Showing posts from April, 2011

100 Years Of Aviation In Japan: The Pioneers

No aviation without brave pilots: There were people fascinated with flight even in the Edo period, such as Ukita Kokichi from Okayama, who made attempts at calculating what wingspan would be needed to let man soar like a bird, something he seems to have achieved in 1785:

Ukita studied how birds fly. He finally concluded, "Compute the ratio of the wing's area to the body's weight and use that ratio to create an artificial wing. Humans may use them to fly like a bird."

His skill of paperhanging was very useful for making wings. He made the wings' ribs of bamboo, covered them with paper and fabric and varnished the surface with lacquer from Japanese persimmons.
(Source: Wikipedia)

Fast forward to the late 19th century, and we have Chuhachi (Tyuuhaci) Ninomiya, who made paper planes that may have been able to carry a man. The first airplane flight in Japan was likely on 29 April 1891, when a propeller-driven unmanned plane took off and flew about 10 meters at a height o…

100 Years Of Aviation In Japan: Leaving On A Jet Plane

I feel strongly for everyone who left Japan in a hurry in March. It is a remarkable, extraordinary time. I chose to stay, others left. Hope to see you all back here soon again. Meanwhile, here is John Denver, Leaving on a jetplane:

I'm also reminded of a commercial that was popular when JAL was in better financial shape. With fuel costs going through the roof, commercial airlines are facing impossible odds.

JAL, established in 1951, has seen a lot of such odds over the years. 100 years of aviation, but flying was never meant to be this cheap.

浪漫飛行 Roman Hikou is possibly one of Japan's most expensive TV commercials back then in the bubble era. Here is Kome Kome Club, a CM for leasure trips back in April 1990 to Okinawa:

Long before there were jets in the sky, the airplanes where smaller, and more simple, but still got you from A to B. In the 1930s, you could buy a ticket and fly from Tokyo all over with commerical services, using Lockheed P-38 and other modern aircrafts. (Much lat…

100 Years Of Aviation In Japan: The Music

Aviation has touched a nerve here in Japan for a long time. As I noted earlier, the first flight was back in 1911 in Tachikawa, west of Tokyo, by an heir of the Tokugawa shoguns.

Here is an early tune celebrating the amazing Tachikawa-to-Paris-And-London flight of the Ki-15 Kamikaze in April 1937. How about it?

Kamikaze Dakara (Because there is the Divine Wind)

No, this is not a tune for the suicide pilots who had no other means but to attack, later on as WW2 ended.

This is a song from before the war. Departing from Tachikawa April 6, 1937, they went to Taipei, Hanoi, and over the next four days reaching Athens, Rome, Paris, and finally Croydon Aerodrome, London, UK. I just love the samples of aircraft engine noise. Lyrics? All about going from the east to the west, and what a dazzling hero the 26 year old pilot is. You'll hear the singers mention Paris and London.

The pilot was Iinuma Masaaki from Nagano, and his navigator was Tsukagoshi Kenji, from Gunma (his father was a Japanese l…

100 Years Of Aviation In Japan: Part 1

The first flights in an aircraft in Japan were made in Yoyogi, Tokyo and Tokorozawa, Saitama. Lieutenant General Baron Yoshitoshi Tokugawa studied aeronautical engineering in France, and showed what could be done with state-of-the-art aircrafts of the day in Tokorozawa, April 1911. In Tokorozawa, they are very proud of their history, as you will notice at the Koukuu Kouen Station on the Seibu line: they even have a cafe noting the 1911 event.

Do visit Tokorozawa, there is a lovely park with a museum that has some details of this amazing feat. The Aviation Museum is rather new, but in fact, this is the location of the Imperial Army Flight School that helped shape history in the 20th century. If you are looking for a day trip from Tokyo, the park in itself is worth a visit, and there are restaurants too. Easy access from Shinjuku or Ikebukuro, using the Seibu line.

On display both outdoors and inside the Tokorozawa Aviation Museum are a wide range of aircrafts, from every stage of develo…

Conductor Zubin Mehta in Japan

This weekend, Tokyo welcomes classical music conductor Zubin Mehta, who will be performing with the NHK Symphony Orchestra on Sunday, for the benefit of the earthquake survivors in Tohoku.

NHK World:

Acclaimed conductor Zubin Mehta has arrived in Japan to conduct a charity concert benefitting the survivors of the March 11th disaster.

Mehta arrived in Tokyo from Russia on Friday. He held a rehearsal with the NHK Symphony Orchestra, which will perform Beethoven's Symphony Number 9 in Tokyo on Sunday. All proceeds will go to the disaster-hit areas.

Before the rehearsal, Mehta told orchestra members that he hopes for Japan's recovery, and that his thoughts are with the people.

The concert was planned at his request, to support areas affected by the disaster. The conductor said he wants to do what he can to lift the spirits of the Japanese people and help them believe in the power of music.

Mehta was in Tokyo on the day of the quake that hit eastern Japan. He returned to Italy when his c…

Enka: Minatomachi Monogatari

If you liked Port Town Blues, you will love Minatomachi Monogatari (Stories from a harbour town). Yokohama, Nagasaki, main ports that are so very well known around the world. Also, Hakodate, which perhaps only a few of my regular Kurashi readers can find on a map.

The Swedish Foreign Ministry still treats all of Japan as a "no fly zone" in the sense that noone is recommended to travel to these parts. I find that rather silly. They also have similar advice for other trouble zones, like India, but then their advice is limited to the region they think you should not visit (Kashmir).

Japan has some 43 prefectures, and only 3 or 4 are directly affected by the current disaster: Fukushima, Iwate, Ibaraki. Late tonight, another big earthquake in Miyagi.


Kyushu, Shikoko and Hokkaido are not affected at all... Of course Osaka and the Kyoto and Nara regions are OK. That is called Kansai, and they must be rather upset down there that once again, the Kanto region is getting all the att…

Documentary Film Producer Hitomi Kamanaka: "Complex Feelings Of Sadness And Anger"

Hitomi Kamanaka visited Sweden for her latest documentary. Her trilogy of documentaries to date (Hibakusha: At the End of the World, Rokkasho-mura Rhapsody, and From Ashes to Honey) all address these issues from various perspectives. At an event in Tokyo called the Spring Love Harukaze, she gave an impassioned talk whereby she accused TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company) and Japanese government officials of deliberately covering up information regarding the accident.

From Ten thousand things: Tokyo art and music event mourns disaster victims, raises seriousness of nuclear power and radiation issues

“The industry has long been releasing propaganda saying that nuclear power is safe, and now, following the accident, they have continued with the same lies by declaring that the radiation being released is also nothing to worry about,” she said. “People prefer to believe the propaganda because it’s easier, but unless they face reality, they won’t be able to protect themselves.

“Here in J…

Power-Down: Will We Be Able To Avoid Rolling Blackouts?

A very interesting "power-down" experience: we may actually be able to avoid the planned power outages (called "rolling blackouts" as the schedule is decided in advance). Right now, in the middle of spring, Tokyo and the Kanto region is not using that much electricity. The main worry is the consumption peaks in the summer. Yet, if we have the blackouts, it will clearly hit the economy big-time.

While I need power to work (and pay taxes) there are pachinko parlours and all kinds of useless ways to waste electricity. Who gets to decide who is a friend and who is a foe..?

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry intends this month to end Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s rolling blackouts, sources said Wednesday, according to The Japan Times:

To conserve power, METI plans to instead urge large-lot corporate users to limit their use of electricity in the summer, when demand typically peaks because of the need for air conditioning, the sources said. The ministry will aim…

Work Updates From Consumers Union Of Japan

Here are some links to work-related stuff that you may be interested in.

Consumers Union of Japan has been anti-nuclear since founded back in 1969.

Useful Links For Updates On The Nuclear Issue In Fukushima, Japan
Here are some useful websites with information and updates in English about the ongoing nuclear crisis in Fukushima Prefecture, Japan:


Green Action Japan: Fukushima Update
Citizen`s Nuclear Information Center (CNIC): Fukushima Nuclear Earthquake Disaster
Nautilus Institute March 17, 2011 Report (pdf file): After the Deluge
Union of Concerned Scientists (blog): All Things Nuclear


Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency
Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW) (food and water data)

Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries
Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI)

French National Institute SIROCCO: Coastal Ocean Modelling (Japan Model)

Norwegian Institute for Air Research (NILU): Fukushima potential releases of radioactive materials in the air (computer graphic …

The Things We Take For Granted

Refrigerators: We just assume they work, no matter what. Steaming hot summer days, storms, snow, a lovely spring day like today (with no power blackout, since TEPCO has such things under control, for the time being).

TEPCO blackout information (in English).

Try to imagine how you will manage without your trusted fridge. Or better still, what about the freezer?

Invented by Swedish engineers in the early 1920s, the electric models back then were actually very energy efficient. Later on, the machines became a part of the status apparatus that signified that you had made it, and graduated from the ice box crew. Top image shows a number of models that were common in Japan from the 1920s.
In fact, just a day or two before the March 11 earthquake, I visited the Showa Kan Museum in Kudanshita, Tokyo, and they had a Japanese ice box unit on display, as part of their effort to show what life was like in the pre-WW2 era of the 1930s. Here is how they describe the ice box on display: