The Kamikaze flight that brought peaceful greetings

The word ‘kamikaze’ has come to have deadly connotations, but in 1937 a Mitsubishi Ki-15 bearing that name flew to London for the new king’s coronation with friendship in mind — and record-breaking, too

Maasaki Iinuma and navigator Kenji Tsukagoshi at the unveiling.
Maasaki Iinuma and navigator Kenji Tsukagoshi at the unveiling. VIA SHOICHI TANAKA

With every news organisation in the world having converged on Westminster Abbey for King Charles III’s coronation, one might be forgiven for thinking the media circus is a modern occurrence, but it’s nothing new. On 9 April 1937, two intrepid Japanese airmen from the aviation department of the Asahi Shimbun, one of Japan’s largest and oldest newspapers, landed at Croydon Airport aboard a brand-new Mitsubishi aircraft christened Kamikaze. They had travelled 15,357km over four days to officially participate in the coronation of King George VI. And while their flight started with little fanfare, interest grew rapidly as they made their way to England, to the extent that when they arrived at Croydon they had to cut the engine while taxiing to the terminal, as jubilant crowds surrounded the aeroplane.

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