikaze-go, owned by the Asahi Newspaper, there was a record to break. To fly from Japan to Europe in less than 100 hours...

This is such a great video of the Imperial Airways and its Handley Page four engine passenger plane, back in 1937.

We get to visit the Al Mahatta Airport (that the Kamikaze-go by-passed).

The Al Mahatta Fort was built in 1932 as the route from Croydon (London) was established. Also, advanced weather report balloons and proper British officers, making sure everything is ready when the Imperial Airways passengers arrive on their way to Singapore or Australia.

The Hanno was a British-made, four-propeller Handley Page HP42 biplane, the first plane to land at Sharjah's airport, known as Al Mahatta. Jupiter engines.

Hanno first flew in 1931 (and was named after Hanno the Navigator, who explored the Atlantic coast of Africa in 570 BC).

Top image from the front cover of Vogue Magazine, June 1937.

That airplane is a Fairchild 24C-8F:

Thanks Pandabonium for help with the research.

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

The First Air Force One, the Lockheed Constellation, Restored

Update: And wrong I was. It was President Truman who had to deal with General MacArthur, as Pandamonium kindly points out in the comments. 

Original post: Great video of the project to save the Columbine II and get it to fly again in 2018:

...Because this is the plane that took President-elect (correct me if I'm wrong) Dwight D. Eisenhower to South Korea in 1952, in order to stop General MacArthur, who was proposing atomic bombs all over the border inside Communist China, 

Later in 1955, Eisenhower was promoting much the same as the New Look, a policy to expand American nuclear weapons, now against the Soviet Union.

Image (left) from Ladies Love Taildraggers (Kurashi loves blog names like that!)

Known as the Columbine II, this beautiful aircraft, a Lockheed Constellation, was the very first "Air Force One" and now it has been restored and flies again.

From Warfare History Network:

After World War II, Eisenhower went on to serve two terms as President of the United States. MacArthur rendered outstanding service as military governor of postwar Japan but then fell victim to his own ego and defiance of President Harry S. Truman during the Korean War and was removed from command of United Nations forces.

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Pan American Boeing 377 Stratocruiser Japan Travelogue - 1952

Back when flying was a luxury, or at least a lot more comfortable than today (except for the smoking!). The destinations were a lot more exotic too...

The Stratocruiser was flying from the US to Honolulu, Wake Island, and arrived at Haneda in Tokyo. Pan Am started flying DC4s to Japan in 1947 and the B-377 was introduced in 1949. 10 years later in 1959, they introduced the B-707 jets which were much faster than the old propeller planes.

Here is a longer promotional film about the Stratocruiser, with some interesting history about the civilian mail services that started flying in the late 1920s.

Friday, November 02, 2018

Potter Simon Leach Talks About Stuff

UK potter Simon Leach is active in the US and holds workshops there, in addition to making great videos. Here is his view on how kids and everyone these days are losing skills (because of spending too much time on their iPhones and whatnot) rather than using their hands.

Interesting that he notes that youngsters cannot hold a pair of scissors, or even a pen, right. Even young surgeons cannot make the required stitches...?

I have noticed the same with young Japanese people when it comes to penmanship. And he says, "instructors are not allowed to criticize their students."

My pottery teacher here in Japan has mentioned similar trends, but not that severely.

As Simon says, if we are learning a craft, constructive criticism must be a part of the process...

Friday, October 12, 2018

How Monsanto's Glyphosate Kills Farmers

Great documentary, it made me cry. I fought so hard 20 years ago to tell the story of Monsanto's crimes and especially the massive use of glyphosate (Roundup) and its links to cancer. Did my newspaper articles and blogs and consumer activism make any difference?

What I tried to convey, was that all the toxicology data was on the active ingredient only, and not on the final product (Roundup) that people use. When you add the other chemicals to glyphosate, and spray that product, you get risks. Rules at national levels go with the FAO/WHO Codex Alimentarius rules. At such meetings I attended back then, the ignorance of what this company was pulling off was staggering. On the other hand, I was asked, "Could you make a better rule?"

Unless we eat organic, this is how most of our food gets made.

Australian ABC made the video, do spread the message.

Now that German Bayer owns Monsanto, expect things to get better, anyone?

2018 JAS 39 Gripen Formation Flight Swedish Air Force

Saturday, October 06, 2018

Novel Approach: J-Hangar Space Review of My Novel Kamikaze to Croydon

Novel Approach

My editor Patrick Sherriff over at Tower English in Abiko helped me publish my novel on July 21, 2018. I have a lot to say about his skills as an editor, with a keen sense of sticking to his three approaches to fiction editing. Well, it helped me a lot, and his support was terrific...

Here is how Patrick puts it:

Character arcs. Every story is a journey. For a story to have meaning, there has to be change. Characters start out one way, they experience difficulty or, as the novelist calls it, conflict, until by the end of the story they have changed. That basic pattern — starting with a goal in mind, dealing with conflict, changing — should be present in the novel as a whole and within each scene and for every major character.

You can order Kamikaze to Croydon here at Amazon as a paperback, and also at Kindle as an eBook.

I hope you will also be kind enough to leave comments and rate it.

Iinuma Masaaki is a promising young pilot from the mountains of Nagano, Japan, who only has thoughts of flying for the Morning Sun newspaper. When he learns of a prize for the first aviator to fly from Tokyo to London in under 100 hours, he knows he has the will to make it, just not the way. Suddenly his newspaper approves the purchase of a new aeroplane capable of going the distance. But can he overcome his fears, find a navigator and take the last great aviation prize even while the world marches ever closer to war? A novel based on the thrilling true story of two friends who try to break the last great aviation record before the world goes to war.

Available now as a 280-page paperback or ebook from all Amazon sites including, and

Kamikaze to Croydon by Martin J. Frid, available now from all Amazon sites as a paperback and ebook

Paul T in Toda, Saitama, who has the most comprehensive website about airplanes in Japan, published this first review of my novel, Kamikaze to Croydon:

As can be seen below, J-Hangar Space regularly brings news of the latest non-fiction book releases, in English and Japanese, on relevant topics. Anyone interested in reading an example of that rare (non-existent?) bird, a historical novel on a Japanese aviation topic in English, might care to take this one for a test flight.

Written by Martin J. Frid (link), a Swede who has lived in Japan for 30 years, Kamikaze to Croydon provides what can best be described as a fact-based fictionalized account of a well-documented deed of derring-do—the Asahi Shimbun-sponsored flight from Tokyo to Croydon in 1937.

No ‘spoiler’ alerts needed, as the writer used up no artistic/pilot’s license on a ‘what if’ ending.

The book is available in Paperback and Kindle versions, and preview pages provided, on an Amazon screen near you.

Paul T also noted the following, since I mentioned the Pilot pen in my novel:

You're probably aware that the name Pilot actually comes from one of the founders having been a pilot in the merchant navy.

Wednesday, October 03, 2018

Drive for the Future (1980) - The Toyota Story

This is a fun movie about how Toyota got its start in the early 20th century, with a lot of details from the factory floor and how to fund such an adventure. In the 1920s, Japan was importing some 2000-4000 cars and trucks and made almost nothing domestically.

GM and Ford had factories in Japan, back then. Now, the foot is firmly on the other shoe, ahem...

How to get that first model A1 to go that extra mile, in 1936 or so?

In my novel, Kamikaze to Croydon, I mention how young Iinuma Maasaki, the pilot of my novel, reacts to seeing one of these Toyotas in Tokyo.

You can order Kamikaze to Croydon here at Amazon as a paperback, and also at Kindle as an eBook.

I hope you will also be kind enough to leave comments and rate it.

Do click that link, and go through the easy steps.

His sempai and navigator, Tsukagoshi Kenji, warns him that making such vehicles would require a lot of resources, that Japan did not have.

We were interrupted as a black car drove past on the broad street near the huge red burnt brick building that was such a symbol of this part of town, Tokyo Station. I almost pointed but just nudged Tsukagoshi's arm instead: Look, thats the new Toyota car from the Koromo factory in Aichi, they just released them.
What will they think of next?
Well, listen! Thats the AA 4 door sedan. It has a 3 speed floor shift gearbox. 6 cylinder engine, listen to that noise. I read that it weighs as much as 1,500 kilograms. They reckon it is almost as sturdy as the Dodge and even faster, some say.
I think I much prefer the cockpit of an aeroplane, but it would be fun to ride a car like that just once. Have you seen the Bentleys they have over at the British Embassy?
That one looks really comfortable. Leather seats!I kept staring as the car drove off leaving a cloud of black smoke, after having let a suit-clad gentleman out from the rear, looking like he was in a rush to board a train.

How about it, dear readers of Kurashi, for a long, long time... 

Meanwhile, here is how the 1980 movie caught our mid 1930s era.

Jay Leno liked the 1936 Toyota AA Replica this much "...and it drives quite nicely!":

If you like long-winded Japanese documentaries, here is more about Toyota, and how it got to number one in sales, world wide:

Monday, October 01, 2018

Watercolor Sketch from Kanazawa and more

Mateusz Urban... now wait, can that really be his name? This young Polish illustrator and painter has some cool ideas about how people in Japan ought to plan their housing... He also draws Tokyo landscapes from what I suppose are different income classes.

His Tokyo at Night series is amazing too.

Where do you want to live? We should all press our politicians and city planners and architects - and especially the private companies - for affordable sustainable development, and some places just get it about right.


Friday, September 28, 2018

How To Take A Bath In Japan (1954)

Hilarious. Even today the mystery of the Japanese onsen is "explained" by all kinds of signs and images. It could not be simpler.

From The Bridges at Toko-Ri.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Flygdag på F10 Ängelholm, 1995, Draken

Swedish Draken fighter. How we managed to stay neutral during the Cold War. Read more about my visit this summer, to the F10 Royal Air Force Museum here.

And more from 2018: "Not an eye is dry" watching this unique formation of Swedish-built aircraft, including the Tunnan, Draken, Viggen and Gripen.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Radio Controlled: This is How Popular the Ki-15 is in Japan

New update in my novel:

 Then I went to watch this sad new movie, Osaka Elegi, about a girl and the city which I almost never had any time to venture into, with its neon lights and modern music and the Kansai accent that I found hilarious. But, I could not understand the ending.
    After that, I had the sense that Osaka would surpass anything, if left to its own devices. The new subway line from Umeda was in the movie, and I mentioned it in a letter to Tsukagoshi in Tachikawa. And he replied, “I hope to join you soon.”

You can order Kamikaze to Croydon here at Amazon as a paperback, and also at Kindle as an eBook.

I hope you will also be kind enough to leave comments and rate it.

Do click that link, and go through the easy steps.

These guys make the best radio controlled "scale flying" events, which in 2016 involved the Mitsubishi Ki-15 "Kamikaze-go" that was privately owned by Asahi Shimbun in 1937.

Friday, September 14, 2018

1985 TV Drama About the Ki-15 Flight to London

Just a few years before I first arrived on these shores, TV Asahi made a special dramatization about the events I cover in my novel, Kamikaze to Croydon.

Order it here at Amazon

The 1985 TV drama is a bit silly, but then so was a lot of TV back then.

These scenes, however, are really beautiful, filmed with a model airplane, set to the music by Brahms.

美貌なれ昭和 (Bibonare Showa) means something like "The Beautiful Showa" and the dramatization included segments about the female Japanese violinist, Nejiko Suwa, who was studying and performing in Europe during the 1930s until 1945. Enjoy.

Now, if seeing that makes you want to make a balsa wood model of the Ki-15, there are the drawings and lots of helpful advice, from Mike Stuart in the UK!

Thanks for finding, P.

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

Totoro and Forests You Can Visit West of Tokyo

When I arrived to these shores, I had almost no idea about anime or manga. 

This is where I learn my pottery, in Hibita, east of Tokorozawa.

And, when was Totoro set? 1958?

It is a major push for environmental education. Where? Tokorozawa.

This is one forest you can visit from Tokyo.

In April of 1990, with the objective of preserving the lush nature of Sayama Hills to future generations, the National Trust of Totoro no Furusato was born.  Due to the efforts of 5 initial contributors, including film director Hayao Miyazaki, a large amount of donations were received from all across Japan.
Sayama Hills is known as the inspiration of Mr.Hayao Miyazaki’s animation masterpiece, “Tonari no Totoro (My Neighbor Totoro, 1988)”.  The Trust Fund was named in its honor.

Totoro Fund Website

We are a legally incorporated foundation with the purpose of preserving the beautiful natural habitat and cultural assets of Sayama Hills and its surrounding areas.
As of March 1, 2016

Back then, Studio Ghibli was just starting to make a difference, artistically and emotionally and wonderfully. 

But levitation, how did he come to that transcendental thought? 

"Where Totoro was Born" - a new book published in May, 2018.

How about Hayao Miyazaki and his crew in Kogane, Tokyo, plus his roots in Tokorozawa, near Hibita, where I do pottery. Miyazaki says, "Without Tokorozawa, I could not have made my movies." But he also will not let any of his characters be used on city buses, trains, or anywhere in the city.

Living near places like the Totoro Forest, a rare piece of land in this part of Saitama that Miyazaki has lent his name to, as it is all volunteer foundation based.

The origins and development of the Foundation

Biocultural preservation efforts at Sayama Hills have been in place since the 1970s.  As a result, most of the natural habitats in the hills have been protected.  However, due to urban and leisure facility development, destruction of the habitat, through deforestation and illegal dumping, is clearly visible.

In April of 1990, with the objective of preserving the lush nature of Sayama Hills to future generations, the National Trust of Totoro no Furusato was born.  Due to the efforts of 5 initial contributors, including film director Hayao Miyazaki, a large amount of donations were received from all across Japan.
Sayama Hills is known as the inspiration of Mr.Hayao Miyazaki’s animation masterpiece, “Tonari no Totoro (My Neighbor Totoro, 1988)”.  The Trust Fund was named in its honor.

And I get how he is always into "forest" and "flying" but - levitation?

Love this poster from 1986:


Monday, September 03, 2018

Castle in the Sky - Kimi o Nosete / Carrying You (HQ)

From one of the great Ghibli movies, how about it.

Castle in the Sky is a 1986 Japanese animated adventure film written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki. It was the very first film animated by Studio Ghibli and was animated for Tokuma Shoten. It follows the adventures of a young boy and girl attempting to keep a magic crystal from a group of military agents, while searching for a legendary floating castle.

Music by Joe Hisashi.

Saturday, September 01, 2018

Visiting Pilot Iinuma Masaaki Museum in Nagano

A couple of years ago while I was writing the novel Kamikaze to Croydon, I made the trip to a very special place.


While Japan has a lot of (small or medium-size) airplane museums, see Paul Thompson's excellent website, J-HangarSpace, I think this is the only one dedicated to a single pilot.

This is Iinuma Masaaki's birthplace, in what is now Azumino, Nagano Prefecture.

A wonderful old farm house located a short walk from the station, with the Japanese Alps as the backdrop. Not far from Matsumoto, it is worth the trip if you are interested in aviation history.

The exhibits are mostly a collection of items from The Asahi Shimbun, that sponsored his famous flight to London in April 1937. As you all probably know by now, he was a civilian pilot employed by the newspaper, setting records to Beijing and Taipei even before that famous event. The photo above shows his real Pilot's Licence from 1941.

The light wasn't the best, but here is a map he and his navigator, Tsukagoshi Kenji, used with the red crayon line drawn as a suggested route over parts of the Netherlands.

I liked how there were several models of the Kamikaze plane. The name of course has nothing to do with later events during WW2, but was selected by readers of the Asahi for promotion.

Lots of photos added to the atmosphere but it is a pity that the real plane itself was destroyed.

The museum has an official website in Japanese here.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Departure (Okuribito)

An amazing take on "Departure" as we all at some point have to leave this world. From the Oscar winning film. And yeah, some of us may leave it from here. Or there. Does it really matter?

Composer: Joe Hisaishi

Performed by: The London Symphonic Orchestra

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Joan Baez surprised by Scandinavian talk show: – I’m in culture shock | Skavlan

Lovely lady who is still so very active, "longing for that feeling."

Then she sang this

At Woodstock, in 1969, she sang the song about the Swedish worker and socialist activist, Joe Hill. He was wrongfully executed by the US authorities, in Utah, of all places. "Joe Hill ain't dead..."

More versions here, from Paul Robeson to Bruce Springsteen...

I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night, Alive as you or me Says I, "But Joe, you're ten years dead," "I never died," says he. "I never died," says he. "In Salt Lake, Joe," says I to him, Him standing by my bed, "They framed you on a murder charge," Says Joe, "But I ain't dead," Says Joe, "But I ain't dead." "The copper bosses killed you, Joe, They shot you, Joe," says I. "Takes more than guns to kill a man," Says Joe, "I didn't die," Says Joe, "I didn't die." And standing there as big as life And smiling with his eyes Says Joe, "What they forgot to kill Went on to organize, Went on to organize." "Joe Hill ain't dead," he says to me, "Joe Hill ain't never died. Where working men are out on strike Joe Hill is at their side, Joe Hill is at their side." From San Diego up to Maine, In every mine and mill - Where working men defend their rights It's there you'll find Joe Hill. It's there you'll find Joe Hill. I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night, Alive as you or me Says I, "But Joe, you're ten years dead", "I never died," says he. "I never died," says he.

Hope you will add your own version too.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Visiting the F10 Royal Air Force Flight Museum in Sweden

This summer I had another task except visiting Croydon in London, as described in the previous post. I also wanted to go back to the Swedish F10 Royal Air Force Flight Museum in Ängelholm, a town in southern Sweden. My youngest aunt Gertrud worked there as a nurse until the air base was closed by the end of the Cold War so she was my guide.

The main reason I wanted to pay it a visit is that it has what I believe is the only complete exhibition of how Swedish airfields could be used as emergency landing places for returning airplanes, mostly bombers, after terrible raids deep into Nazi Germany during World War 2. Many hundreds of pilots and their crews were rescued this way, most of them young Americans and Brits, but also Canadians - and even a handful of German airmen.

This map shows southern Sweden. Each of the top (dark green) dots represent American airplanes. The middle (red) dots represent British airplanes, and the bottom (black) dots German airplanes. As you can see down at the lower left, most airplanes were escorted to Bulltofta airfield in Malmö, the city where I was born.

At least 62 American planes, 14 British and at some point or another, one German, landed at Bulltofta in Malmö.

Rinkaby was another airfield that saw a lot of action, which all escalated especially in the summer of 1944, as well as in the lower right, showing how some 12 of these huge American planes would have managed to land at tiny Sövde airfield near Sjöbo. It is a story that needs to be told again, don't you think?

And here is how to connect the dots, so to speak - it was the duty of Swedish pilots belonging to the Royal F10 Scania (Skånska) Air Force Wing to intercept the foreign airplanes, find out their status, and guide them to safety at the bigger airports like Bulltofta (or guide them out of Swedish air space if they did not need to make an emergency landing, but were simply lost).

Here is one image of the displays from the F10 Flight Museum homepage.

These missions were often flown during the night, so the help of the F10 pilots must have saved many lives.

As you can see from the other dots, many other bombers and airplanes crashed in rural areas of southern Sweden, without much hope of aid or rescue. For more details, check out the Forgotten Airfields homepage.

Of course this has been described by WW2 historians, but I feel that somehow, the story needs to be told properly, and all the Swedish F10 pilots ought to be given a big "thank you!"

There is only a very small monument at Bulltofta in Malmö, and at a nearby church in Kirseberga, a black marble memorial to the Swedish pilots who fell in the line of duty between 1941 and 1945.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Visiting Croydon Aerodrome Museum in London

It was just great to take the train and then the bus and suddenly it was there, way south of London, this airport that had been a fixture of my imagination for so long. The end of the journey for the two characters in my novel, and there it was. A much larger white Art Deco building than I had imagined, and as I took the tour, "Where is the airfield?" I had to ask.

The Tower has been wonderfully restored and is also used for offices.

You can take the tour and walk up into the Tower, and enjoy the displays. And, yes! There is a delightful collection of photos and other items related to the 1937 flight from Tokyo.

Peter Skinner was my guide, and he invited me to the Archives, where I could go through their official file called "Divine Wind" - the translation of the Japanese word kamikaze. Remember, please, that the April 1937 flight that I describe in my novel happened before the end of WW2, when that particular word took on a completely different meaning.

Closed in the 1950s, and left to rot, and not much to save, until the volunteers moved in and created this wonderful museum that is only open once a month. Make sure you catch it if you are in London. It is well worth a visit.

Check out the Historic Croydon Airport homepage.

Hello Martin,
Thought the picture of you was very flattering!
Yes, the Pathe News clip of the arrival was very good and shows scenes very similar to those in the stills in our collection.
As an aside. The film clip shows one of our famous aviation personalities - The Master of Sempill, who had connections to the Japanese Navy, welcoming the two fliers at Croydon. Believe it or believe it not, in 1955, when I was an Officer Cadet in the Royal Air Force, I was inspected by the self-same Master of Sempill, at a Passing-out Parade in the Isle of Man. He came over from the Scottish Highlands and was dressed in a ragged shepherd's cloak and was carrying a shepherd's crook, whereas we were all dressed in immaculate uniforms! We all had a big laugh afterwards!
Best regards,
Peter Skinner

HCAT Archives

The guides all have personal stories to tell, they know the place in and out. I had the best time, thank you all so very much. I thought the picture of Mr. Skinner holding my book was rather flattering, too.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Kurashi is Back, with News and Updates about My Novel: Kamikaze to Croydon

Hello, Kurashi readers, it has been a while. I had blogged for 10 or so years and had a big project I wanted to finish, a historical novel about the 1937 goodwill flight from Japan to Europe. Stay tuned.

You can order it here at Amazon as a paperback, and also at Kindle as an eBook. I hope you will also be kind enough to leave comments and rate it.

Do click that link, and go through the easy steps.