Ever since I first started visiting Japan in 1989 I have enjoyed taking pictures of trains, particularly shinkansen. I’m not 100% sure why – I would never classify myself as a train spotter. But in the end, the photographing helped stimulate my research on the shinkansen itself and the book and other articles I have done about it. In 2011, one of my friends asked me whether I’d considered taking pictures of planes. I hadn’t. After all, planes are rivals to the shinkansen. He said I should try it as it presents an interesting challenge as, even if planes approach the same runway, due to their size and the variations in wind speed, they can move around more and so taking a picture is much harder than the predictable movement of a shinkansen. In the end, I decided I would give it a try. He recommended a couple of spots, and one of these, Jonanjima Seaside Park, near Haneda Airport has become my favourite and I have been many times now.
In terms of getting there, the easiest access point (if you don’t have a car) is via Ryutsu Center on the Tokyo Monorail. From there you can walk (follow route 316 until you get past the Wild Bird Park, where you turn right… after that it becomes obvious, particularly as you’ll be able to see planes!), but often I take a taxi (around Y2,500). Getting a taxi on the way back can be harder and it’s often best to walk to the main road (close to where you can see the road split under the Jonanjima name on the map) and be prepared to wave a taxi down as they approach as speed as they come from an underpass (shown in grey on the map). It is also possible to take a bus – it’s not a very regular service, so I suggest you use an online navigation tool to sort out the routing. There are a few snack food and drink options at the park (where many come for BBQs (you have to book a spot) or picnics), but if you’re going to be there for a long time, I’d suggest you bring your own food. There are also toilets.
If you have data then you can use an app like Flightradar24 to see when planes are landing or taking off. Most times I have been there, planes have been landing, flying almost in parallel with the beach and path at Jonanjima.
One of the things I remember most from that first visit was being struck by how many different airlines there were. Although Haneda had already returned to having international flights, it was clear that many were domestic and there were more Japanese airlines than ANA and JAL. I was vaguely aware of Skymark, but Solaseed and Air Do were new to me. I had recently finished writing my book on the JAL flight JL123 in July 2011, and having seen the wide variety of companies and liveries of planes at Jonanjima, it inspired me to research this area more. To date this has featured in my book Japan: The Basics and also my chapter on Contents Tourism in Japan.
It should be noted that, as well as planes, you will get to see many boats of different kinds too.
There is also plenty of nature – ranging from birds to stray cats and on a good day you can also see Mount Fuji.
Also see my post on photographing planes near Haneda Airport from Keihinjima Tsubasa Park.