R.Mikesh, A.Shorzoe Japanese Aircraft, 1910-1941 (Putnam)
Shirato Aeroplane Research Studio (Shirato Hikoki Kenkyusho)
Einosuke Shirato, the founder of this aeroplane manufacturing company, was born in the northernmost part of Honshu in 1886. He enlisted in the Army Balloon Corps in 1906 and worked under Capt Yoshitoshi Tokugawa, noted for being the first person to fly an aeroplane in Japan. After leaving the Army in 1910, Shirato became an assistant to Sanji Narahara through an introduction by Capt Tokugawa. While with Narahara, a builder of aeroplanes and a flying instructor, he learned to fly, and became the second civilian aviator, preceded only by Narahara.
After Narahara retired from aviation in April 1912, Shirato began a series of paid fIying exhibition engagements as the exclusive pilot of the Narahara No.4 Aeroplane. Later he worked as a flying instructor at the Nihon Kyodo Hiko Renshusho (Japan Co-operative Flight Training Centre) at Inage in Chiba Prefecture, which had been established by Narahara. He trained several students including Otojiro Itoh (a future manufacturer of aeroplanes) and Saken Kawabe. This school was the first to train civilian aviators in Japan.
In January 1915 Shirato obtained a 50hp Green engine from Takehiko Sonoda who had taken it to Japan from England. Aero-engines were a rare commodity, for in these early days the few on hand were all imported and very expensive. At the request of Shirato, Otojiro ltoh built the first Shirato aeroplane which was completed in April 1915 and named the Asahi-go. With this aeroplane he made exhibition flights in Hokkaido, the first on that island.
In December 1916 he transferred his Shirato Flying Training Ground, which was associated with the Japan Co-operative Flight Training Centre in lnage, to Shinjuku Beach, Samukawa in Chiba Prefecture, where he completed hi first practical aeroplane without major outside assistance, the Shirato Takeru-go, in 1918. The war caused Shirato to be recalled into the Army and he served in Siberia where he became ill and was discharged in December 1918. During his absence, his flying students maintained his airfield and training school. It was at this time in 1918 that he established a new name for his company, Shirato Hikoki Kenkyusho. This was prompted by Shirato becoming more involved in the commercial building of aeroplanes for exhibition flying and flying training. All these activities centred on the flying field at Inage, such as Shirato's flying school and aircraft building, were collectively referred to by the popular name Shirato Airfield.
Shirato Asahi-go Aeroplane.
When Takehiko Sonoda returned from England after having his aeroplane built there in 1912, he brought with him only the 50hp Green engine that powered it. This engine was then sold to Einosuke Shirato in January 1915 to power the first Shirato aeroplane of what was to be a long line of aircraft. Shirato asked Otojiro Itoh to design and build this aeroplane for him. At that time, Itoh was 23 years old and had worked with Shirato when both were assistants of Sanji Narahara.
Itoh started this first of what would be many designs on 11 March, 1915, and the aeroplane was completed on 17 April with the assistance of Toyokichi Daiguchi and Toyotaro Yamagata. The first flight was made on 24 April by Itoh himself. The aeroplane passed into Shirato's ownership after he flew it for the first time on 6 May. Shirato named the aeroplane Asahi-go after his birthplace at Asahiyama, Kanagi Village in Aomori Prefecture in northern Honshu.
A number of commercial exhibition flights were made over a two-month period from June 1915, at many location in Niigata, Fukushima and Aomori Prefectures, before crowds of people who had never before seen an aeroplane.
Single-engine tractor biplane. AII-wooden construction with fabric covering. Pilot in open cockpit.
50hp Green four-cylinder watercooled inline engine, driving a two-bladed wooden propeller.
Span 11 m (38ft 1in); length 7.20m (23ft 7 1/2in); height 2.60m (8ft 6 1/2in).
Empty weight 320kg (705Ib).
One built in 1915.