Aircraft Spotting in Japan - Iwakuni
Day 12, Iwakuni, 10/11
Getting up it appeared to become a lucky day once again. The sun was shing from a clear blue sky. Of course we were eagerly to see a Shin Meiwa flying boat, but we made nevertheless some photo stops on our trip to the harbour. Especially the quarter around the youth hostel and along the river was very scenic and we still had some time because after our first visit we did not have to spend time looking for a good spot.
Only some minutes after we have arrived we saw a Shin Meiwa taking off!! We wondered, because the other Japanese spotters, that have been with us on the same spot for some time, have left. And soon we found out why: the Shin Meiwa was climbing quite steep and turned right above our heads, so that were were only able to take photos against the sun. That was the reason why they have changed their position. Travelling such a long way and seeing the fly-by of what might be the start for a very long mission was very annoying for us, additionally to the fact that someone might have warned us before and - as we found out at the end of the day - this was only fly-by with a retracted landing gear.
Of course we changed our position as well and still got some nice Shin Meiwa photos, even with focal lenghts of around 500mm. Also a US Marines C-130 was nicely banking into the sun, as did a JMSDF YS-11 and a P-3Orion. There was also some activity of the based AV-8B Harriers and F/A-18 Hornets, but they were very small in the viewfinder, though they did use the same nice photogenic departure route. We wondered a bit because at this spot, far from the base, we got controlled 3 times by the civil police…
The mighty Shin Meiwa Flying Boat
|---- ---- ---- ----|
|---- ---- ----|
As this was quite boring, we go tour shots with perfect light and there was no more suspicious acitivity on the airfield we decided to leave at around 2pm. Once again we passed Hiroshima and around 50km from the city we had a look at its airport, that was build on top of a smoothed mountain. We were able to photograph a ANA B777-300 and a JAL A300 from the visitors deck in the evening light and used the internet terminals to send some eMails home, which was a big relief after the long time without access since Fukuoka.
|---- ---- ----|
Then we continued our looooong drive to Akeno. In retrospective this was by far the longest and most exhausting drive on our trip, but we had to be at Akeno in the morning, because only then the light was good for photography there. To get there as fast as possible we chose to take the direct way from Osaka via some main roads to Akeno. Driving during the night was allright as there were not to many lorries and other cars on the road. However, it already became dark, xxx nearly crashed our car while changing the lane after one of the many toll gates and we realized that a stop and some refreshments were necessary.
And if that would not have been enough we got into a police control, nearly at midnight and after driving more than 550km since Iwakuni. They just wanted to see our driving licenses, which were, together with the official translation by the German embassy, in our suitcases in the back of the car. They made us stop along the road and when we handed the translations together with our old driving licences over the amazement among the policemen was huge. Soon several officeres surrounded us and decided that our driving licences were not valid. They therefore stopped us and prohibited the further use of our car. To move around they gave us the possibility to use busses our trains. Of course it was not funny enough for us anymore from that moment on and we even thought about aborting our trip at that time if this should be true. The translation was useless without a 'valid' license, they repeated continously. We therefore saw no other possibility to call the emergency hotline at the German consulate in Osaka and described what wasgoing one. Nearly half an hour, which seemed to as as many hours, has passed at that time and the policemen decided that it was not save to have us standing along the road and they wanted to bring us to the policestation - Matsuzaka Police Station - the second one during our trip to Japan. As we were not allowed to drive any car anymore we were driven by an officer. After around a quarter of an hour at the police station, we were given our passports and licences back and told "It's okay"… We had a puzzled look at each other, did not totally realize what was going on, but quickly decided that it might be the best option to f**k off as fast as possible. However we did not miss to take a photo of the police station…
After the Hiroshima Matsuzaka became therefore another place that we did not want to see again, anytime!
So it was nearly 1am and we did not have a hotel yet, but we found one easily as our demands were nearly non-existant at that moment. Therefore we checked in shortly past 1am and set our alarm clocks to 7am. We did not speak a lot that night…