Aircraft Spotting in Japan - Misawa-Hachinohe
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Day 3, Misawa - Hachinohe, 01/11
Misawa was the reason for our detour up high in the north of the main island because of the famous blue Phantoms that are based there with the 8 Hikotai.
After the dull day at Matshusima we have been greeted by a sunny, and very cold, morning on the northest point of our trip. Driving through the city centre of Misawa we all quickly realized the connection of Misawa with aviation as we saw the silhouette of a red plane throughout the city, but more on that later. We arrived a bit too early at the airport because the visitor's deck was still closed. "Open 8, open 8" we were informed by an employee and while waiting for the opening I enjoyed my first can of hot coffee(!) out of an distributor and tried to recover from my cold. Standing there we already heard jet sound and spotted a blue single-seater F-2A. Of course our arrival at the airport was not unnoticed because after some minutes on the visitor deck, that finally opened after the F-2 has been towed away…, some "guards" already arrived and were followed shortly afterwards by two officials. The control was very friendly once again and we were also once more allowed to continue photography while they were checking our passports. But on the same time that was also very demanding because the traffic became really busy: 2 squadrons of American F-16s with the WW tail code and the 8 Hikotai of the JASDF were already very busy with flying and during the interview we heard the familiar sound of the J79 and some grey F-4EJs appeared from behind some trees. In between an E-2C Hawkeye of 601 Hikotai also took off and during the day we should also see an EP-3E! From others we have learned that the blue Phantoms are very rare to see, but suddenly 1 … 2 … 3 phabulous blue Phantoms appeared on the last chance and we fired away. Photographs of course. One single F-4, all three of them, two with some other grey Phantom taking off in the background. I do not know how many photos we have taken there, but that sight and feeling is unforgettable!
When they all took off we went back to our car and were looking for the spot in the approach, which is the only other possibility to take photos there, though the jets are still quite high. With a changing cloudiness it was a lot of gambling to get a sunny Phantom, and did not have a lot of luck. Besides an RF-4E and the unique EC-1 that we could photograph with light :)
Around midday we furthermore had a look at the Misawa Aviation & Science Museum that is also located at the airport and discovered the red bulky plane, "Miss Veedol". We learned that it was the first aircraft to cross the Pacific Ocean and started here at Misawa in 1931. We hurried taking photos of the exhibition and also encountered our first T-1 there. While we spent our time there the second (or third?) wave let we airfield and we tried once again tried our luck at the beginning of the afternoon. After finally one well lit Phantom and even two Hawkeyes we left to Hachinohe.
Misawa Aviation & Science Museum
Hachinohe is a base of the Japanese Maritme Self-Defence Force (JMSDF) and home of the 2 Kokugun, that mainly operates P-3C Orions within the 2 and 3 Kokutai. Around one and a half hour before sunset we arrived at the base and were able to take some nice photos from the fence. Of course we were not fast enough there with our ladders and had another security check. But no problem once again and some nice Orions were on film/chip. We decided to also have a look at the spot in the approach, which was in the middle of industrial plants. After waiting for a long time we saw a smoky trail on the horizon right as we wanted to leave and were able to photograph a flying Orion at the end of the day.
What a wonderful time we had in the north!!
We made our way back to the highway and started driving back south again to Hyakuri. I was very silent in the car, besides the radio that was playing a Dire Straits CD. We were blessed with a marvellous landscape, wooded hills with no houses in sight and the sun was about to set. Even if we did not know what would still await us, that prelude was perfect.
After some hours on the road (11.800Y toll) we arrived at Hyakuri at half past ten and were not able to find a hotel, not even a love hotel. No wonder as we were nearly in the middle of nowhere. As it was nearly midnight it did not make a lot of sense to continue our search and pay for a room for some hours. So we decided to drive to the airfield and look there for a quiet place that we soon found along a small farm track in between some trees. Time to get some sleep in our sleeping bags that we badly needed because of the low outside temperatures.