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  Chapter 4  Pencil rocket in Michikawa  
Akita rocket test site

The next large hurdle was the selection of the flight experiment site to fire the rockets vertically, simulating an actual launch. The rockets needed to safely fall to the ground. As Japan does not have any spacious deserts like other countries, the only way to safely test the launch was to fire the rockets from the beach to fall into the sea. To do that, we firstly had to avoid the main routes of vessels and aircrafts and also had to find a place with few fishing boats. For academic research reasons, we wanted to avoid any political disputes, so, the Ministry of Education arranged for an under-secretary meeting between ministries to discuss the project.

Around 1955, most Japanese coastlines were occupied by the U.S. and only Sado Island and the Oga Peninsula were free from US influence. At that time, I teamed up with Mr. Itokawa again to lead the team and the two of us first went to see Sado Island on a Maritime Safety Agency's boat. However, the sea was rough that day and Mr. Itokawa suffered a bad bout of seasickness. After that experience, we didn't want to carry the equipment to Sado Island. So, Sado Island was scrapped as a possible experiment site. We next visited the Oga Peninsula. However, the Oga Peninsula was too small and was not suitable as an experiment site. After further discussion, we selected Michikawa due to its closeness to the Oga Peninsula, a spacious beach and a nearby town that offered suitable accommodation. We then started the experiments. (Noboru Takagi)

Takagi and Itokawa consulted with each other about various things prior to making any decisions. The team was a group of professionals from the machine, electronic and aviation industries. In the upcoming launch experiments, there would be repeated failures caused by trouble in specific areas under the control of the specialist in each field. Only the specialist in charge of the failed area was meant to know the cause of the trouble, so they could reflect on the failure ahead of the next experiment. The group gathered specialists from various fields so we wouldn't argue over issues we lacked expertise in. With this mindset, we trusted each other.

We decided that a pair of specialists from the electronic and other fields should be the experiment chiefs. These teams were Noboru Takagi and Hideo Itokawa, Akio Tamaki and Shigefumi Saito, and Daikichiro Mori and Tamiya Nomura.

Through such a process, the stage of the rocket launch moved to Michikawa beach in Akita Prefecture. From August 1955 to 1962, Michikawa served as the hotbed of Japanese rocket technology.

Itokawa at Michikawa Station

The launch site at Michikawa

A full team meeting in Michikawa
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