Aircraft Spotting in Japan - Gifu-Komaki
Day 6, Gifu - Komaki, 04/11
After the not very satisfying day at Iruma yesterday this day began with another bad surprise: we were not able to open the doors in our room!! After close inspection xxx (name withheld ;)) succeeded in opening it using a spoon that has been shortly before used for a good warming green tea. We paid directly at the cashier desk, though no one was present at that time there, and left quickly… with our deepest trust in Japanese honesty.
At 09h15 we arrived near the approach at Gifu Airbase, home of the Flight Test Centre of the JASDF. Beforehand we drove around the airfield and inspected several spots which did not seem very suitable for photography. Adding to a lot of spiders that hang their horrible nets across a small footpath we discovered also two YS-11 parked in front of a hangar at the airfield, but the activity on base tended towards zero. As there seemed to be no flying at all we went to the Kakamigahara Museum (Link) right nearby and visited the very interesting collection there. (In the case of hearing some jet sound we could reach the photo spot within some minutes). At the museum we also had our first encounter with the huge Shin Meiwa flying boat! Other interesting exhibits include several prototypes and test aircraft from a small Saab S 91 to the UF-XS, the testbed for the technologies that were later used in the Shin Meiwa. Of course we were also attracted by the museum shop as we were keen on getting some souvenirs in from of models, model kits, cups, stickers and so on. The fact that we were a little bit frustrated because of the recent happenings surely added to the fact that we left the shop heavily loaded, and leaving the lady at the cash desk back with a big smile in her face.
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Following the visit, and no activity at Gifu, we decided to drive to Komaki. The former civil airport of Nagoya is nowadays only used by JAL Express operating Canadair CRJs, but our main interest were the based C-130 Hercules of 401 Hikotai and the Mitsubishi factory which might be good for some surprises. But the main and most important goal there was to get one flying Mitsubishi T-1. Only four examples of the trainer based on the F-86 Sabre are still in active service and planned to be put out of service in 2006, so the chances to see them once again were zero for us.
A J-Air CRJ welcomed us at our arrival and some helicopters, of which the most important one, a JMSDF SH-60, used a slightly different approach pattern and was thus not photographable. Also the ramp was full of green and blue C-130 and we were confident to get at least one of them. As we waited longer and longer, all the local spotters have left in the meantime, some British spotters that we have already met at Misawa arrived and told us that today was a non-flying day within the whole JASDF. Bummer… One wasted day, but at least we took some nice photos at the museum.
Nagoya - Komaki Airport
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One of our guide books told us that there was a "Zero" displayed in the Terminal, but after looking in every corner there was no sign of one and furthermore the visitors deck was closed, which resulted also in no photos of the C-130. Disappointed we left and declared Komaki already the worst airport on our tour. We went back to Gifu and tried to take photos of the gate guards (including a marvellously painted C-46 testbed), but access to the collection was denied after a long talk with the responsible persons.
We were fed up finally and went to the local McDonald's to have a Teriyaki Burger and other good and tasty food.
Then we started another long leg (450km) with the destination Hiroshima. Driving through the night after this disappointing day was not easy and we did not talk a lot that time. Florian took over the car most of the time and kept himself up with the help of two Airmen's Beans. After this dose there was no sigh of sleep for him for the next hours. I also cannot remember who often we have listened to our three CDs (Dire Straits & Fleetwood Mac Best Of and the Top Gun Soundtrack) that I brought to Japan, but Florian and Patrick got fed up with them and finally decided to turn the radio off.
We wanted to spend the night in a youth hostel in Hiroshima but could not find it after more than one hour of driving through the district where it should have been. We called the hostel several times but after no one answered the phone after around 11pm our nerves laid blank. First the big disappointment and Gifu and Komaki and now no place to sleep at Hiroshima…
Subsequently the tourist visit the next day was cancelled and after a short photo stop at the "Atomic Bomb Dome" memorial commemorating the drop of the atomic bomb "Fat Boy" on August, 6th 1945. Sleeping nearby the "Peace Park" would have been on option for us, but was rejected because of the 'No parking'-signs around and mainly because of the fact that we were really fed up with this city! So we decided to leave the city (and never come back…) and stopped at the next rest area on the motorway and spend there another night in the car…