Aerial daredevil Art Smith barnstorming Japan, 1916-1917.

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Daredevil aviator Art Smith in Japan, 1916.

Daredevil aviator Art Smith in Japan, 1916.

See also:
Juichi Sakamoto, Pioneer Aviator, c. 1914
Aviatrix Katherine Stinson in Japan, 1916

“No longer is Art Smith an insignificant Hoosier boy, a simple citizen of the United States, for he has so to speak become an international figure.

“Ever since he landed at Yokohama he was busy exhibiting his wonderful skill in the mastery of air and machine. Immense crowds thronged to see his matchless art wherever he went; men, women, and children tried to outrival each other in the encomiums of the aviator. Yes, the lords, ladies, and even their majesties, the Emperor and the Empress, themselves graciously condescended to look into the matter. Numberless banquets were held in his honor; priceless medals were given him; and the papers vied with each other to report his movements.

“In Tokio, when a furious wind was raging at a rate of thirty-two meters a second, he was successfully looping the loop. It was a marvelous dash and surely a record breaking feat. He conquered the winds in Japan!”

Art Smith in Japan, by Eijiro Takasugi, Ph.D., Tohoku Imperial University, published in Northwestern Christian Advocate, Volume 64, September 13, 1916

Aerial daredevil Art Smith barnstorming Japan, 1917.

Aerial daredevil Art Smith barnstorming Japan, 1917.

From the wiki: “Arthur Roy Smith was an American pilot, and aerial exhibitionist. He became a celebrated stunt pilot, notable for flying at night; he was one of the pioneers of skywriting at night using flares attached to his aircraft. Smith made two trips to Asia, in 1916 and 1917; his aerobatics demonstrations in Korea during those trips are believed to have inspired both An Chang-nam (Korea’s first male pilot) and Kwon Ki-ok (Korea’s first female pilot) to learn to fly.

“Smith would unknowingly contribute to the formation of one of Japan’s premier motorcycle and automobile companies when, during Smith’s tour of Japan in 1917, a young Japanese bicycle mechanic named Honda Soichiro rode twenty miles from his home hoping to see his first airplane in-flight and Smith demonstrating his aerial capabilities.

“Honda could not afford the admission fee, so he climbed a nearby tree to view the exhibition. Seeing Smith in-flight was a moment that left a deep impression on a young Honda and cemented his interest in mechanical objects, with an interest in motorized vehicles leading to the creation of the eponymous company bearing his name: Honda Motor Co.”

“The sky was filled with a humming sound, rather like that of a kite. The residents of the suburbs all dashed outdoors and looked up at the sky.

“There were people on the street corners, in the treetops, on upstairs’ balconies. ‘It’s an aeroplane!’ yelled the children as they dashed off excitedly.

“‘Me too! … Me too!’ The youngest child was crying, having been left behind. Her sister, who had run outside, came dashing back, snatched her up, and then ran off again to where they could watch the aeroplane.

“Fingers pointed up at it as it sped through the morning sunshine like some giant bird, its gallant droning filling the clear blue sky.

“… When [Art] Smith came, and looped the loop despite the awfully windy conditions, the whole metropolis gasped in wonder. I was watching from the gate at the back of the garden. I never believed he’d be able to do anything, because of the wind. But just then the stormy sky was filled with a frightful droning. The aeroplane appeared way up high, looking so very small and leaving a trail of wispy blue smoke. ‘He’s good all right!’ I thought to myself, and just at that moment he suddenly put the aeroplane through two or three large loops and then flew right up high again. I found myself applauding.

“… Man has long cherished the ideal of flying like a bird … I wonder how far progress will carry it? Even now when my study window rattles to the sound of a passing aeroplane, I dash outside to look. Sometimes I’ve seen them fly very low over the parasol-tree in my garden.”

“Aeroplane”, Tayama Katai, Thirty Years in Tokyo, 1917 (trans. By Kenneth G. Henshall, 1987)

Aerial daredevil Art Smith barnstorming Japan, 1917.

Aerial exhibitionist Art Smith barnstorming Japan in 1916 and 1917. An 10-year old Honda Sochiro saw Smith in-flight during a demonstration at the Wachiyama military airfield near Hamamatsucho, pedaling a borrowed bicycle over 10 miles to witness the event. Honda would later cite the experience as one of the most impressive things he’d seen which cemented his interest in mechanical objects and motorized vehicles that years later led to the creation of the eponymous company bearing his name: Honda Motor Co.

Aviation ace dazzles with flight over palace

“Aviator Art Smith carried out another flight yesterday afternoon. He flew from Aoyama at about 3 o’clock and steered his machine in the direction of the Imperial Palace flying at an altitude of 1,000 meters.

“When Mr. Smith came over the Sakurada Gate he rose to the height of about 1,300 meters and after encircling the Imperial Palace grounds looped the loop eight times in succession over Fukiage garden in the palace compound. Following a dead dive he descended about 200 meters in a spiral flight and then, crossing over the palace in the direction of the Hanzo Gate, he changed his course and returned to Aoyama after about 10 minutes.

“The day’s flight was carried out to enable Mr. Smith to pay his respects to the Imperial Palace, and was an unqualified success. From the palace grounds H.I.M. the Emperor was pleased to witness Mr. Smith’s flight. His Majesty was attended by chamberlains, Viscount Kaneko and Lt. Gen. Nagaoka, who explained the art of flying to His Majesty.

“His Majesty, it is understood, admires the dexterous flight and aeronautical feats of the visiting American aviator, remaining in the garden watching the course of the aircraft with keen interest.”

The Japan Times, June 7, 1916

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3 thoughts below on “Aerial daredevil Art Smith barnstorming Japan, 1916-1917.

  1. Pingback: Juichi Sakamoto, Pioneer Aviator, c. 1914. | Old Tokyo

  2. Pingback: Aviatrix Katherine Stinson in Japan, c. 1916. | Old Tokyo

  3. Pingback: Aviator Art Smith races a “Baby Car” while on tour in Japan, ca. 1916. | Old TokyoOld Tokyo

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