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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