Photographing Planes at New Chitose Airport

In the next of my series of posts about photographing planes, I will be focussing on New Chitose Airport (新千歳空港), often just referred to as Chitose Airport (千歳空港), but that can lead to confusion with the adjoining Chitose Air Base (千歳基地). Although I have been to this airport a few times, in terms of photography, I will be focussing on a trip made there in 2013 during my busiest fieldwork trip to Japan. Due to time limitations, the only pictures I took were from the observation deck at the airport rather than any spots around the airport. The views from the observation deck are very good, however.

While at the airport, you can use the free WiFi (or, of course, data if you have it), to access an app like Flightradar24 to see when planes are landing or taking off.

As I noted during the post about my busy trip to Japan, there were a couple of typhoons around and this meant that there was plenty of rain and clouds. This meant getting some quite interesting shots at New Chitose Airport – such as reflections.

It also meant that there was a lot of spray when planes were taking off.

The location of the observation deck also means that you can get some interesting panning shots.

Unlike Mount Fuji Shizuoka Airport, which I wrote about in my previous post, New Chitose Airport is busy, with the Haneda-New Chitose sector being the busiest sector in the world, as I have written about in my books Shinkansen and Japan: The Basics. From a photography point of view, this means there is no shortage of shots to take.

The airport also gets a wide range of airlines -from LCCs through to international airlines. While I was there I was lucky enough to see a passenger Boeing 747, a rare sight in Japan these days.

You can also see many Air Do planes – and this was one of the reasons why I was in Hokkaido as I went to their HQ for an interview for my research. I have written about Air Do in both my chapter on Contents Tourism in relation to planes and also in Japan: The Basics. It was an Air Do flight that I took from New Chitose during this trip (having flown their on Air Asia Japan, which subsequently stopped operating) and I wrote about about this in my post on the trip itself.

Before finishing this post, I would like to write about my memories of an experience at New Chitose Airport during my first trip to Japan in the summer of 1989. I had flown up to Hokkaido from Osaka’s Itami Airport and spent about a week in Ebetsu, close to Sapporo. I then flew from New Chitose Airport (which has only opened the previous year) to Haneda. I took a JAL 747. Keep in mind that this was just 4 years after the JL123 crash, which involved a JAL 747. I was travelling by myself, but it was a full flight. Everyone was on board – but nothing happened. We were told that there was a delay due to military planes at the adjoining airbase. As we waited, the news was put on the big screen at the front of each section of the plane. There was one main news story. A plane crash. A plane crash which had been caught on video. And, as the Japanese news has a tendency to do with key footage, the clip was shown again… and again… and again. The lady sat next to me started crying. She never opened her eyes for the whole flight even after we finally did get going – eating the noodle dish we were served with her hands, dipping them into the sauce. The crash that was shown was the United Airlines flight 232 – an accident that could have been much worse and has been a feature of a couple of dramatizations as I have mentioned in my article ‘Disaster Narratives by Design: Is Japan Different?‘ and which has its own links to JL123 as one of those on the UA flight had read about JL123 and how the JL123 crew may have used the thrusters to control the direction of the plane. Never did I think during that trip in 1989 that I would end up writing about both of these accidents.

See details about other photographs I have used in my research here.

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