April 9: The Kamikaze

KamikazeWe’ve got a bit of an obscure one today. The plane you see at right was called the Kamikaze, and on this day in 1937, pilot Masaaki Iinuma and navigator Kenji Tsukagoshi landed it in London after a 51 hour flight from Tokyo. Thus, the Kamikaze became the first Japanese-built aircraft to fly from Japan to Europe, a monumental achievement for Japanese aviation and engineering.

Nowadays, we normally associate the word “kamikaze” with the Japanese suicide attack pilots of World War II. However, we’re not going to address that grim bit of history, instead let’s look at the origin of the word. Kamikaze is literally Japanese for a divine wind, a reference to two storms that are said to have saved the Japanese from a Mongol invasion. In 1274, Kublai Khan led a fleet of Mongol ships to storm the beaches of Japan. As they approached the shores, it is said that a typhoon appeared and took out the invading fleet.

Later, in 1281, Khan returned with a fleet of four thousand ships to again invade the island. However, during the intervening years, the Japanese built two-meter-high walls to prevent another invasion. So, the massive fleet was forced to spend months sailing in Japanese waters looking for a place to land. While searching for land, another large storm arrived and forced the Mongols to retreat. It soon became a popular myth that Raijin, the Shinto god of lightning, thunder, had sent the two divine winds to protect Japan from invaders.

There is a fairly popular cocktail called the Kamikaze, but unlike many popular cocktails its history is completely unknown. It’s essentially a Vodka Gimlet with triple sec.


  • 1 ounce Vodka
  • 1 ounce Triple Sec
  • 1 ounce lime juice

Shake all ingredients together with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Tomorrow: Elizabeth Tower


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