By Tim Hornyak

It was 1976, a notable year for aviation. In Europe, Air France and British Airways launched the Concorde supersonic aircraft. In the U.S., a former Air Force pilot became the first to fly a homemade plane around the world. In Japan, there was the first kamikaze attack in three decades. But it was not a simple dive-bombing: The pilot was a porn star who targeted a shadowy power broker with ties to organized crime.

On March 23 of that year, Mitsuyasu Maeno flew a Piper Cherokee over Tokyo’s Setagaya Ward and zeroed in on his target: the home of Yoshio Kodama, a power broker who was one of the most notorious figures in Japan’s underworld.

After making a final radio transmission (“Long live the emperor! Banzai!”), the 29-year-old slammed the plane into the second floor of Kodama’s mansion, causing a fire, killing himself and injuring two household staff. Kodama was in another part of the building, convalescing from a stroke, and escaped harm. Maeno’s body was a charred, gruesome sight, with its internal organs exposed.

Today, Kodama’s sprawling mansion in Setagaya Ward’s Todoroki (as noted by the Japan Transport Safety Board), replaced by an apartment block and a luxury condo complex. In area, there are no monuments to the incident — but 40 years later it lives on as one of the more bizarre in the history of aviation.

“The smell of fuel filled the air”

Only a few current residents of the neighborhood even remember the chaos outside Kodama’s residence after the plane struck (see the video below).

“There wasn’t a big sound of an explosion but the smell of fuel filled the air,” says one elderly woman who requested anonymity. “Someone told me a small plane had crashed into Kodama’s house and I rushed to the roof to look. The property was surrounded by high, thick walls that muffled the sound and made it hard to see what was going on. Policemen soon swarmed the site. None of us understood what it was all about.”

A partial explanation for Maeno’s motivation lay in an even more outlandish incident that had taken place: the suicide by coup d’etat of Yukio Mishima. The novelist, actor and director had become a radical nationalist and formed his own personal gang of uniformed militants.

In 1970, Mishima and his followers entered the headquarters of the Ground Self-Defense Force at Ichigaya, captured the commandant and exhorted the troops to rise up and restore the emperor to power. After being jeered by soldiers throughout his speech, Mishima performed seppuku belly-cutting. As part of the ritual, one of his followers, Masakatsu Morita, repeatedly tried to cut his head off before another, Hiroyasu Koga, finally managed to finish the deed.

Soft-core pornography

The writer left a lasting impression on aspiring ultranationalists such as Maeno. Born in Tokyo’s Shibuya in 1946, Maeno joined a theatrical group in his teens and appeared in his first film in 1959; he later studied drama at the University of California. After he joined studio Nikkatsu, he appeared in low-budget exploitation films such as “Stray Cat Rock: Wild Jumbo” and a number of films in the legendary genre of soft-core pornography known as “roman porno.”

Ironically enough, Maeno’s most famous on-screen moment was the climax of the 1975 pink film “Tokyo Emmanuelle” when he got a leg over with actress Kumi Taguchi while flying a light aircraft — a promo pic shows the two getting steamy in the cockpit.

An amateur pilot, Maeno had received his license in 1975 and flew planes as part of his acting work. On the day he died, he showed up at Chofu Airport to rent the Piper Cherokee, and was dressed up like a kamikaze pilot complete with headband and leather flight jacket. He had told the airport’s staff he was shooting a promo reel for a new film about the suicide squads of World War II. But why would he want to kill Kodama?

Read the rest of the article at Tokyo Reporter.