Visit report on the Omiya JR Railway Museum

— Outlook over the Japan’s railway development history

♣ Significance of JR Railway Museum in Omiya

O Railway M- illust 01.JPG      This is my visit report on JR Railway Museum in Omiya, Saitama O Railway M- view 01.JPGPrefecture. A while ago I got a chance to visit there with my friend. The museum is well known for the outstanding collection of historic locomotives and trains and invites many railway fans.  Most are actually operated ones from the early stage to the present, including many type of Shinkanse trains.  They are looked like panorama view of “Development railroad history of Japan.”  The museum is also functioned as a place where shows up railway technology and O Railway M- scene 01.JPGits impact to the social infrastructure brought by development of the railways. The museum was established in October 2007 by the relocation of the “Transportation Museum” in Kanda, Tokyo, after  the major renovation and the expansion of scale.
In the exhibition, many precious trains, such as Japan’s first run steam  locomotives, the “Goryosha” (Imperial Coach) used by emperors, various Shinkansen vehicles, and many others. O Railway M- history 01.JPG

The exhibit of the museum can be described as the grand scale historic heritage and treasury assets of Japan’s railway development. The exhibition provides several independent corners like history zone, simulator zone, georama zone and others. We can enjoy every exhibition as if standing in the mysterious railway wonder land.

♣   Exhibition  of the museum

O Railway M- illust 05.JPG        The history zone is the main part in the museum and it makes up of six independent sections following development stages. For example,  the dawn period of the railway development, the expansion of railway network in Meiji, the birth of the express train and commuting transport, the introduction of mass transport and electrification in post-war rapid growth, the development of the limited express O Railway M- scene 02.JPGtrain network and the birth of the Shinkansen, etc.  The exhibited locomotives and trains are given the exact information about the their characteristics and data to be able to identify the historical background .development patterns of railway network. It is also quite impressive that we can directly observe the Imperial Coaches of the successive emperors and examine the artistic their interior and exterior. by our own eyes. Anyway, many of the exhibits are designated as national cultural treasury because of their high cultural values.  A detailed railway chronology with historical documents, numbers of train models, lively dioramas are also attractive and will invite us into the history of railway world.

♣   “Dawn era of Railways” seen from the exhibition

O Railway M- history 05.JPG       The Japan’s railway history is believed to start in 1872 with the operation between Shinbashi (Tokyo) and Yokohama.  This  Japan’s first railway project  was actually big political agenda for Meiji O Railway M- train 02.JPGgovernment.  And the “Opening Ceremony” formed a kind of symbolic showcase of modernization of Japan.  So it was reported that tens of thousand of people gathered at site to want to see this big event and frightened by the rushing steam locomotive on the iron rail.   In the report, people really acknowledged the fact that a new industrial era started at long last.  Afterward, the date of the ceremony was long memorized for Japanese  as aRailway O Railway M- train 03.JPGDay of Japan” on October 14th.    The train of “150-type” of steam locomotive being used for the ceremonial run is now able to observe at the Railway Museum at the memorial exhibition corner.
After this first railway operation, Japan took vigorous  measures for expansion of the railway networks across the country,  such as Keihanshin (1976), Kyoto-Otsu (1884), and Hokkaido (Horouchi Railway) (1880). They had finally targeted to link all railway networks throughout Japan including Tokaido (Pacific East Coast of Japan), Tohoku (Northern Japan), Hokkaido routes, and other lines.O Railway M- train 05.JPG The museum displays all the historic trains operated these lines one by one, like one by one, such as the above-mentioned first “150-type”, the “Zenrin Go” locomotive” used for the railway in Keihanshin area (Osaka’s surrounding region), the Benkei Go locomotive applied to the development of Hokkaido region and other  passenger coaches. They are also tried to show the many models of pioneering trains and locomotive styles in the exhibition as the evidences how the railway was actually operated.

♣   Preparation stage of Japan’s Railway seen from the Chronological Zone

O Railway M- illust 21.JPG        The “Chronological Zone” displays abundant precious historical materials in associating with the development process of O Railway M- history 07.JPGpreparing Japanese railway from the Edo to the early Meiji period.  The “railway system” was first introduced to Japan in 1854 when Admiral Perry of the United States visited the Japan’s coastal port/ At that time he presented a sample model of steam locomotive as a gift to the Edo Shogunate. It is reported that as they conducted the experimental driving of steam engine, the Edo government officials were given serious impact from them and O Railway M- history 02.JPGhad fearful surprise. The actual model which Perry had brought in was burned down in a fire incident later, but a reproduction model is able to see in the Railway Museum as one of the historical exhibits. Prior to this event, the steam locomotive had been known in the intellectual circles by Dutch document brought from Dejima, Nagasaki in the Edo period.  Actually, at the end of the Tokugawa period, the Saga Han in Kyushu had O Railway M- history 06.JPGassembled steam locomotive models based on this document.  A replica of this model is also available at the Museum (The original model is designated as a railway treasure and preserved at the Saga Prefecture Museum).

Anyway, the newly born Meiji government had begun to take active movement to develop railways systems by adopting Western technology.  They had already recognized its potential power which O Railway M- history 08.JPGhad shown by Perry’s models in the Edo period. The development of railway was begun with strong technology support foreign engineers, particularly from U.K. expert. In this process, UK foreign expert “Edmond Morrell” and other engineers were invited to perform railroad construction works as a first step. But on the process many Japanese workers and engineers were mobilized and learned much about the railways. As a result, Japanese had gradually master the technology and gradually taken over the foreign function, particularly “Masaru Inoue,” who had studied O Railway M- illust 14.JPGmining science in Europe played a leading role in the construction of railways in Japan.
This history is documented as a “Railroad Archaic Document” stored in the Museum.  The valuable document includes official records describing the budget, construction, and organization of Japanese railways from 1870 to 1893.

♣   Railway network spread throughout Japan

O Railway M- illust 10.JPG      The government has vigorously advanced railway construction across Japan.  With this Japan’s railway networks were expanded to various local O Railway M- train 07.JPGplaces, and the total length lines were reaching 8,000 km by 1910s.    Beside these public networks, private railway system has contributed a lot for expanding their routes in this period too. In the meantime, later in 1906, major railway lines decided to be nationalized by the “Railway Nationalization Law”, and the entire country became integrated under the single national railway O Railway M- train 06.JPGnetwork.     On the other hand, technologically electric locomotives have emerged as engine’s power sources in addition to the steam engines, and new type of electric trains have emerged in big cities like Tokyo and Osaka, and as a whole electrification of railway system was also advanced in other area too. At the same time, the domestic production of locomotives were gradually increased changing from the foreign locomotives that have been heavily relied on before.O Railway M- train 08.JPG
The museum displays the various unique locomotives, trains, and railway facilities at the time with elaborate commentary. The major exhibits are the “9850-style” steam locomotive (1913) which imported from Germany with big tract power in the steep slope,   the ED40-typeelectric locomotive (1921) that applied theAbt system” (Gear traction), and popular commuter trains Nade 6110 type train” (1914) in Tokyo, and the first domestic locomotive “Kiha 41300 type railcar” (1934), and others.

♣   The birth of express trains and the beginning of commuting transportation

O Railway M- illust 18.JPG    As expanding various railway network in Japan, the Limited Express” with high-speed train has started in the Japan’s main trunk lines. For O Railway M- train 12.JPGexample, the “Special Express Train” called “Fuji” and “Sakura” appeared as early as 1923, and they were operated between Shimonoseki (Yamaguchi Prefecture) and Tokyo.  And later in 1930, the limited express “Tsubame also started in the route between Tokyo to Kobe (Near Osaka). The travel time between Tokyo and Osaka was shorten by less than eight hours. In addition, in the big cities like Tokyo and Osaka many commuter trains began to operate responding to the strong demand for urban transport due to the increased population around the 1930s.
O Railway M- train 10    In the museum, a reproduction scene of Tokyo Station’s platform on around 1934 is exhibited where the limited express “Fuji” was waiting for departure, and also a rush hour situation at Ochanomizu Station are displayed. As vehicle exhibition, the “Miha 39” type passenger car of Fuji” (1930), the “tender type” steam locomotive “C57 type (produced by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, 1937), and the passenger car “Oha”, which was born as the first passenger train used steel of JNR, the31-style” passenger coach and the “Kumoha 40-style” train (1936) for commuting in Osaka are on display along with showing their internal structures.

♣   Railway network in the age of mass transport and electrification

O Railway M- illust 19.JPG        Railway construction was temporarily stagnant due to the war and its aftermath of around 1940s. However, railways rehabilitation was started O Railway M- train 15.JPGto move and showed significant progress at least around 1950s in response to the huge demand from strengthening infrastructures of traffic and transport which were greatly expected to promote the post-war urgent reconstruction movement and high economic growth requirement.  In the process, government advanced the electrification from steam locomotive engines along with the expansion and replacement of railway networks. One of the measures were advancement of Tokaido Line and its electrification. which O Railway M- train 14.JPGhad been relied on steam engine. They were aggressively promoted the development of rapid express trains, like seen in the development of limited express train “Asakazewhich started operating between Tokyo and Hakata by the complete electrification in 1956.  In addition, the emergence of the a business limited express train “ Kodama ” connecting Tokyo and Osaka in 6.5 hours and the limited express“ Tokirunning between Ueno and Niigata, signaled the beginning of high-speed and mass transportation era.

O Railway M- illust 16.JPG   On the other hand, for commuter trains, a new system has been introduced and the O Railway M- train 16.JPGcommuters from the suburbs has increased rapidly.  “Kumoha style train” is a typical example of these lines. And Japan saw a great advancement of freight transport network using railways which were reflecting huge demand of transportation of industrial goods and materials demand from recovering and growing businesses in Japan.
In the museum, “Nahane 10 type passenger coach “Asakaze”train,” Kuha 181 type limited express train “Toki”,” Kumoha 101 type commuter train used on the Yamanote line are displayed. As a situation display, the O Railway M- train 18.JPGscene of the limited express train “Toki” which is just departing from Niigata Station and the scene of Ueno station’s platform where a limited express train arriving, are lively reproduced in the exhibition. The computer-controlled “MARS” that has developed for the controlling train running operation and ticketing system is also on display. All these exhibits are good evidences how train system have been technologically advanced in this period.

♣   The birth of the Shinkansen and the new era of Japanese railway systems

O Railway M- illust 02.JPG    The development of Government controlled “Japan Railway”(JNR) was significant that activated successful operation of express train network in the 1950s. they launched an operation a new “Bullet Express Train” on the Tokaido line between Tokyo O Railway M- train 21.JPGand Osaka, where traffic demand is particularly massive. Then “Tokaido Shinkansen” was born in time just for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.  This super train has achieved a maximum driving speed of 210 km/h and marked a revolutionary drive record of 3 hours and 20 minutes connecting Tokyo and Osaka of over 600 km distance.  The vehicle used for the Shinkansen was a train called “Series 0”, which technology was cultivated inO Railway M- train 23.JPGKodama in the 1950s.  It was an great evidence of the excellence of the Japanese engineering technology that was pursuing high speed and stability of railway systems.  Shinkansen was nicknamed as the “Bullet Train” and was highly evaluated worldwide.
The “Shinkansen” has continued to be evolving fast since, and new vehicles have been introduced successively and driving across the Japanese archipelago, including the Tohoku Shinkansen (1982), Joetsu Shinkansen (1982), HokurikuO Railway M- train 24.JPG Shinkansen (1997), and Kyushu Shinkansen (2004).   In the 2000s, construction of the Linear Shinkansen” linking Tokyo and Nagoya (scheduled for completion in 2027) also began.  It can say that Japanese railways, which began with the introduction of Western technology in the 1860s, have now grown to attain the leading position in the world with railway technology as a result of 100 years development efforts.

O Railway M- train 01.JPG      In the Railway Museum, many Shinkansen cars commemorating this new era are honorably displayed in detail, along with their appearance, mechanism, interior and functions.  First of all, there we can find the leading trains of “Series 0” of “Hikariused at the time of opening Shinkansen line, the Tohoku Shinkansen 222-type” train applied anti-snowfall measures, and the “Tokyo Station Shinkansen platform” as a reproduction scene, the repairing and inspection scene of Shinkansen cars at the “Sendai Factory”
In the new museum building that was newly opened in 2018, the mock-up “E5 series” Shinkansen trains (Gran class vehicles) with maximum operating speed of 320 km per hour, and the unique shape of Yamagata Shinkansen “400 series” trains are also exhibited

♣   Exhibition of “Go Ryosha”, a valuable important cultural property

O Railway M- train 27.JPG         One of the highlights of the Railway Museum would be the elegantly decorated royal coaches named ”Goryo-sha”, which were specially made for the successive Emperors.    There are seven actual royal vehicles in the museum. First, the No.1 Royal Coach of the Emperor which used for travel from Kyoto and Kobe in 1877, to the second, No.2 Emperor Coach in 1891, and the following number of Royal coaches until the “No.12 Emperor’s Coach” in 1924. These Royal cars have the gorgeous inner decoration O Railway M- train 29.JPGadorned O Railway M- train 28.JPGwith supreme arts and crafts and looked like a “Moving Artistic Nuseum” that represents the craftsmanship in Meijji period and reliable technology.   Although we can see only a part of the interior of the vehicle, the museum catalog has posted the detailed appearance and pictures, so we will be able to feel the artistic scene of that period

After visiting the museum …

O Railway M- illust 20.JPG        The most popular industrial museums in Japan is said to be the railway museum.  Among them, the “Railway Museum” in Omiya is regarded as the largest and the most popular museum in Japan. The O Railway M- train 31.JPGcontents are really fertile such as historical steam locomotives and train coaches, real appearance of Shinkansen, exhibits of mechanical structure showing railway technology, detail commentary on railway development history, special exhibitions like “Go Ryosha” and others.  It is also attractive that we can actually experience the train’s running operation.
In the 150 years since the introduction of Western technology and the beginning of railways in Japan, among them it has dramatically O Railway M- train 30.JPGdeveloped to the huge transport infrastructures that are supporting evolution of Japan’s society, economy as well as industries. Now it looks going to the next stage like development of super linear railway that are expected to open in the late 2020s, and it seems looking forward to a further new style of railway systems.  Under such circumstances, this visit of Museum was very impressive. In recent years, the many railway related museums have been opening, like “Railway Museum” in Kyoto, and the Linear Railway Museum” in Nagoya, etc.  By looking for good opportunities, I really want to visit these museums before long.



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Visit Hitachi’s “Odaira Memorial Museum”

  • Introducing Shows the Hitachi technology and a founder Odaira

     There is a unique facility named “Odaira Memorial Museum” in Hitachi City, Ibaraki Prefecture to commemorate Namihei Odaira, a founder of Hitachi Ltd. The museum was established in 1955 to acknowledge his great contribution to Hitachi development.  In late November, I had a chance to visit this museum.  Although the visit itself  was restricted under the corona pandemic, the staff kindly guided me to this valuable facility.  The Museum is extensively tracing the Odaira’s personal life and work in Hitachi, as well as development process of company Hitachi as a whole. Odaira is well known as a creative engineer who built the electric motor for the first time in Japan and as great entrepreneur led the Hitachi’s longtime advancement of electric technology. The museum exhibition vividly describes how the electric technology had been cultivated by Odaira and how his manufacturing spirit was formed during the infant period of Japanese electric industries.

<Outline of Odaira Memorial Museum>

   The museum hall is divided into majorly four sections, in order. The first comes a memory of Odaira’s personal life and work as an engineer, the second is the Odaira’s social contribution to the Hitachi township, the third part introduces the technology and products which Hitachi’s cultivated, and finally goes on to the reconstructed “Initial Workshop ” where Odaira had completed Japan’s first electric motor.  I’d like to briefly introduce the contents of its exhibition and to trace of Namihei Odaira’s life, as well as the history of Hitachi Ltd itself.  For the information, it should be noted that “Odaira Memorial Museum ” is going to close next year, and will be relocated to a special park in the Hitachi city.

♣ Exhibition of “Odaira Memorial Museum” and its “Initial Workshop”

     The memorial museum comprises of two-story buildings. The first exhibition corner is allocated for Odaira’s memorial goods and materials which show his contribution to the company and local city of Hitachi along with his personal life.   First, the stature of Odaira is found at the entrance of the exhibition room, and many relics, chronology, photographs are followingly displayed to show Odaira’s dynamic working life. The numerous documents and memorials which are associated with Hitachi’s initial development and evolution process are exhibited there too.

   At the next corner, a number of machines produced by Hitachi are displayed to demonstrate its technology challenges and advancement. Among them, the most impressive product would be the exhibit of real “Electric motor” (5-horsepower induction motor) that Odaira had built with his hand in the 1910s.  This might be the first product to indicate that Japan had just started to be having the essential power of building electrical machines in the situation where almost all the electrical machinery had to import and its technology had completely relied on foreign engineers.  It’s possible to say that was a memorable step for building electric industries in Japan.

<Exhibits of Initial Workshop and Odaira’s life>

The “Initial Workshop ” is located at the Hitachi factory compound. This facility is the old work mill initiated by Odaira which was restored by Hitachi’s engineers who had engaged in the production of machines at that time.  Inside the workshop, many humble machine tools are placed that was used for manufacturing the first motor in Japan. These remains clearly show how painfully tough it would be to build the machine under poor working conditions. Regarding the Odaira’s personal life as an engineer is described well in this museum too by using photographs, university records, chronology. These exhibits are indicating how he mastered new technology and obtain the enough competence as an engineer & entrepreneur, along with showing his turbulent life in the business and engineering works.

<Exhibition of Japanese mechanical industry development>

The exhibition on the Odaira’s contribution to the technology building of Hitachi and for  Japanese electrical industry development is also explained in detail at the memorial museum, as well as its involvement to the local community development in Hitachi City where Odaira lived and worked.

♣ Odaira’s challenge and development of Hitachi seen in the exhibition

        It would be useful  to touch on the Odaira’s life and work through the view on the exhibition associated with his footprints and development of Hitachi.
       Namihei Odaira was born in Shimotsuga, Tochigi Prefecture in 1874. He entered Tokyo University and majored in the course of Electrical Department.  After graduation he joined “Fujita Gumi Kosaka Mine” as a Chief Electrical Engineer and involved in the power plant project there.  However, soon he had to feel disappointed as he saw the reality that Japanese electrical machinery was completely relied on foreign technology. Then Odaira had begun to have strong desire of building the electric machines using domestic technology by his hands.   This idea was intensified further by the passionate support from his university friend Motoji Shibusawa (a nephew of Eiichi Shibusawa, a famous business leader in the Maiji period.)
Then Odaira moved to the “Hitachi Mine” run by Fusanosuke Kuhara in 1906 (Meiji 39) thanks to Shibusawa, and began to be engaging in the electrical machinery development with holding a dream to build Japan-made electric machine there.
At the “Hitachi Mine”, while constructing power plants in Nakazato and Ishioka, he had worked fervently for development of domestic electric motors with the warm support of Kuhara. Then, finally the first domestically produced 5-horsepower motor was completed by Odaira and his colleagues. This is the memorial site of “Initial Workshop.”  Later, this Workshop was reconstructed by his followers in 1950s as one of the facilities of Memorial museum. This facility has been noted long as a cradle site of “Hitachi Ltd.” and became a kind of symbol of the advancement of the company as a whole.

♣ Hitachi’s business advancement and technology

      After that, however, they had to face numerous difficulties. The motors produced in the company were frequently inflicted by fault and trouble. But Odaira and his staff hadn’t given up and tried to continuously overcome the problems with little by little, and gradually the machinery production was moved upward and started being on the right track and as well as in business performance.

<Born the independent Hitachi Ltd>

       Then, based on the successive grow, his company decided to stage up to the independent manufacturer “Kuhara Mining Works Hitachi, Ltd” in 1911 and it became a greater “Hitachi Ltd.” Later.      It is now evaluated that the fervent working style at that time now being reflected in the Hitachi’s practical skills, innovative new products and courageous challenge to the new technology. They are deeply rooted in the corporate culture of “Hitachi of Technology” even today. The man who consistently led and promoted this spirit was a pioneering engineer Namihei Odaira.

♣ Hitachi’s technology advancement

     The results of innovative products in this early stage are reflected in many machines exhibited, such as a 275 horsepower induction motor” (“serial number one”), a rotor for a 250 kVA turbine generator, and a 10,000 horsepower Francis turbine runner.  These real machines are exhibited in the Museum together with the blueprint paper which are implicating the Hitachi’s early  early technical challenges.


Then, in 1922, the Odaira’s factory became “Hitachi Co., Ltd” which was independent entity from the “Kuhara Mining” company group.

The independent Hitachi was successively manufacturing uncountable number of large scale machines, including electric locomotives (1926), 150-horsepower train motors (1928), water electrolytic cell equipment (1931), elevators (1933), electric refrigerators No. 1 (1934), etc.  And the company was growing further as a large manufacturer in the electric company in Japan.   The driving force behind this advancement was mentioned to the excellent engineering staff gathered at Hitachi Co. and Odaira’s strong leadership in the “Monodukuri” (manufacturing spirit).  This spirit was appeared in the publication of the in-house engineering magazine “Hitachi Review”. (At the memorial hall, booklets from this first issue to the present are exhibited)     These trajectories of Hitachi development are explained well in the museum using drawings, photographs, videos, and panels.

♣  Further History of Hitachi development and Odaira’s life

   However, at the end of the Pacific War, Hitachi experienced enormous damage in the factory equipment, human resources and other precious technology assets, and personnel due to the bombing by the US military. The factory in Hitachi City was completely destroyed, and lose hundreds of company staff.  This painful situation is recorded in the exhibition at the museum.  In addition, after the War, Hitachi executives were expelled from the company including Odaira,

<Recovery from War damage>

However, from around 1948, the production began to bring back soon and it could activate again. This recovery was partly prompted by the postwar restoration policy and expanding demand from rapid infrastructure building. The private consumer demand is also contributed by the postwar economic growth. But the real source was regarded to be the technological capabilities fostered during the past technological initiatives.  The Museum tried to exhibit this turbulent process by various chronological panels, photos, and videos, such as providing the corner of the “developing footprint” “Technology is now”, “functional explanation and technology background” and others.  

<Hitachi’s growing as a leading manufacturer of electric business>

     When it comes to the Hitachi’s business and technology, it could be found the further development of advanced products and high-tech equipment.  Among these it can be count several products, such as the first domestically produced large Strip Mill in 1954, the transistor computer “HITAC 301″ in 1959, the train vehicle for Tokyo Monorail Haneda Line in 1964, the World’s first train operation management system in 1970, the next-generation train operation management system ATOS in 1996, and many others. It can’t deny that Hitachi has played a significant role in the Japanese electrical industry.
In terms of corporate management, Hitachi Cable, Hitachi Metals, Hitachi Chemical, Hitachi Construction Machinery, etc. have been established to form a greater Hitachi Group and grown into a global company.  It takes also conspicuous roll to deepen cooperation with overseas manufacturers and expand overseas business networks.
These total movements are explained in detail in the “Postwar Exhibition Zone” of the Museum by using abundant panels, videos, models, and photographs.    Looking at these exhibits, we can figure out how Hitachi have been developing and evolved the engineering technology. And with looking into the development of Hitachi, we can get some images about  the overall movement of Japan’s electrical and infrastructure industries. And it also indicates how Japanese manufacturers are challenging now to develop advanced newly advanced electronics products and technology under the fierce international competitive situation.
The museum exhibition seems to be providing the abundant learning materials regarding electric technology, entrepreneurship, corporate manufacturing culture and Monodukuri spirit especially in the electric manufacturing industry.

Conclusion: after the visit

       Honestly I could learn a lot about the company background of Hitachi, particularly manufacturing spirit created by Namihei Odaira, a founder of Hitachi by visiting the Museum.   It looks preserving uncountable evidence of the development of Japanese electric industries, including historic documents regarding initial challenge of manufacturing, real products produced in the process, personal documents involved in the Hitachi projects, and especially a great contribution of Hitachi’s founder Namihei Odaira.  I felt the Hitachi’s hidden evolving history is concentrated in this museum.   According the museum information, the memorial museum is going to be closed soon and be transferred to the other site.  I hope that collections will be totally moved to the new facility and thoughtfully conveys the messages of Hitachi’s manufacturing spirits and Odaira’s contribution to the development of Japanese electric industry as a whole.  When the new museum is open, I’d like to visit again with that hope.

Note:  Most of the photographs in the text are based on the following Web materials.


Reference materials:


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Visit NTT History Center of Technology, Tokyo

― Looking for  the roots of Japanese telecommunication and its technology development 

NTT- Logo x01.JPG Having keen interest to the recent development of information network , I NTT- View x02.JPGvisited the “NTT History Center of Technology” (Museum) recently in Mitaka, Tokyo last month.  The museum was established in 2000 aiming to show the current technology an its development process in Japan. Now it displays a number of historical materials and equipment related to the telecommunication services and technology.  NTT- View x01.JPGThe exhibition consists of “Tracing Development History” and “Searching Technology” corner, and the both are explaining how Japan has developed telecommunications, telephone services, and information equipment from the initial period until now. In particular, it focuses on the social impact in early days of telegraph and telephone systems, along with describing tele-graph/-phone mechanisms, technical background and functions of electronic NTT- View x03.JPGdevices. The museum is proud of quite rich treasury collection and sophisticated explanation on the technology background. The following is my visit record at that time. However, due to the time constrain and my limited knowledge, I couldn’t look much in the technology detail and mainly focused on the social background occurred in the historic process of Japan’s telecommunications .

♣  Outline of the composition and contents of the NTT Museum

NTT- Ilust x02    The visit course of the Museum could roughly divides into two parts.  One is for ” History” matter and the other is NTT- View x04.JPG“Technology” issues.  The “History” course begins with anecdotes during the early days of telegraph and telephone development. It shows how they were initially introduced and how they could progress to the next stage of full-scale use of them since 1950s after the War period. Then the exhibition indicates the circumstances of technological innovation and diversification from the 1970s, and how the development has shifted to the digital technology from the 1980s and it describes NTT- Switch x04.JPGtoday’s multimedia, mobile and internationalization of telecommunication.  These series of contents provide the recognition of the fact how telecommunication technology made change the way of social life and business world in Japan.
      “Technology” section involves lots of exhibits in it to indicate the technological evolution of switching equipment, transmission tools, computer related telemachines, communication infrastructure, optical transmission, mobile tools, image processing technology, and others. New products and equipment that marked a new stage of communication are abundantly lined upNTT- Ilust x11.JPG NTT- Ilust x12.JPGNTT- Ilust x13in the exhibition, so you can really feel the  social changes caused by telecommunication and the development of technology.
It is also fascinating we can see the mural paintings that depicts the many scenes NTT- history x12.JPGduring the introduction of telegraph and telephone during the late Edo and Meiji periods at the special exhibition hall. It would be great that several functional models of communication machine are provided at the first floor as well so that beginner visitors are able to testify the principles of telecommunications and the basics of technology.

♣   Telecommunications development and society in the exhibition

NTT- Ilust x05   Exhibits highlights the telecommunications technology and its impact on society through kind commentary on the devices that had emerged in the each era. NTT- history x04.JPG It has passed 150 years after the primitive telecommunication’s equipment was first introduced to Japan in the middle of 19th century. , The advancement of telecommunication and its technologies are remarkable during this time. Their evolution can observe well by seeing the communication devices in the exhibition, such as from NTT- history x07.JPGsimple telegraph tools to extensive telephone services, from manual switch devices to automated exchange machines, from analogue to digitization of communication machines, and advancing microwaves and optical fibers technology, spread of multimedia devices, and so on. This time, I mainly look at the exhibits  from the historical perspectives of development in the Meiji era to the present days and  try to focus it on the impact to society during this period.
First, let’s introduce from the early stories and the appearance of the first equipment

♣   The exhibition of Japan’s first telegraph and telephone

NTT- Ilust x04.JPG Large illustrations are decorated the wall of the basement floor which depicts the memorable scenes when telecommunication NTT- history x14equipment was first introduced in Japan and the situations that the technology was quickly disseminated in the Japanese society. The first picture is illustrating the scene of Edo government officials surrounding a new telegraph device that was brought by American Admiral Perry in 1854.  This is the first critical moment when Japanese knew telegraph machine in history. It is said that from that period the  newly born Meiji government became recognized the importance of telecommunications. And it was in 1868 when the NTT- history x08.JPGNTT- history x03.JPGgovernment took measures to establish telegraph system as an urgent matter.  Then immediately the construction began between Tokyo and Yokohama, and the telegraph service was started in 1880.  The museum exhibits a lot of photographs showing the early stage of devices like Morse Telegraph brought by Perry and the Breguet finger-type telegraph and others that were used in Japan in the initial stage.
NTT- history x13.JPG    As time passed, the telegraph systems had become to be greatly contributing to the modernization of Japanese society and industries as important  tools seen in the  railway development, shipment management, military operation, administrative and corporate communications. In addition, submarine cables made possible to begin overseas communication in the coming years.

NTT- Ilust x10   On the other hand, telephone machine was invented in 1876 by an American engineer Graham Bell.  But it was 1890 when first telephone service started between Tokyo and Yokohama in the Meiji period in Japan. It was said that the service charge was quite expensive at that time. In addition, the procedures of telephone exchanges were performed by the manual NTT- history x06.JPGswitching system by telephone operator.  However, the telephone service that allowed direct voice communication with remote locations was extremely valuable and it was said the applicants had flooded soon. At the museum, the actual “Material No. 1 telephone” and “Magnetic manual exchange board” are on display. It is quite interesting to see the wall illustration that is depicting the spread of telephone networks at the time.

♣  Toward the Japan’s own technology in telecommunications

NTT- Ilust x07.JPG       Since the Meiji era, telephone  and telecommunication service were rapidly expanded in the Japan, but the technology dependence to foreign countries  continued for quite long time. However,  a number of challenges to seek NTT- history x09.JPGNTT- history x10.JPGindependent technologies were being underway even under his circumstances.  In this period,  some notable advancing results were achieved while digesting technology from foreign countries.  For example,  the development of  unloaded transport systems, the improvement of advanced loading cables and loading coils NTT- history x11.JPG(1920), the development of photographic transmission equipment, T-type automatic exchanges, and the radars for military purpose.  At the NTT museum, numerous products are displayed as typical exhibits. You can see there sophisticated loading cables, Fleming’s two-pole vacuum tube, de Forest’s three-pole vacuum tube, and many other examples of telephones.

♣  Telecommunications in the postwar growth period

NTT- Logo x02.JPG         It was the time in 1950s  that real challenge of telecommunication businesses has started in the consumer market .  First, “Denden Public Corporation” (1950),  a NTT’s predecessor, took initiatives in this movement.  It focused on NTT- Phone x10.JPGexpansion of the telephone network and improving services responding strong public demand at that time in Japan.  Among them, the development of domestically produced “No. 4 telephone” device was noticeable. Until that time, from Kawabell type to the No. 3 type phones, all phone devices were just imitations of foreign products. But according to the explanation of the museum, the high-quality telephone products called No.4 NTT phone were first developed by Japanese hands at that time.

♣   Diversification of telecommunication since 1960

NTT- Ilust x06.JPG       After the postwar economic growth period, Japan’s telecommunication system and technology have entered a new development phase NTT- View x06.JPGalong with changing economic situation and quality of social life.  It has brought the broad range of changes in society, such as, the wide distribution of telephones, the evolution of switchboard from mechanical to electronic exchanges, the start of data communication services through computer networks, the emergence of automobiles and mobile phones, the development of various communication technologies, and such.
NTT- Switch x07.JPGNTT- Switch x05.JPG     At the museum, many photographs and real goods are  displayed showing the spread of public telephones, image transmission and facsimile, as well as indicating the start of mobile communication and electronic telephone exchange machines. All of them became essential tools for social life at that time.  For example, D10 type automatic exchanges, various NTT- Phone x08.JPGfunction of telephones like push phones, data communication tools, early stage of phones, facsimile machines, etc.  These items are illustrating the environment that the telecommunications network has deeply penetrated into the social and business world.  It also can detect the fact that technology was rapidly progressing during this period both in world and Japan.

♣   The digital technology and multimedia (since the mid-1980s)

NTT- Ilust x03         Looking at the history of the telecommunications business since the mid-1980s, the technology and service have been further revolutionized and deeply rooted in the society.  The communication tools have also made a major shift fromNTT- Switch x06.JPG the analog to the digital technology.  As a result, various sound, video, and data was possible to transmit simultaneously through various telecommunication networks.  Also, with the fast evolving mobile communications and spread of the Internet, the telecommunication went advancing to the new networking society.   For example, the privatized NTT Co. (since in 1985) has introduced “Optical NTT- Phone x02.JPGtransmission” method for aiming at dramatic increase of transmission capacity.  Mobile communications that started with automobile phones, have significantly expanded during short time.  And, the growing communication wireless networks have brought high speed and huge capacity of telecommunication being comparable to fixed-line networks.  In addition, while the miniaturization of mobileNTT- Phone x03.JPG devices, the  radio wave efficiency are remarkably advanced and the Internet communication network is expanding.  It is during this period  that satellite communication has become active.
At the museum, various optical electronics devices and equipment, multi-functional fixed phones and mobile phones, digital terminals compatible with ISDN, videophones, intranets, user equipment supporting multimedia environments, and engineering NTT- wave x01.JPGtest satellite ETS -Experimental models of VI are extensively displayed.  In the business field, the machines from telex to computer communications, Japanese language OCR, voice synthesis technology, image communication and image information providing system are also exhibited in the museum.


♣   Today’s Internet environment and communication world

NTT- Ilust x16.JPG      With the spread of the Internet, the new communication system is now looked becoming reality in the broader world. Unfortunately exhibits in the museum didn’t much refer to the recent advancement seemingly due to the nature of the historical NTT- Phone x07.JPGmuseum.  Nevertheless, we can detect many achievement and directions that the Japanese telecommunication businesses are engaging in this field.  For example, the introduction and development of OCN, voice communication and video distribution system using the Internet, “i-mode devices” that had previously marked a new era in telecommunication world, and several challenging activities NTT- View x07.JPGsuch as the operation of the IPv6 Internet networks and others.  In terms of communication software, you can observe some facilities reflecting current changes in the telecommunication world, like developments of various system control programs, unique hierarchical architecture of information system, large-scale database, software on the production technology, etc.
    Currently major NTT- Phone x06.JPGcommunication services have shifted from fixed-line telephone networks to wireless communication services, and even the basic platform of mobile communication have shifted from 3G or 4G to the 5G generation. In this situation, we are curious how NTT will cultivate the future telecommunications business by taking advantage of the vast technological assets that have been accumulated until now.

After visit

NTT- Ilust x15.JPG   The telecommunications industry has now entered a new era of intense global competitions and changes. In the world of mobile devices, overseas manufacturers are leading the way in this field.  Europe and the United States are now NTT- wave x02.JPGincreasingly dominant in international communication businesses. Many countries are also intensifying competition in satellite communications too. Under these circumstances, it is  very much interesting what direction of development will go in the telecommunication business in Japan in terms of the business and technology.   The NTT Museum has clarified the history of technological developments in Japan and visualized the implication regarding communication NTT- fiber x02.JPGtechnology in our social daily life.  Although some difficulties to understand the technology background of machines and devices, but I could recognize to some extent about social significance of telecommunication world through observing the exhibition .
In the era of advancing mobile and Internet today, I felt that “History Museum”’ gave me a precious chance to adventure into the telecommunication world and was possible to acknowledge the NTT’s previous technology development footsteps.




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Visit Tokyo Metro’s Subway Museum

— Amazing subway network in Metropolitan Tokyo and its development

T Metro- Logo x01.JPG      Tokyo’s subway passengers are now swelling to more than 10 million a T Metro- Outlook x01.JPGday that is almost the same with the population of Tokyo. And the routes count over 13 lines with more than 130 stations. This might be noted for unprecedented scale in the world.  The subway now became an indispensable commuting means and crucial public transportation for the people in Tokyo area. How these scales of subway network has been created and formed in history?  With T Metro- Outlook x02.JPGthis question, I visited Tokyo Metro’s “Subway Museum” in Tokyo this month.
The museum is located just adjacent place to Kasai Station on the Tozai Subway Line.  The museum which was founded in 1994 to introduce the development history of subway system in Japan, especially in Tokyo region. Now there now many real trains and railway equipment are exhibited aiming to publicize the activities of subway T Metro- history x05.JPGnetwork of past and present.  For example, the technology advancement of railway vehicle and drive systems, excavation technology in the underground construction work, and railway running operation and management.  In the exhibition, real vehicles, moving devices, interactive models and various diorama are abundantly used.  New subway operation and equipment methods, as well as previous history on the subway can be learned through the direct observation there.  The following is a rough introduction to the museum and development process subway network in Tokyo.

♣    The history of the subway that started in Tokyo

T Metro- Illust x19    The plan of Subway construction in Tokyo was started in 1910s.  It was said to begin as Tokutsugu Hayakawa, a businessman, realized the need toT Metro- history x03.JPG provide of subway system in Tokyo as an essential urban transport after observing London’s highly developed subway system. Afterward, he established “Tokyo Light Subway Co.” in 1917 to move forward the beginning subway construction with his initiative under this thought.  The plan had to inevitably face uncountable severe problems like financial and technology difficulties at the time of beginning. However, the construction itself could has been completed as the original plan after his tireless T Metro- Outlook x04.JPGendeavor. It was the first subway line constructed in Tokyo of operating in the route of 2.2km between Asakusa and Ueno in December 1927.  Later, it was extended to Kanda and Ginza, and then to Shimbashi in 1939.  This is the origin of the current Ginza Line. The real subway vehicle of being first operated in Tokyo is on display in the museum as a precious memorial asset, which is now designated as a “Japan’s T Metro- Railcar x11.JPGModernization Technology Heritage”.     The second subway in Tokyo was the Marunouchi Line, but the completion of it had to wait till the post-War period. This line was opened in 1954 between Ikebukuro and Ochanomizu of 6.4 km and eventually reached 27.4 km to Ogikubo station later.  These two lines became the most convenient transport and T Metro- Illust x06.JPGpopular means for urban people in Tokyo until the 1960s in paralleled with the other ground railway networks. The museum exhibits the real vehicles of Ginza and Marunouchi lines side by side as memorial objects.

<Subway advancement after the postwar rapid economic growth>

T Metro- history x06.JPGT Metro- Illust x13      Rapid economic growth in 1960s has vigorously promoted the movement of further expansion and improvements of subway network in Tokyo in order to respond strong demand for convenient urban transport, particularly in the wake of the Tokyo Olympics in 1964.  The two operation bodies, “Eidan Subway Network” (now Tokyo Metro) and Tokyo Govt’s “Toei Subway Network” have been responsible for this requirement at that time.

T Metro- Tech x05.JPG  First, Eidan Subway Network constructed the following lines, such as the Hidaniya Line in 1961 (between Minamisenju and Okachimachi, later extended Kitasenju and Nakameguro), the Tozai Line in 1964 (originally Takadanobaba and Kudanshita, later between Nakano and Nishifunabashi), and the Chiyoda Line in 1969 (Initially Kitasenju-Otemachi, later Ayase-Yoyogi-Uehara), 1974 Yurakucho Line (between Ikebukuro and Ginza, later Wako-shi and T Metro- Railcar x08.JPGShinkiba), 1977 Hanzomon Line (initial Shibuya-Futakotamagawa, later Shibuya-Oshiage) can be noticed.Toei subway Network has constructed several subway lines during this period, including the Asakusa Line (opened in 1960), the Mita Line (opened in 1968), the Shinjuku Line (opened in 1980), and the O-edo Line (opened in 1991).

The features of the newly constructed lines during this period were the actively create beneficial mutual service cooperation with T Metro- Railcar x09.JPGother ground lines (mutual entry line management) and facilitation of innovative vehicles in new designs and devices. They have also initiated further expansion of operation of railway lines.     From the 1990s inward, the subway network was more expanded with opening new routes between the Namboku Line (opened between Komagome and Akabane in 1991) and the Fukutoshin Line between Ikebukuro and Shibuya in 2008.

At present, the Tokyo subway lines have reached a total length of 304 km and has 13 and 130 lines with marking the largest scale in the world.  It would be amazing achievement that such bountiful subways lines T Metro- history x07.JPGhave been constructed during 90 years since the first subway was born in Tokyo. In addition, it has gained a great reputation that each of the lines work precisely in tandem and operates accurately in the designated time schedule. At the museum hall, a bronze statue of a pioneer Hayakawa is placed in commemoration and beside it a panel board describing history of development since the first challenge is on display there

♣   Evolution and transition of subway cars seen in the exhibition

T Metro- Illust x02.JPGIn the museum, several representative subway vehicles are displayed in real figures or by models.  The type of subway vehicles being operated in Tokyo was usually classified by digit numbers to identify T Metro- Railcar x04.JPGtheir style and features. The first subway Ginza line vehicle was named “1000 gata” type. This first vehicle of this Ginza line is exhibited in the museum using reproduction motif scene of Ueno Station. Visitors can examine this first type of vehicle with their own eyes there. This yellow body vehicle has characterized the rugged metal body, flame-retardant flooring, hanging drive system (spray type), automatic air brake, automatic door, punch type ATS T Metro- Railcar x01.JPG(Automatic stop). It is significant in terms of design and facility even it was the first challenging product of subway in Tokyo.
Next to it, the second Marunouchi line, 300 series 301 is also seen in the display. We can see the appearance of the vehicle being precisely the same figure at the time of T Metro- Railcar x02.JPGopening.       In addition, the other 1938 Ginza Line 100 (No. 129) vehicle is provided at different corner to invite visitors to inspect the inside appearance, driving structure, pantograph movement, and control unit by their own eyes.     The exhibit also shows the evolution of the structure and function of vehicles among the different types of cars used to work in the previous subway lines. According to the explanation, the carrying equipment was changing from the original bogie type to the steering bogies, the material was shifting from stainless steel to aluminum alloy, the driving method was also advanced from WN T Metro- Tech x01.JPGcoupling type to the direct drive motor, the control device was transformed to the electromagnetic chopper and VVVF converter, in addition, the current collecting method was also shifted to advanced pantographs. All these processes can be acknowledged in the technology information chart displayed in the exhibition hall with photographs and pictures. The recent development trend in linear motor was also introduced in the explanation board there.

♣   Underground excavation and its technology seen in the exhibition

T Metro- Illust x08.JPG       The most essential technology in subway construction would be how successfully build underground tunnels in the safe and efficient manner.  T Metro- underground x01.JPGThe advancement of drilling methods and technologies are shown in detail in the exhibits. The excavation method is usually classified into two types. One is “opening ground method”’ which excavates and constructs tunnel from the surface of the ground. The other type is the “shield underground method” which constructs underground tunnel by special drill T Metro- underground x08.JPGmachines like ship-worms move. The opening excavation method is relatively low cost, but it is difficult when there are structures on the surface.  On the other hand, the shield method is less constrained by the ground and soil conditions despite technically difficult and expensive.
In urban area, the deep excavation measures like shield method are essential because buildings are densely constructed, and many underground structures are busily intersected.T Metro- underground x04.JPG

The shield method is that special machines T Metro- underground x02.JPGconsecutively excavate tunnel by soil crashing cutters while the “shield (or box)” supporting the tunnel’s wall in the rear side already drilled , and the cutter machine sequentially is advancing the hole in the tunnel, and then move forward the shield and finally builds the final wall behind the shield.  In the present day, highly mechanized shield machines are used, and the walls are constituted of divided blocks (“segments”) to form structures.
T Metro- underground x10.JPG  T Metro- underground x09.JPG  In the museum, the state of the general excavation method and the shield method ones are reproduced by the scale model, and the huge surface of the shield machines which actually used is displayed there. For the example, the shape of rotating cutter head at the tip of machine, the fine blade (cutter bit) and roller cutter attached to the machine, the mechanics to carry the excavated earth and sand backward, the cylindrical block on theT Metro- underground x07.JPG dug wall, and others, as well as details of the forming process of segment structure.  These shield method technologies have greatly advanced recent days with facilitating GPS functions, sensors, drilling rigs and others. The technology development like it has made a great leap forward the construction of congested subway networks construction as a result. These are clearly observed in the exhibition.

♣   Past and present of operation management and control seen in the exhibition

T Metro- Illust x16.JPG       It would be common belief that the precise operation and control system are indispensable element to successfully keep accurate on-time operation and safety of the railways.
Japan’s railway management is highly reputed as the most advanced.  In the case of subways in Tokyo, it is crucial to perform careful management regarding daily T Metro- Tech x03.JPGtrain schedules, accurate monitoring operation and troubleshooting, when considering that millions of passengers get on and off every minute using dozens of various lines a day. For this reason, Tokyo Metro provides a specific “Integrated Management Center” which is conducting a computer-operated monitoring and operation control system without stopping 24 hour a day.  In the museum, a T Metro- Tech x04.JPGsophisticated simulator device which has been practically used is installed to introduce this control system. Thanks to this, you can understand the contents of actual operation management.
On the other hand, there are countless sample facilities are shown in the exhibition. They are a set of information transmission device for trains, monitoring and failure information system to monitor of malfunction vehicles, and automatic operation control, and other devices. All of them seem to bee the precious exhibits to acknowledge the safety operation of subway management.

♣   Current appearance of Tokyo subway and impression of visit

T Metro- Illust x17.JPG       As mentioned earlier, the Tokyo subway is proud of its achievement of more than 300 kilometers in total running length and supports millions of people in Tokyo every day. The museum is describing a lot about the function and technology of subway T Metro- Outlook x06.JPGsystem in Tokyo, such as what kind of technology is used, how the subway system has been developed so far, how the subway has been practically designed and constructed, how the underground excavation has been carried out, and how vehicle development has been done, etc.  However, looking at the current Tokyo subway network, it seems that many issues still remain when seeking further beneficence and development. First of all, Tokyo Metro and Toei T Metro- history x04.JPGT Metro- Illust x12.JPGSubway whether coexist as management entities, whether the operation, fare and route management are necessarily integrated, and whether platform and station safety are enough, and others. It could also wonder whether the mutual lines entry and coordination with private railways and JR lines are sufficient, even far advanced compared with previous T Metro- Illust x09.JPGtime.       At present, the renovation of subway lines is progressing with a rapid pace in light of the 2020 Olympics, which seems to be taking good steps to resolve the issues. I am looking forward to seeing the Tokyo subway several years later. In this sense, this visit to the museum was quite fruitful for me.



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  • 「東京地下鉄 車両の歩み」ネコ・パブリッシング 2016
  • 「最新 世界の地下鉄」日本地下鉄協会 2005
  • 銀座線開通の苦労の歴史
  • 東京の地下鉄の歴史―路線図と年表―
  • 日本の地下鉄(日本地下協会)
  • 東京地下鉄の車両変遷について(留岡正男)(2017- 3「車両技術253号」pdf)
  • 東京メトロ 「メディアデータ」2018 (メトロアドエージェンシー) pdf
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Visit Tokyo “Fire Museum” and probe Japan’s firefighting history

   Exhibit Firefight practice in Japan from the past to the present

Fire M- logo x01.JPG     There’s a unique museum publicizing Japan’s firefighting Fire M- Overview x02.JPGtechnology and history in Yotsuya-Shinjuku, Tokyo. This is called  the “Fire Museum” being set up in 1992 by Tokyo Fire Department.  I had a chance to  visit this museum recently.       It is  known well that big fires  have repeatedly assaulted Japan’s big cities and plagued Japanese people’s life many times in history.
     Japan’s housing structure is quite prone to the fire because they were predominantly made by Fire M- current x13.JPG wooden materials. WhenFire M- Illust x03 looking back to Edo and Tokyo  in the past,  a number of large-scale fires  occurred and burned down the entire cities claiming hundreds of thousands local populations.  On this problem, many measures have been taken in Japan, particularly in the metropolitan Edo and Tokyo area for minimizing damages in the past.      The museum deals with these fire and firefighting problem and tries to show what kind of disaster prevention measures have beenFire M- Edo x03 taken so far, what kind of Fire M- Illust x19firefighting system has developed in order to raise  disaster prevention awareness among local residence. Many exhibits are provided  to indicate this historical issues by showing real vehicles and equipment, dioramas, photographs and pictures, etc. It would be one of the best facilities to probe the history of firefighting and disaster prevention measures in Japan, especially in Tokyo area.


♣  Outline of Museum’s exhibition and its feature

Fire M- Illust x01.JPG     The museum has two major sections which introduce a history of Fire M- Illust x18.JPGfirefighting system for first one and the physical equipment and facilities for the other, such as fire engines and fire apparatus. In the history section, they are giving a comprehensive explanation on the early days “fire-extinguishing” system, transition of its mechanisms and tools in the Edo period as a system of ” Dawn” of firefighting practice. Next comes the introduction of modern firefighting system after the Meiji Era, includes the modernization of fire equipment Fire M- current x09.JPGand organization of fire institution, its prevention measures, and their roles expanding toward rescue works of natural disasters and so on.
In the second physical development section, they convey the significant enhancement of equipment in the past and present in the exhibition, such as they it exhibit various actual fire vehicles, ambulance cars, helicopters, in addition to the disaster brigades’ equipment which embodies the history and Fire M- current x01.JPGdevelopment of firefighting technology in detail.     The museum seems to provide a wide range of activities as well, including a disaster prevention campaign corner, a mini theater, and a library and training room for raising daily prevention awareness.
It seems to cover a wide range of useful exhibits that give live image of modern firefighting activities not only to fight against fires but also to engage large-scale disasters such as earthquakes, emergency medical care, and other roles.

♣   Firefighting in the Edo period seen from the exhibition-“Hikeshi”

Fire M- Illust x12.JPG      Most houses and buildings in Japan were made of wood, because of it Japan’s housing environment can easily lead to big fires, the especially Fire M- Edo x02.JPGdensely populated Edo’s urban area had always been vulnerable to the threat of large fires. As a matter fact, dozens of devastating large-scale fires had been frequently occurred in the Edo city and burn down whole urban area many times. Among them the “Meireki Fire” in the early 17th century was the most serious fires, which threw the Edo into a disastrous sea of fire and claimed hundreds of thousand people’s lives.
Fire M- Illust x19.JPG     After this, the Edo Shogunate had been beginning to take a major anti-fire urban measures and established systematic firefighting systems. For instance, the Edo government set up dozens of firefighting squads and created the fire extinguishing Fire M- Edo x04.JPGsquares “Hirokoji” in addition to the large-scale urban relocation measures.

In 1650, the first Edo’s “Jo-Bikeshi” (Stationed Fire squad) was organized in Edo, and in 1712, additionally “Daimyo Bikeshi”, a fire squad for protecting Samurai’s residence was also born in 1712.  However, it became clear being insufficient as an all-out firefighting to protect whole Edo city, because primarily it aimed at protecting samurai Fire M- Illust x14.JPGFire M- Edo x05.JPGareas only. Because of this, Shogun Yoshimune organized a town fire extinguisher “Machi Bikeshie” in 1718 consisting roughly 10,000 scale of own town people.  This town-based brave fire extinguisher has often been appearing in the “Kabuki” theater scene as a heroic character for Edo people people at that time.  Fire M- Illust x22    However, the firefighting method at that time was called “destruction firefighting system” and was a very primitive way basically aimed at breaking down surrounding houses of fire origins and preventing fires expanding further rather than on-site intensive firefighting system. The museum exhibits a diorama describing the scene of destructive fire and heroic extinguishing ways by this breaking method. Also, in this section, the disaster prevention equipment, water troughs, and hand-pumps called “Ryudosui” pump at the time were on display too. You can get a glimpse of the fire extinguishing at that time thereFire M- Edo x03.JPG.Fire M- Edo x06   In the Edo period, a lot of fire watching tower “Hinomi Yagura” were constructed in the various locations and variety of fire alert measures were taken, but when looking at the exhibition, we are inclined to see how difficult it was to prevent big fires in Edo at that time by such immature systems and technology in the past.

♣   Firefighting system after the Meiji modernization seen from the exhibition

Fire M- Illust x08.JPG      With the Meiji Restoration, ““Jo-Bikeshi” “Daimyo Bikeshi” Extinguishers were all abolished, and “Machi Bikeshi” system was reorganized into the Fire M- Meiji x09.JPGmodern extinguisher unit “Fire Department” under the Tokyo City government in 1872.  After that, the similar fire brigade system was spread to the other areas as a public institute nationwide as an efficient fire brigade (1894).  Along with this shift, the firefighting system and technology have drastically mechanized and modernized involving firefighting Fire M- Meiji x04.JPGorganizations, extinguishing methods, and fire Fire M- Meiji x05.JPGprevention equipment. This is clearly shown in the exhibition. For example, at the venue you can figure out how the firefighting had been done. For example, new extinguisher using steam pump, horse carriage fire engine, modern fire wear and tools, in addition the depiction by “Nishiki-e” picture (woodblock print) and other exhibits.  In the following time, the firefighting system is further improved and appeared fire engine cars.

Fire M- Illust x09.JPG    These series of evolution of firefighting equipment can be Fire M- Taisho x02.JPGseen in the exhibition as well.     Anyway, it was actually after the “Kanto Earthquake” in 1927 when the firefighting system has transformed from mere firefighting to more “disaster prevention” beyond previous boundaries. Their activities have been significantly expand to cover more broad field associated with natural disasters and changed their functions as well.    Exhibits show videos of fire brigade members working in the aftermath of the earthquake, Fire M- current x03.JPGincreasing number of fire engines and disaster response equipment, and the spread of organized activities well.   Moreover, after the War, fire brigades’ perceived works have enforced further in response to the rapid urbanization and rushed construction of high-rise buildings, even expected to cover diversified natural disasters. You can see the emergence of ladder cars for tall buildings, the start of emergency services, the activities of disaster rescue units, and the like there.

♣   Development of fire trucks

Fire M- Meiji x08.JPG      Among the modernized firefighting activities, the technology development is outstanding in the equipment field, particularly emergence of “fire engines” vehicle and its advancing functions can be noted. It was in 1924 when the first fire engines were introduced in Japan. They were the “Ahren’s Fox Fire Pump Car” (1924) and the “Stats Fire M- Taisho x01Fire Engine” (1924). These are on display in a museum along with other successive fire trucks. For example, Maxim fire pump truck (1929) and ladder trucks include Iveco Margis, Benz Mets, Isuzu ladder truck etc.  Regarding ambulances, a Toyota-made ambulance car was displayed on live conditions so that you can examine inside the car. You can also see a disaster prevention helicopter which used until lately as well.

♣   Development of firefighting equipment

Fire M- Illust x21.JPG   The evolution of firefighting equipment and tools since the modern firefighting system have been remarkable, and this progress can be found in the exhibition too.  The display of fire extinguisher costumes and tools of Edo period is quite interesting, as it reflects the features of firefighting at Fire M- current x08.JPGthe time. When it came to the Meiji era, their costumes changed to Western-style styles, and tools developed to the modern functional ones. And as it gets closer in the style to the present, so you can see many fire equipment that have become more scientific and technological advanced ones. It would be an evidence how technology has been cultivated to be able to qualify the fire equipment to be safer and effective fighting against extreme fire heat and Fire M- equipment x01.JPGflame.     The exhibition clearly shows that the firefighting organization and technology have been constantly progressing to fulfill an important role in the society through disaster prevention activities.


♣   Modern firefighter’s style in the exhibition

Fire M- current x04.JPG   One of the features of modern firefighting activities is that they play a role not only in firefighting but also in emergency and disaster response. One of the important pillars in this regard would be an activity of “disaster rescue squad”.  The major facilities to technologically support their activities were the advanced equipment such as “disaster helicopter”, “chemical fire truck”, “ladder truck”, “ambulance” Fire M- current x07.JPGetc. In the museum, the firefighting helicopter, which had been active until recently, is displayed as the main object on the rooftop and entrance hall, as well as the ladder cars and ambulances mentioned above. a large number of disaster rescue equipment are also exhibited there.      On the other hand, disaster prevention and awareness-raising activities Fire M- current x06Fire M- current x02.JPG proactively going to promote in recent year as a current movement by the Tokyo fire departments. The Museum provides a special socializing section of “Fire Prevention Lounge” which displays lots of fire prevention equipment at home, disaster preparing goods and board to explain how to use them and how to prepare for disasters. It has been shown that the current fire department is not only responding to complex disaster events but also focusing on how to prevent them in advance.

Last remarks

Fire M- Illust x15.JPG  I knew the existence of museum from before, but this was my first visit to look into the exhibition. It was amazing the facilities that is well Fire M- Edo x01designed and their exhibition in rich.     If we look at the Japanese urban environment, they are quite vulnerable to large-scale fires, and devastating fires always have been major concerns of our societies, because the general residential houses were dominantly wooden built in Japan.  In Edo or Tokyo, as a densely populated metropolitan city, even various fire measures have been taken since the Edo era, and a “fire extinguishing” organization has been well facilitated, but it couldn’t prevent dozens of big devastating fires and always gave huge damage to the Fire M- current x11.JPGFire M- current x12.JPGcity.  Even after the Meiji era, big fire was still a great threat to our society. In this situation a new fire department has been set up in Tokyo as government organization to modernize fire prevention functions and strengthen disaster preparations.  This “Fire Museum” looks emphasize the importance of disaster prevention by showing historical trends in an easy-to-understand format.
By this visit, I was able to learn a lot about the current disaster prevention activities, Fire M- Illust x10.JPGthe history of fire prevention systems, and the changes in disaster prevention technologies. It was a valuable visit for me to raise awareness of importance of disaster prevention. I felt I’d like to visit other facilities to inform us well regarding the natural disaster prevention measures if there are locations.



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Visit the Hamamatsu Museum of Musical Instruments

— Taking wonderful music journey in the Hamamatsu Museum

H Music M- logo 01.JPG   While traveling to Hamamatsu City of Shizuoka Prefecture, I had a chance to H Music M- outlook 01.JPG visit the “Hamamatsu Museum of Musical Instruments”  The Museum is famed for the collection of treasury historical music instruments. The facility exhibits more than 1500 instruments from all over the world from Europe, Asia, Middle East, Africa, and Oceania with giving a good description on the history and features. It’s fun to be able to look into these world instruments, including various traditional folk instruments, not only Western modern instruments all togetherH Music M- outlook 02.JPG. The exhibition  puts particularly highlight on the beautiful instruments of Asian characters, treasury European instruments, unique form instruments of Africa and Oceania. They seem to be reflected their significant cultural diversity, tradition and their own history.  The collection of Japanese instruments is also impressive.  Additionally, theH Music M- Illust 05.JPG piano collection is quite significant as Hamamatsu, where the museum located, is renowned for a major production site of piano in the world. A number of characteristic pianos produced by Japanese makers are on display, along with the famous historical pianos in Europe.   It was really good chance being familiar with variety of music instrument around the globe.


♣  Overview of the museum exhibition

H Music M- Illust 13.JPG    The exhibition is categorically divided into several regional zones.  Asian zone displays 420 pieces of characteristic instruments, like Indonesian Gamelan and other traditional instruments. In the European zone, about 360 pieces of historical pianos, flutes and violins, and others are exhibited. In the Africa and Oceania zones, roughly 190 pieces of H Music M- outlook 04.JPGtraditional percussion and stringed instruments are on display, and in the South and North America about 150 instruments, like marimba are placed.  Also, in the Japan zone, we can see 200 pieces of legendary music tools, such as “Gagaku” instruments and other popular folk instruments like “Taiko” (Japanese drum), “Shamisen” (strings), “Koto” and others. Various organs and pianos instruments that H Music M- Illust 03manufactured by Hamamatsu since the Meiji era are also appeared in the special corner, including electronic musical instrument like synthesizers and electronic organs.
It would be quite precious that such a big number of instruments are intensively collected all together in a music museum. The collection of each zone are roughly as follows.

♣  Stringed instruments and regional features seen in the exhibition

H Music M- Illust 10.JPG First, we’d like looking into the feature and history of stringed instruments, Violins and cellos that born and developed in Europe would H Music M- A instrum 03.JPGbe the most popular stringed sound instruments now. But the origin of this string instrument is actually very old and diverse in history. For example, a kind of old “harp” is appeared 3,000 years ago in Egypt. Finger plucked string instruments were also found in the ancient oriental world from thousand years ago.  For example, rubbing H Music M- A instrum 04.JPGsound string instruments of Arab people called “Rebec” became popular in the middle ages. The bowed instruments such as Chinese “Erhus” and Mongolian “Morin khuur”, and unique guitar “Sitars” in India were brother and sisters of the same origin of ancient origin of instruments.  It is said that these instruments were brought into Japan through the continental Silk Road route in the long time ago. They H Music M- A instrum 05.JPGH Music M- A instrum 07were seemingly transformed into traditional instruments like “Biwa”, “Koto” and “Shamisen” etc. in the later period in Japan.   These instruments were evolved and expanded in the modern Western world too, and they became widely performed in the concerts of the European court music circles in the 18c and 19th. Since then, a quite number of variations of string instruments were produced and loved by worldwide population in modern societies, particularly in Europe. 

 So we can see a variety of modernH Music M- A instrum 08    H Music M- A instrum 06 string instruments in European zone. such as violin, cello, guitar and others. On the other side, traditional instrument like Sitars,Morin khuur, Chinese Erhu are well found in Asian zone, variety of banjo, binnbau are also shown in South America zone.  Japanese folk instruments like Koto, Shamisen and Biwa etc. are orderly displayed in the exhibition too.


♣   Percussion instruments lineage and its features seen in the exhibition

H Music M- Illust 07.JPG        When looking into the origins of percussion instruments, people say that these were originally created for the purpose of festivity H Music M- outlook 05.JPGand magic practice or for distant communication among people. But the instruments were gradually becoming used for pleasures and music plays. Therefore, initially shape was gongs and drums in the traditional style and they were gradually evolved in shape and sound.   In Asia and Africa, the ethnic percussion instruments are pretty popular among people and similar shapes were shared in the many regions.H Music M- A instrum 14.JPG




This is shown in the museum exhibition very well. There are variety of percussion instrument are found in the exhibition in the corner. For example, Indonesian Gamelan, Chinese Gongs, Korean Chango, Indian Tabla, Turkish Darabucca drums, and Xylophone-shaped Anklon made of bamboo in Southeast Asia.

H Music M- A instrum 11.JPGH Music M- A instrum 12.JPGH Music M- A instrum 10.JPG

In Africa, there are a variety of ethnic percussion instruments such as Ngoma, Kpanlogo Krin, and others many in exhibition.H Music M- A instrum 13.JPG

Meanwhile, in the European zone, modern percussion instruments, like Timpani and Dum sets, which have performed in orchestra concerts, are shown in the exhibition too.


♣   Wind instruments lineage and its features seen in the exhibition

H Music M- Illust 19.JPG      Wind instruments are a generally quoted the instruments that create sound by breath vibration in a tube. The origin of this instrument is H Music M- outlook 06.JPGbelieved to be quite old.  It had been widely played by people for long time at religious ceremonies, festivals, entertainment, etc. They were using bones, horns, shells, trees, plants, and many other available materials according their places. The distribution of the wind instruments is geographically pretty broad in the world.  When it refers to the modern performing wind instruments, European ones have predominant position and spread to the whole world because they were developed as the performing art in the concerts and theaters in the 19th and 20 century communities and became produced in the manufacturing industries.

<Exhibits of European modern wind instruments >

H Music M- A instrum 16.JPG    In the museum, the modern wind instruments of the European Zone account for the largest number of exhibition and boost the most diverse of H Music M- A instrum 17.JPGinstruments among the exhibition. First, woodwind instruments since the Renaissance era such as flutes, oboe, bassoon and new type of clarinet are found in the exhibition. For brass instruments, it shows the items, such as some style of trumpets with ancient characters, Trombone, Tuba, and so on which had H Music M- A instrum 19.JPGbeen produced in the period of the Bourbon dynasty in 18 century.
These instruments have been drastically evolved while changing the shape and quality of sound in previous many years to present.  We can clearly observe these changes in the exhibition as well as enjoy the current shape and sound at the museum.

<Exhibits of Asia, Africa and Oceania folk wind instruments >

H Music M- A instrum 32.JPG     On the other hand, there are many traditional folk wind instruments being found in Asia and Africa too. This is well reflected in the collection of exhibition items.  Especially, among the folk wind H Music M- A instrum 15.JPGinstruments, the “Didgeridoo”, an indigenous Australian instrument, is quite famous as “the oldest wind instrument in the world”. This instrument attracts many visitors in the museum for their unique shape and mysterious sound. In addition, Africa’s Skele and South America’s Ocarina and Sambonia are famed collection of wind instruments in the exhibition in the museum.

♣   Lineage of  keyboard instrument like piano and harpsichord in the exhibition

H Music M- Illust 16.JPG      The collection of pianos and harpsichord instruments looked quite diverse in the exhibition.  They are categorized as keyboard H Music M- A instrum 22.JPGinstruments as they create sound by operation of a keyboard for music.  Of these, harpsichord that holds similar shape and operation with piano became quite popular in 16th century Europe.  Around this period, a mechanical engineer Cristofoli of Italy refined this harpsichord and invented piano in the early 18th century. After H Music M- A instrum 23.JPGthat the piano was developed pretty fast and the current shape of piano was born by adding several dynamic sounding systems in the keyboard. Since then, piano has become the most influential instrument in Europe,

In the exhibition, we can see many classical instruments of harpsichords and H Music M- A instrum 20.JPGpianos made in the 18th and 9th centuries. For example, visitors can appreciate the magnificent harpsichord of the Bourbon dynasty in France, the Pleyel Forte piano in the 1830s, and the Graf of Vienna piano in the 1820s.  Another highlight is the Steinway’s piano series as the masterpiece products.

On the other hand, when the piano became H Music M- A instrum 21.JPGwidespread musical instruments in the 19th century.  The piano production technology remarkably progressed responding to these trends and became possible to produce massive scale of quality pianos industrially. In reflecting these trends, vertical upright pianos are born for home-use beside for the theater use.
Meantime, the Museum allocates a large space for the exhibition of various Japanese H Music M- outlook 07.JPGpianos manufactured by these manufacturers, along with classical foreign pianos. Because the industrial manufacturers, particularly Yamaha and Kawai in Hamamatsu, have been producing a huge volume of piano by their industrial skills.  It seems valuable in looking into the development history of piano in world including Japan in the exhibition.

♣   Feature of Japanese music instruments and the world in the exhibition

H Music M- outlook 04.JPG        Nearly most of the distinctive Japanese musical instruments are found in the Japan Zone. For example, “Ohdaiko” drums used in festival, “Kakko” (braces, “Sho” ,and “Shichiriki” used in Gagaku in ancient court music concerts, “Ryu flute”, “Shakuhachi” flute from the Edo period music, “Biwa” from the Nara era, and several style of “Koto” (Japanese harp), like “Yakumo koto”, “Two-stringed koto” and “Suma koto”, “Shamisen” for people’s performing arts, trumpet like “Horagai” for trainingH Music M- A instrum 28.JPGH Music M- A instrum 29.JPGH Music M- A instrum 27.JPG
mountain monks, Satsuma folk instrument “Gottan” and “Ryukyu sanshin”, and many others. They are really excellent collection to review Japanese performing arts.  It’s really significant exhibition that reminds us how such a variety of Japanese musical instruments have been developed and handed down in the historical context with the broader world.

♣   Japanese Western musical instrument zone

Hamamatsu’s development and exhibition of the musical H Music M- A instrum 33.JPGinstrument industry-

It seems necessary to touch on the roots of Hamamatsu instrument industry related to the museum exhibition. The Hamamatsu City is advocating the H Music M- logo 04“Town of Music” as mentioned earlier. It might H Music M- history 01.JPGbe due much to the concentration of big instrument manufacturers such as Yamaha, Kawai and Roland.  The origin could date back to the early Meiji era, when Yamaha’s founder, Torakusu Yamaha, first produced music organs in Hamamatsu region.  After winning an award for organ instrument product at the 3rd National Industrial Expo in 1890s H Music M- history 03.JPGYamaha began to produce piano by establishing the “Yamaha H Music M- history 02.JPGMusical Instrument Factory.”  Soon later, in 1897, the company was renamed to “Nippon Gakki Manufacturing Co.” and began producing organ and upright pianos.  This was the beginning of Yamaha’s music business operation today.  In the H Music M- history 09.JPGH Music M- history 06.JPGmeanwhile, Kawai Koichi, who had been working at the Yamaha, retired it and started manufacturing pianos by setting up the “Kawai Musical Instrument Research Institute” independently in 1926.  Today, Yamaha and Kawai now boast the world’s largest piano producers.H Music M- history 04.JPG
In the museum exhibition, we can find many music instruments that they have been produced in the companies.  For example, a foot-operated reed organ (Nippon Gakki in 1907), an upright piano (Nippon Gakki in 1897), and a grand piano (Kawai Musical Instruments in 1927).  There, the history of Yamaha and Kawai is reflected.

 <Exhibition of electronic musical instruments>

H Music M- Illust 20.JPG      As for electronic musical instruments, current leading-edge instruments in the world and Japan are broadly collected in the exhibition, including synthesizers, rhythm machines, electronic organs, H Music M- A instrum 26.JPGand electric guitars.  For example, Electone D-1 (Nippon Gakki Co., in 1959), Electric Guitar SG-7 (Nippon Gakki Co., Ltd. in1965), Synthesizer System 700 (Roland in 1976/), Casio Tone 201 (Casio in 1980 /) etc. The electronic musical instruments which have passed over 100 years’ history showing new musical instrument styles. We observe its development in the exhibition in this corner.

♥  Remarks after visit

H Music M- Illust 01.JPG        Although it was a short time stay in Hamamatsu, I enjoyed very much the visit of “Hamamatsu City Musical Instrument Museum” and could appreciate rich contents of the music world,  I have H Music M- outlook 03.JPGexperienced visiting various music performing concerts including orchestra ones several times, but I haven’t had enough knowledge about musical instruments. So, through on this visit, I learned much about the origins and characteristics of various musical instruments and its evolution.  In particular, I could have strong impression by observing exhibited instruments how diverse the cultural background of these instruments, their relevant history, in addition to the vast distribution of folk instruments from H Music M- history 07around the world.
It is really amazing such huge collection of historic music instruments that the Museum have been accumulating from all of the world, particularly focusing on the integrating themes and concepts. I felt the Museum is really a treasure of the Hamamatsu City as the Town of Music”.





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Visit Tokorozawa Aviation Museum in Saitama

  • Describing the dramatic history of aviation industries in Japan and world

Last month, I went on Aviation M- Logo x01.JPGvisit to an aircraft museum in Tokorozawa, Saitama Prefecture, Aviation M- outlook x01.JPGnamed “Tokorozawa Aviation Museum”.  It is because I heard many historic aircraft are exhibited there. The museum was said to be established in 1993 on the Aviation Park Tokorozawa in commemoration of the Japan’s first flight conducted there.  In the museum we can see a number of countable real and replica airplanes that Japan has been developing or introducing until now. Aviation M- outlook x03.JPG It would be an ideal place for reviewing the history of aircraft industry in Japan.  The museum provides the extensive explanations on the evolution of world flight technology, the background of Japanese aircraft development, as well as the previous function of Tokorozawa airfield.  Flight simulator and playground etc. are also provided there so as the people can actively learn on the real action of flights.  It is really interesting Aviation M- Illust x06.JPGfacility to offer the outlook of real aircrafts, such as, “Henri Falman “ that conducted the first flight in Japan, “Type 91 fighter” designated as an aviation heritage, the first post-war domestic jet aircraft “T-1B training aircraft”, the first passenger aircraft “YS-11” exhibited at the Park side, and so on.


♣    Overview of Tokorozawa Aviation Museum and its exhibition

Aviation M- Illust x05.JPG    In the large exhibition hall of the “Museum”, which is built as the main facility of the Tokorozawa Park, there are several sections are allocated.  They Aviation M- outlook x04.JPGare a “Parking” lot that displays various aircraft, a “Hangar” place that describes the history of aviation, and a “Lab” area that explains aviation science.  At the second floor, it found a display panel with showing the history of Tokorozawa Airfield, a reproduction of the flight control room, and the flight experience corner where It is possible to use a simulator.

Aviation M- AirPlane x02.JPG    A number of the famed historic important aircrafts are exhibited at the “Parking” lot, such as the “Kawasaki KAL” developed in Japan, the “T-34 Mentor” US reciprocity training aircraft, the “Schinson L-5E” light plane, and the “Fuji T-1B”, a training aircraft for the Air Self Defense Aviation M- AirPlane x03.JPGForce. ”, the “ H-19 ”, military helicopter“ H-21B-V-44 ”, and many other machines are located there. There found a replica of the “Meeting Type No. 8” produced by Japan in 1910s, and “Type 91 Fighter” (Aircraft Heritage Certified No. 1) that designated as a historical heritage in Japan too. These are all valuable objects implicating the development of history of Japanese aircraft.
Furthermore, at a corner of the exhibition hall, when I visited, there was a two-Aviation M- history x06.JPGwinged “Henri Falman “ was exhibited, along with a portrait of Captain Tokugawa who made his first successful flight in Japan in 1911.  This is an exhibition that really seems to reflect the beginning of Japanese aviation history.  Visitors can also observe a full-scale replica of the “New Paul 81E2”, which was produced Aviation M- history x02.JPGby “Newpole” in France and used as a training machine in Japan in the 1920s.     It is also attractive to see the airplane’s history and technology in the “Research” corner and to visit experimental equipment to understand the principle of flight among the many exhibitions.

♣    The dawn of Japanese aircraft development seeing from the exhibition

Aviation M- history x01.JPG      As seen in the exhibition, since old time, the dream of flying “sky” had been grabbing the heart of many people.  In the 16th century, Leonardo Da Vinci designed a kind of prototype of “airplane”, and in the 18th century, France’s Montgolfier brothers experimented it with Aviation M- history x03.JPGhot air balloons. Then later, Lilienthal from Germany had repeatedly produced and tested glider planes to fly.
At the next stage, American “Wright brothers” successfully invented the first powered airplane and let it fly to sky in 1903. It’s said that flight became the starting signal of the aircraft era today.  The longing for fly in the sky had been also Aviation M- history x04.JPGstrong in Japan, and there found a record that Shimazu Genzo (a founder of “Shimazu Mfg”) lifted a balloon in the early Meiji era. Besides, Ninomiya Tadahachi made a bird-like flying body in 1893 and succeeded first in the test flight at that time. It seems intriguing that a scale model of this Japan’s trial plane is displayed in the museum and giving brief information about it.

<The first flight in Japan>

Aviation M- Illust x01.JPG     However, in Japan, the first successful flight of Aviation M- history x05modern aircraft was in 1911 when Captain Tokugawa made a test flight at the Yoyogi Army field in Tokyo. He also succeeded in flight of the “Henri Farman” (made in France) at Tokorozawa Airfield in the same year. In commemoration this event, a real reproduction machine of a Farman machine is installed in the venue as a memorial exhibit. It’s fascinating to be able to look at the machine in our eyes.    Anyway, since then, Japan was earnestly beginning the development of aircraft for military Aviation M- AirPlane x15.JPGpurposes, because the aircraft was realized as a major strategic tool during the First World War.  And like other countries, Japan had transferred strategic aircrafts from the United States and Britain, beside started challenging its own aircraft development. This situation is well illustrated in the various actual and replica aircraft shown in the museum.  Among these aircraft, the most notable ones are the “Kai Shiki No. 19” (1911) and “Kyuichi Type Fighter” Aviation M- AirPlane x07.JPG(1927), which were said to be developed by Japanese engineers while applying Western aviation technology. However, it has to be notified that a great number of aircraft that had deployed at that time in Japan were machines imported from European countries. In addition, it was found only a few civilian purported aircraft being available in this initial period, and even the designing skills of aircraft was rather poor if compared with Western countries.

♣    Aircraft industry before and after the Pacific War being visible in the exhibition

Aviation M- Illust x14.JPG     However, during the 1930s, the government strongly addressed the capacity building of aircraft manufacturing because of recognizing its Aviation M- AirPlane x10.JPGstrategic importance.  Among them, Nakajima Aircraft (now Subaru), Mitsubishi Shipbuilding (later Mitsubishi Aircraft, now Mitsubishi Heavy Industries), Kawasaki Aircraft (now Kawasaki Heavy Industries), etc. were nominated as aircraft manufacturers and vigorously launched in the businesses of developing domestic aircraft and engines. But it was soon revealed that major advanced technology had to depend on strong technical support or getting licensed from Europe and American manufacturers,

Aviation M- AirPlane x12.JPGAviation M- AirPlane x13.JPG      Meanwhile, toward the Pacific War, Japanese government began to take strong initiatives to foster the aircraft industries and promoted the aviation technology seeing increasing demand of military aircraft.  As a result, their technological competence improved quite fast supported by the government and a great commitment of airplane makers.  Since then, the manufacturers were producing a large number of excellent aircraft and fighters. The “Zero-type” fighter plane (so-called “Zero Sen” fighter) is listed Aviation M- AirPlane x08.JPGas one of the good examples of technological culmination in this period.  Among these war planes, a real aircraft the “Type 91 fighter” (biplane type 4 fighter, produced by Nakajima Aircraft in 1931) is exhibited at the Museum, and this is designated as an important aviation heritage in Japan.  It would be showing the development of Japanese aircraft building which reached a temporary apex, mainly for military use aircraft during war time.


♣    Development of post-war aircraft industry as seen from the exhibition

Aviation M- Illust x09.JPG     The defeat of War in 1945 had brought the total destruction of  aircraft industry in Japan.  In addition to the eradication of airplane factories and Aviation M- AirPlane x04.JPGairfields, the occupation forces had forced Japan to ban of engaging in any aircraft development, research, and operations related the aviation field, in being fearing to revive the Japan’s military power.  And these regulations didn’t lift until 1957.  Then, it seemed to be quite hard to recover Aviation M- AirPlane x17.JPGthe gap and the technical behind was clear in this period.  Due to this, Japan had to be stayed only in licensed production of US-made aircraft or Aviation M- AirPlane x05.JPGrepairing business for the Defense Agency and other institutions.  In addition, the aircraft industry in the world had already entered the era of large scale flight, diversification of models, and sophisticated jet aircraft world. So, Japan was pretty hard to catch up soon on the international levels.  Furthermore, for the domestic manufacturers that had been exclusively focused on military aircraft, it was a real challenge to quickly shift to the commercial purpose aircraft.
Aviation M- AirPlane x14.JPG     Anyway, the visitors can observe the many samples of post-war military and civilian aircraft in the exhibition of the Museum. For example, the military helicopters the “UH-1 Iroquois”, the “H-21B”, the V-44, which were manufactured in U.S. or UK for deployment to the Japan’s Self-Defense Forces (SDF), and other machines can be seen there.   Among them, it is significant that the SDF’s “T-1B training aircraft” produced by Fuji Heavy Industries Aviation M- AirPlane x01.JPGbecame the first post-war domestic aircraft installed the jet engine. The plane is displayed in the hall with its engines at that time. Although it is not honestly seen in the exhibition, it is true that independent development of aircraft has gradually progressed through the development of “PS-1 flying ships “ and “C-1 transport aircraft” which supplied to the SDF.

<Development efforts of producing Commercial aircraft in Japan>

Aviation M- Illust x07.JPG      On the other hand, as it mentioned, it seems to be very difficult developing a commercial passenger airplane soon because of the lack of experience.  However, the government, which anticipated an increasing demand for commercial aircraft, established the Japan Aircraft Manufacturing (Nikko, NAMC) in the 1960s.  With this company as the technology center, Japan has mobilized many aircraft manufacturers and engineers who had been involved in the aircraft development before the War. And they tried to explore the way to produce Aviation M- outlook x02.JPGa new commercial passenger plane. The achievement was the first passenger aircraft “YS-11” developed by Japanese manufacturers after the war. The planes have been produced more than 180 units by 1973, and despite being in trouble, it had been operated for a certain period as the only domestically produced passenger aircrafts.  The actual aircraft of this YS-11 was on display at the corner of the Aviation Park in Tokorozawa where the museum is located.

♣   Current initiatives in the aircraft industry as seen from the exhibition

Aviation M- Illust x04.JPG    Although it couldn’t attain the originally set goal, the development of technology showed in the YS-11 production and also the aircraft “C-1” had played significant role for deepening knowledge and skills about aviation Aviation M- AirPlane x18.JPGAviation M- AirPlane x19.JPGindustry. For example, Fuji Heavy Industries has produced a “T-4 training aircraft” equipped with an F-3 engine, and Kawasaki Heavy Industries has succeeded in introducing a “CX transport aircraft “equipped with turbo engines. However, the development of civil aviation field hasn’t still kept up enough with the world first class business trend.  It’s also said that the major manufacturers couldn’t enough beyond the stage of the licensed production and partial participation in the joint Aviation M- AirPlane x06.JPGprojects of the major overseas aircraft producers.     Recently, however, Japan has begun to work on the competitive medium-sized passenger aircraft businesses by utilizing the previously accumulated technology.  There are several development projects such as Mitsubishi Heavy Industries’ MRJ and Honda Business Jet is going on in the business now.  In the exhibition, the sample machine of “Hondajet” is on display in the hall for trying to show this new trend.

Remarks after visit

Aviation M- Illust x08.JPG    Anyway, It was pleased that I could visit an aviation museum like Tokorozawa Aviation Museum for the first time in my experience.  There I was able to able to learn many about the aircraft technology and the Aviation M- outlook x05.JPGhistory of aviation in world and Japan. In particular, through the viewing real aircraft, I’ve got a fresh knowledge about the origins of flight technology, evolution of flight science and the related technology, as well as a total history of world and Japanese aircraft development. It was a really good chance for me to understand the aviation industries and its history.  I’ve heard that there are many other aircraft museums in Japan, including an aviation museum in Narita.  So, I’d like to visit these facilities before long.



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Visit Nissan’s Engine Museum in Yokohama

Looking into the evolution of Nissan’s automotive engines and the footprint of the company

Nissan E-  Logo x001.JPG     Nissan seems to be facing a sort of management challenges lately, butNissan E-  Overview x001.JPG it’s sure to be playing a significant role in the Japanese automobile industry.   In particular, Nissan is regarded to lead the advancement of automobile technology industry in history. In this mind,  I visited the Nissan’s “Engine Museum” in Yokohama recently because I’ve heard there’s an unique museum showing the technological Nissan E- engines x002challenges of automobile, especially on their engines. The museum was said to be opened in 2003 in commemorating the establishment of Nissan’s first assembly factory “Yokohama Plant” in 1934 using its former headquarter building.  There are many historical automobile engines exhibited in the museum with extensive commentary on their technology development process, as well as on the company history. And there installed many photographs and panels which Nissan E- cars x002indicates the technology foundation and development of Nissan Motors.  Then, the visitors can easily trace the company’s turbulent  footprints that had experienced  countless technological challenges along with long  history of the company. The exhibition seems to be quite instructive to understand the historical development of Japan’s automobile industry as a whole not only for the Nissan itself.

♣    Overview of Engine Museum Exhibition

Nissan E-  illust x010.JPG        The museum main subject is the Nissan’s automobile production technology, especially on the development of engine technology, but Nissan E-  engines x004.JPGalso, focuses the history of the company development itself.
In the engine exhibition corner, it displays many valuable historic engines in row from the early “7-type engine” (1935), new type engines in 80s, energy saving diesel engines in 90s, to the currently developing variety of EV engines.  Nearly 30 types of Nissan engines are exhibited there with detailed explanations.  In particular, the new EV engines are proudly exhibited with Nissan E- engines x003providing real cut models which s suggest Nissan’s decisive commitment to the development of EV engines from an early stage.     The exhibition also shows how the engine is performed, what’s internal structure they have, how steering, and suspension works in the vehicles, etc., too. In addition, they demonstrate the recent functional engines which produced by under the unique concept by Nissan. Nissan E-  history x009.JPG

       In the history corner, the museum displays the Nissan’s company history since the establishment of original firms in 1910s and the historical background that was gradually evolved to the latest Nissan Motors, along with the transforming scene Nissan E-  engines x011.JPGof Yokohama factory itself, by putting lots of photographs, chronology and panels, It seems to be also valuable for reviewing Japanese automobile history as well.     Furthermore, in the entrance hall, Nissan’s historic model car “Datsun” is exhibited as memorial figures, in addition to the latest model of the advanced which shows its EV car Leaf” current challenges. They seem to indicate Nissan’s strong commitment of automobile technology as well as long engagement to the automobile businesses.

♣    History of Nissan Motor Co. that conveys a footprint of Japanese automobile industry

Nissan E-  illust x001.JPG         Nissan Motor was actually founded in the 1930s, but its prehistory canNissan E-  cars x003.JPG be traced back to the decades ago.  The automobile industry in Japan was said to be started by making a simple cart-like car “Tackley” by Yamaha Torao in 1907.  And in 1911, Hashimoto Masujiro manufactured his own car “Swift” Nissan E- history x001Nissan E-  history x004.JPGusing imported car parts from UK at his newly established company “Kaishin Sha”, and consequently produced “Dat No.1”at his factory. This is believed to be the original firms of later Nissan Motors.
However, the production and technical level of Japanese makers were quite poor at that time, in this circumstances, Ford and GM had aggressively entered Nissan E-  history x015.JPGJapanese market and fully monopolized the car production throughout in 1930s. The Japanese industrialists who were worried about this situation wanted to establish automobile solid foundation in Japan. Among those, a businessman Ayukawa Gisuke acquired “Dat Automobile”, which had changed name from the “Kaishin-sha”, and launched “Datsun Motor Co.” in 1932.   Afterward this company merged with “Ishikawajima Co. (later IHI)” and formed “Automobile Mfg Co.”. Then finally this company was transformed its management and officially founded as “Nissan Nissan E-  history x012.JPGMotor Co.” in 1934.  The Nissan’s “Yokohama Plant”, where I visited, was built as its main automobile assembling plant in 1935.
In this way, the born of Nissan Motor was proceeded under the somewhat complicated process, but the Museum described well the history in detail by the panels displayed in the hall.     In the meantime, the government began to take strong initiatives to foster domestic car makers by enacting the “Automobile Manufacturing Business Law (1936)” because they were worrying about the dominant position of US companies in Japan.  Reflecting to this trend, Toyota entered car production, and Nissan has also launched full-scale car production.Nissan E-  history x017.JPGNissan E-  history x016.JPG

The particular important matter was that the government began to order lots of military trucks to major Japanese manufacturers in order to activate domestic production and technological innovation in automobile production.  In addition, the particularly important matters were said to be the engineering capability nurtured in this period. That is, the engineers who were engaged in designing of military aircraft and truck engines during this period had Nissan E-  engines x013.JPGcontributed of building post-War automobile industry by effectively applied their acquired technology and skills.  This movements are thought to have certainly played an important role to build the technical foundation for leading the strong development of automobile production in Japan as a whole. Nissan has also grown up as one of the main manufacturers in this movement.     This development history process is detailed in the exhibition.

♣   Development of Nissan Motor before and after the War

Nissan E-  Logo x002.JPG      In the post-war period, the Japanese automobile industry has been Nissan E-  history x010.JPGrapidly reviving thanks to the special procurement from the Korean War, and Japanese automobile companies actively carried out the large-scale renewal of plants and mechanical modernization. In addition, around the 1950s, Nissan E-  history x005.JPGthe government strongly urged the domestic manufacturers to apply advance technology from the Europe and US automakers aiming to upgrade automobile industries as recognizing their technology was still immature.
Responding to this policy, Nissan practiced a technical tie-up with Austin (Isuzu for Hillman, Hino for Renault, Toyota gone for its own line), and actively pursued the line of improvement of facilities, innovation of Nissan E-  history x014.JPGproduction system, and scale up of the production plants.      Then, later in 1960, Nissan absorbed the “Minsei Diesel”. and merged additionally with a main passenger car maker “Prince Automobile” in 1966. Since then the company became called the current Nissan Motors.  During around this period in general, it was Nissan E-  history x018.JPGreported that the automobile industry of Japan was able to achieve the significant improve in quality by introducing American-style quality control and scientific management methods.  Meantime in 1961, Nissan established a full-fledged passenger car production plant “Nissan Oppama Factory”.    Number of passenger cars such as Blue Bird (1962-), Sunny (1973-), and luxury cars Cedric (1987-) were born there, which Nissan E-  cars x005.JPGwere valuated as prestigious cars in the market, were introduced one Nissan E-  cars x004.JPGafter another.                 The exhibition provides a detailed explanation of this consecutive process from the strengthening of Nissan’s production system to the further the evolution of its technological advancement in this period. It seems to convey some parts of the development history of rising automobile industry in Japan as well.

<Management challenges for Nissan Motors>

Nissan E-  illust x009.JPG    However, due to the failure of the marketing strategy in addition to the collapse of the economic bubble around 1990,  Nissan’s management crisis Nissan E-  history x007.JPGabruptly came to be appeared, and  the company has to seek the management alliance with Renault since 1990s. After that severe restructuring policies were taken by hand of Renault President Ghosn (“Nissan Survival Plan”).  As a result, the finance condition was improved quickly, but the production system itself was greatly downsized,  However, in the 2000s, utilizing the recovering financial situation, the company began to take Nissan E-  history x008.JPGvigorous measures to expand production system, and adopted the promotion policy of EV cars with applying the previously accumulated technological ingenuity. However, the negative side of the Ghosn management was emerging in the late 2010s, and it can say that the company’s foundation began to be shaken again since this period.

Nevertheless, the Nissan’s immovable posture of strong technology commitment seems to be persistent and again began to challenge new areas of automobile making now as shown in the electric vehicles, for example. Nissan’s new Nissan E-  illust x006.JPGchallenge to advancing “electric cars” and “autonomous driving” technology is well indicated in the exhibition. It would be particularly outstanding features under the latest circumstances that the automobile world is shifting fast and steadily to the environment friendly and safety conscious automobile making. The exhibitions don’t touch much about the recent management crisis period, but the strong commitment to the technological advancement was well informed.

♣   Nissan engine’s advanced features and EV car initiatives

Nissan E-  illust x012.JPG    As I mentioned earlier, the Nissan’s real automobile engines are displayed with broadly covered in the Museum exhibition hall along the Nissan E- engines x005line of producing years reflecting the evolution of engine technology. First, we can see the “7-inch” engine produced by “Dat Automobile Mfg.” in 1935 which was said to be a quite innovative at that time though the capacity was rather small like 700cc and structurally simple. After the War, Nissan firstly produced the “C-type” engine (1953). This was an approximately 1000cc capacity with an OHV system produced in a technology alliance with Austin in the UK.
Nissan E-  engines x006.JPGThe first “Sunny” car was equipped with the “A10 type” (in 1960s), and the engine “U20 type” was installed in the sports car “Fairlady”. We can closely observe them in the exhibition with detailed explanation. And the next is the small diesel engine “CD20 type” installed in the FF vehicle. This is the Japan’s first V6 engine “VG30DETT type” (1983).  Looking at these, they can testify how quickly the quality of engines have improved from the stage of the imported technology to purely domestic technology, and how capacity and performance have also greatly improved in this period.     When it comes in the 1990s, racing cars Nissan E-  engines x007.JPGengines, such as the “VRH35” engine (1992) and “VRH50” (1999) which had used in the Le Mans Race, well demonstrated powerful turbo functions in running.  Regarding the engines of small vehicles, “HR12DDR type” mounted on “Nissan Note”, diesel engine “M9R type” which jointly developed with Renault, etc. have become newly introduced in this period too.

Nissan E-  engines x004.JPG   However, the highlight would be the new engine of the recent EV “Nissan Leaf”.  The detailed explanation about its performance and feature is available at the special exhibition corner too. The visitors can be convinced in the exhibition that Nissan is still standing at the forefront position of engine development in Japan, even though there exists some management stumbling in the firm,  Especially, Nissan’s efforts seem to be worth to take attention while the automobile industry is now shifting from gasoline to electricity now.

♥ After visit

Nissan E-  illust x014.JPG   Formally, the museum was built to train the Nissan’s industrial engineers and has been collecting automobile parts and engines Nissan E-  Overview x002.JPGfor this purpose since around 1978.  But when Nissan’s Yokohama factory set up the new Guest Hall, the facility was reformed as a museum in 2003 to demonstrate Nissan’s long technology development history using the headquarter office.   It is said that the museum now preserves over 180 units of classic engines, including prototype, motor sport engines and aircraft engines.  It is precious that Nissan E-  engines x015.JPGhistorically valuable internal combustion engines are entirely gathered here. We can see there the outstanding structure and feature changes of the internal combustion engines by our own eyes, And, we can be inspired to see how EV engines are currently evolving and its related technology is advancing.Nissan E-  cars x006.JPG

In recent years, automobiles are facing radical shift of environment, like energy issues, safety measures, digitization affairs and AI advancement. Then, it is interesting to think of how the automotive engines, which are the heart of automobiles, will be changing its figures in the future.  Also, in terms of corporate history, it would be valuable to see the founding background, Nissan E-  cars x007.JPG