Photographing Planes at Ibaraki Airport and Hyakuri Air Base

In the next of my series of posts about photographing planes, I will be focussing on Ibaraki Airport (茨城空港) and the adjoining Hyakuri Air Base (百里基地). I visited the airport during my busy fieldwork trip to Japan, holding research interviews there before then taking a flight to Kobe.

As I was going to the airport from Tokyo, I took a train to Ishioka and then a bus from there. For some of the journey, the bus runs on bus-only roads which have been created out of a disused railway line. There is also plenty of parking at the airport if you drive there – and there are often good rent-a-car deals in the area too (as I was informed during my interview) as they try to attract more people to the prefecture.

Unlike New Chitose Airport, which I wrote in my previous post, Ibaraki Airport is not that busy with civilian flights, so you’ll need to choose your time well or be patient to get photos of passenger planes.

It was actually quite an odd feeling visiting Ibaraki Airport. I was there for some new research – which has been incorporated into Japan: The Basics and ‘Contents Tourism in Plane Sight‘ so far. My research on JL123 crash was essentially finished, although I was working on the book Osutaka. But here I was at Ibaraki Airport and able to see Hyakuri Air Base, from where the first SDF planes went out to search for the crash site after JL123 disappeared from the radar.

Due to the location of the Air Base, although there is an observation deck, there is frosted glass so that you cannot see the Air Base itself. It is the most wonderful example of tatemae (lip service) I have come across for reasons that will become clear further down in the post.

So the only picture I got of a plane at the airport itself was as I went to board my flight to Kobe

Before taking my flight, I had some free time and went to see the retired SDF jets near the end of the car park. I’m not usually that interested in most military planes, but given the link to JL123, I couldn’t resist.

And in the picture above you can immediately see why the frosted glass at the airport is such a waste of time… a mound has been built to help people take pictures of planes at both the airport and the Air Base!

I spent some time taking pictures both of civilian planes (not many – and mostly operated by Skymark) and the military jets. As the civilian planes tend to head west after going from Ibaraki airport their route seems to involve them circling the airport as they gain altitude, so keep your eye on them even after take off.

As I noted above, I took a flight from Ibaraki to Kobe for my next interview (and to experience flying on Skymark). After having seen Hyakuri Air Base, with its link to JL123, I was surprised to then realise that we were flying over the JL123 crash site and Ueno-mura. Having sometimes heard planes going over Osutaka-no-One, I had often wondered what route they were on. Now I know. Of the photographs that I managed to get, the best one is probably this one that shows the huge dam in Ueno-mura and the settlements beyond. The JL123 crash site would be just off the bottom left of the photo.

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

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