Tell about your background
Originally I'm from Hamamatsu city in Shizuoka, and was born in a fishing area right next to the sea. Early on I was absorbed in work at my father's small workshop. He ran small equipment repair shop for the neighboring fishermen; fish-finders, radars and such. I was doing either that or playing with friends. If I returned a tool to its right place, and father could see that I used it, he never said anything about my work, so I imagined he was pleased about it. As I remember back, I seem to think I wore many tools out or broke them.
However, if I didn't put them back in their rightful place, my father would get very angry. Often, he would swing at my head, striking me lengthwise with a long brass board, opening large gashes on my scalp ... to this day, I have a bald stripe here. After high school graduation, I entered the Self-Defense Force, and devoted my spare time to ski competitions. But because my core was interest was in Japanese WW2 planes, I sometimes made my own radio control Zero fighter planes.
How did you become interested in WWII history?
Definitely my biggest influence was my father, who was born during the Showa Era's 9th year . His prewar and war era stories over an evening drink were a huge influence on me. His personal experience of air-raids in Toyohashi city... aerial dog fights... his telling stories of selling metal from dismantled bombs and incendiaries to get by... one time breaking into the Though I was a kid, he had my full attention.
He said it was a symbol of those confusing times for bad kids after school to walk from Toyohashi to Toyokawa - about 15 km - and coming back carrying heavy shells on their shoulders. I digress a bit, but when I was young, around kindergarten age, though I had no real knowledge of the war, I do remember going on small excursions to the Hamamatsu base which was near to where to lived to see the planes. Because I was a kindergarten, our teacher would lead us in group walks, but I clearly remember deviating from the group, all alone to stand before a Zero fighter and touch the body of the plane. I don't really have much memory at all of the excursion itself, nor of other planes, but because I walked right up to the Zero and touched it with my hands, I have a very strong memory of that. The rest of the excursion and such I remembered much later only because I had an album.
How did you begin restoring Japanese planes?
I had many opportunities to visit Kawaguchiko Hanger when Harada-san first exhibited Zero fighters to the public, and it left a strong impression on me and because from the very beginning I had a deep interest in restoration, I offered him production of panel gauge and small parts.
How do you restore Zero instruments and panels?
Well, its as I started to say before; about four years ago I got my first opportunity. However, as new as I was at it, and having tried to offer my services to Harada-san, I just didn't have the self-confidence I needed. The work wasn't on top of the game and I was doing it more as how I saw fit instead of how it should have been made.
Because the size of the original gauge panel which I completed was from a photograph, the reproduction took a day or two, and I had to scale it up. I had been making radio-control models like this for 10 years and by this time, meeting Harada-san, I showed him my work, he said, "that level of work is fine." A little technical reminder here and there helped keep me on track.
It was hard going, to re-produce an airplane having to learn many methods by trial and error all by yourself, this being my first time for producing things out of metal plate. Because Harada-san had lent me a real gauge panel, and had it there in front of me, I was all fired up and made an exact duplicate, simply from the original being right there.
As for results with WW2 instrument panel production, there are five types built by Nakajima, one very early type, two wooden ones, one made by Mitsubishi that is the real thing I am learning about and repairing. In the Zero fighter, two caudal legs I'm working on. Under way mainly the second partition of instrument panels, both top and bottom parts, various name plates which are included on 5 instrument panels, and the two caudal legs. 62 and 52 third class, 22 and 32, and type 21 instrument panel lower parts. In the past, I have carried out corrosion measures on 97 flaps on Army airplanes and am currently progressing on a parry principal beam / main gear. That's all currently.
At the same time though, I'm volunteering at Harada-san's hanger working on three pieces of gauge panels; I'm putting gauge panels and instruments, one set of top and bottom panels in a Kure(?); It is worse in the second partition gauge panel and top and bottom part to include at this stage now.
Tell About Your Mobile Workshop
It's a remodeled Mitsubishi "Delica Space Gear" camper that I originally bought as something for me to take naps in while at the ski slopes. It was very useful for that for about 6 years, but the skiing that I had devoted myself so much to I now did less and less after having visited Kawaguchiko and tended more and more to go to places connected with old military planes.
Because you have to come to use various independent tools, the rear bed space became a temporary loading / carrying platform. However, a permanent work space became so necessary for work in order to live up to professional standards, and because I live in an apartment and have a continuously increasing number of tools, it was all too soon that I created my portable workshop. Now there's a compressor stored in the passenger seat, so none of my family can ride with me... ^_^;
Speak About Your Role with the Ki-45 Crash
I participated in restoration only for an instrument panel of Harada collection from Ki-45 Toryu (Nick) 4057. Personal effects of the crew returned to family members. Pieces of wreckage were recovered and donated to the Yokohama WWII Japanese Military Radio Museum.
What will you do next?
My dream is that all different areas of my business will increase so much and go up and up to the point where I can't do any more. It might be a bit excessive, and would be a life long goal, but I would love to research each WW2 gauge panel as a personal hobby and to know all of them completely.