Ukita Kōkichi

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In this Japanese name, the family name is Ukita.
The monument of "Kōkichi the Paperhanger"(beside Asahigawa-river, Okayama, Okayama)

Ukita Kōkichi (浮田 幸吉?, 1757 – 1847?) was a Japanese aviation pioneer, who is often praised for making artificial wings and flying with them. He is considered to be the first Japanese person to fly. He is also known as Chōjin Kōkichi (鳥人 幸吉/Kōkichi the birdman), Hyōgu-shi Kōkichi (表具師 幸吉/Kōkichi the Paperhanger), Sakuraya Kōkichi (櫻屋 幸吉), Bizen'ya Kōkichi (備前屋 幸吉), and Binkōsai (備考斎).


Ukita was born in 1757 during the Edo period in Hachihama, Kojima District, Bizen Province (now Hachihama, Tamano, Okayama) as the second son of Ukita (Sakuraya) Seibei(浮田(櫻屋)清兵衛). His father became sick when Ukita was seven years old. After his father's death he went to Okayama city and became an apprentice of Hyōgu-shi, paperhanger (maker of Shōji, Fusuma).

Ukita studied biology and was interested in how birds fly. He believed that by "Comput[ing] the ratio of the wing's surface area to the body's weight and using that ratio to create an artificial wing, humans will be able to fly like birds."

His skill of paperhanging was very useful for making wings. He made the wings' ribs from bamboo, covered them with paper and fabric and varnished the surface with lacquer from Japanese persimmons. After discarding many prototypes, Ukita tried flying from a bridge over Asahigawa-river(旭川) in the summer of 1785.[1] Some references say that he glided several meters, but others say that he just fell. Immediately Ukita was arrested by Okayama Domain-certified-samurais, and Lord Ikeda Harumasa (池田治政) exiled Ukita from Okayama Domain. In other accounts, such as Kan-sa-zan(菅茶山), who was a contemporary scholar/poet referred to this event in his writing, Ukita was beheaded by the Tokugawa shogunate.

After his attempt, Ukita moved to Sunpu (駿府), Suruga province (now Shizuoka, Shizuoka) and opened a cotton shop under the name Bizen'ya Kōkichi. Once the business was established, he turned it over to his nephew and became a dental technician under the name Binkōsai. His excellent dentures established his reputation.

Not much is known about his later years but there are two opinions. One is that Ukita flew again at Sunpu and was executed for a crime of rioting. Another is that Ukita moved to Mitsuke(見附), Tōtōmi Province(now Iwata, Shizuoka), where he quietly spent the rest of his life with wife and children and died peacefully in 1847 at age 92.

His tomb is in the Daiken-ji Temple(大見寺), Iwata, Sizuoka. His posthumous name (Buddhist name) is 釋帝玄居士.

Incidentally, Lord Ikeda's descendant Ikeda Takamasa (池田隆政) cancelled the exile punishment in 1997.

See also[edit]


  • 斎藤茂太『飛行機とともに - 羽ばたき機からSSTまで』中央公論社(中公新書301)、1972年、ISBN 4-12-100301-2
  • 竹内正虎『日本航空發達史』相模書房、1940年

External links[edit]

  • (Japanese)[1]