Koukichi Ukita: the Japanese who flew in the sky more than 100 years before Otto Lilienthal

It is generally believed that the first human who flew a glider was the German glider king, Otto Lilienthal. Yet it is said that Kokichi Ukita, a picture framer during the Edo Period, flew more than 100 years before that.

Kokichi was born in Yatsuhama, Gojima-Gun, Bizen-Koku (present day Yatsuhama, Tamano-shi, Okayama Prefecture) in 1757. His father suddenly passed away when he was 7 years old, and Kokichi was made to work in an umbrella shop in his neighborhood. After that, he moved to live in a picture frame shop in Okayama. He mastered his technique there and made a handmade flying device.

One night in the summer of 1785, Kokichi equipped himself with his flying device and jumped from the handrail of the Kyo-Bridge of the Asahi River in Okayama. Witnesses said that he flew 40-50m and fell. This incident caused a great disturbance, so he was exiled from the domain of Okayama.

Kokichi moved to Shizuoka and spent the rest of his life there.
Unfortunately the detailed flight record of Otto Lilienthal hasn’t survived.