Kimono Flea Market ICHIROYA's News Letter No. 487



This is a vintage boy's vest I recently obtained. The fabric is rayon and the vest is padded.

It has a biplane fighter motif. It is not a zero fighter-it is quite unusual fighter.

I tried to see what it is and it seems to be Kyusanshiki chukan rensyuki(Yokosuka K5Y)

It has been well known as AKATOMBO(Red dragonfly), and were so familier for my father's generation.

I really did not know the background of this particular biplane. This model had such a peculiar and sad history.


In Showa 9(1934), the model has been chosen as a training plane by Japanese Marine because of its exceptionally good performance. The pilots developed their skills using the  model. However, they were made as training planes, so the wings were upholstered, and the body was made of  wood. Also they could fly using very poor quality fuel mixed with alcohol. It was very economical model.

However, just as any computers with leading edge technology, 10 years of time make them old fashioned.

The US mainstay fighters in the late WWII time, P-51 Mustang had maximus speed of 730km/h.  Akatombo only had 210km/h.

These cheap training biplanes which were left quite many were pulled to become Kamikaze fighters. This model were not made to have high speed and had really low power but were loaded with bombs of 250kg and were made to run into the enemy. Their maximum speed was only 130km/h.

In Showa 20(1945), towards US armada, 7 pilots lead by Captain Mimura went ahead with Kamikaze attack. The pilots buzzed the sea surface and approaced to US armada without being noticed. US Marine could catch them by their radar but they were so slow as fighters and also the body made of fabrics and wood, they could not look dangerous. They wondered, `Are they birds? or just a glitch of our radar? When they found out they were enemy fighters, only ten minutes were left. In this confusion, US Marine shot anti-craft gun but they could only made holes to the Akatombo fighters body made of wood and fabrics.
4 fighters out of 7 fighters could hit and made the most advanced US Marine destroyer to torpedo in this Kamikaze attack.

Only after two weeks from then, Japan accepted the Potsdam Declaration and the war ended.

This partiular little kimono can be considered to be made in late war period.
Before they were diverted as Kamikaze fighters, they were painted in red as training planes(that was why they were called Akatombo-red dragonfly). We assume this design of the biplanes withi this kimono were inspired by Kamikaze attack.

Vintage boys' kimono often have samurai and fighting motif. They include the wishes of their parents - they wanted ther son to be strong and brave.

Captain Mimura left a note before leaving by the biplane, it said, `I never thought to die in this training plane. This is a bit miserable thing but I have to endure.'.
What did you feel with this tiny vintage boy's kimono?

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