In the mid-1920s Japan was one of the most technologically advanced nations in the world, and a great military-industrial power that possessed a grand Far Eastern empire. It was eager to take its place on the world stage as the only Asian ‘Great Power’, and so sponsored a series of international extravaganzas to advance this cause.
One of Japan’s great sources of pride was the skill of its aviators and, in 1925, the Asahi Shinbun, the leading Osaka newspaper, decided to sponsor an audacious feat, being the first Japanese Trans-Eurasian flight, that would depart Tokyo, traversing Soviet Russia, to tour various European capitals. Such an endeavour would boost national pride at home, embellish Japan’s reputation in in the West, and sell lots of copies of Asahi Shinbun!
Importantly, mounting a flight across Eurasia was then a technically extreme feat, for it would test the range limits and strength of the aircraft and the skills of the pilots to their maximums. All such long-range trips were then extremely dangerous, especially as meteorological intelligence and ground control was close to none. Moreover, the flight route had to pass over thousands of kilometres of Soviet territory, touching down in numerous Russian cities, a sensitive matter as Russia and Japan were historically archnemeses. Fortunately, Moscow was then in the mood to ‘play nice’ with its neighbors, to gain international acceptance of its new Communist regime. As such, this flight could only have happened during what was a brief diplomatic window.
The Asahi Shinbun Trans-Eurasian mission was to be flown by two airplanes, for both safety reasons and dramatic effect. The pair of French Breguet 19 planes were named the Hatsukaze (First Wind) and Kochikaze (East Wind), and the former was to be crewed by Abe Hiroshi (pilot) and Shinohara Shunichirō (engineer) and the latter by Kawachi Kazuhiko (pilot) and Katagiri Shōhei (engineer). The planes left Tokyo on July 25, 1925 and, flying via Korea and Manchuria, crossed Siberia, while making numerous stops, before fanfare-filled visits to Moscow, Berlin, Paris, London, and Brussels, before finally arriving in Rome on October 27, 1925. The total distance covered was 16,565 kilometres with a flight time of 110 hours, 50 minutes. The tour was hailed as a tremendous technical and PR success, and it was the first of several Japanese ‘grand touring flights’ in the period leading up to World War II.
To commemorate the mission, Asahi Shinbun published the present work as a loose-leaf insertion within the December 10, 1925, edition of the newspaper. It is both a stylized cartographic rendering and gameboard for a Sugoroku game (meaning ‘double six’), like the Western game of Snakes and Ladders, which was extremely popular at the time in Japan.
In the centre of the composition is a depiction of the globe, with the figures of the Hatsukaze and Kochikaze, while surrounding it is the route of the planes from Tokyo to Rome, with the flags of the various nations visited, plus, images of various key sites in the destination cities (ex. Kremlin, Eiffel Tower, etc.), with a depiction of Mount Fuji the lower right corner and the Roman Wolf symbol in the left-hand corner. Portraits of the flight’s crew adorn the upper right corner, while the Japanese Rising Sun illuminates the scene from below, bathing it in a golden glow. As for the game element, each stop on the flight tour is a place in the game, with the playing pieces being the two planes (red and white) featured in the lower right margin (that could be cut-out to become mobile game pieces). The directions for playing the game are located within the text box by the lower margin.
References: Duke University Library: GV1469.S84 O36 1925 c.1; University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: G3201.P6 1925 .A8; OCLC: 1038072598, 1117774929.