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Spotting Guide - Japan

Wed Jun 13, 2007 6:23 am

Hi all

Am planning a trip to Japan this September. I've searched the archives and googled but have not been able to come up an up to date guide on spotting in Japan. I'm looking mostly to take pictures. Am planning on getting to NRT, HND, KIX but wanted to find out whether it's worth getting to FUK (and Osaka Itami) and what hotels there are close to the airports, maps, recommendations from local spotters etc. I remember seeing a site a few months ago with heaps of useful information on spotting in Japan but I can't seem to find it now.

From what I've read, many people would recommend going to NGO in preference to FUK for spotting? Is it worth seeing Itami and KIX?

I'm planning to be in Japan for just on one week.

Any thoughts or suggestions are welcome!
Eastern - Number One To The Sun
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RE: Spotting Guide - Japan

Wed Jun 13, 2007 6:43 am

You simply can't go wrong with spotting in Japan. Every airport you mentioned has one or more observation decks, and many like Itami and Fukuoka have designated spotting parks on their periphery. And yes, it's absolutely worth seeing both ITM and KIX.
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RE: Spotting Guide - Japan

Wed Jun 13, 2007 8:16 am

NGO is preferred because it is in between Osaka & Tokyo.
Unless you want some Japan Air Commuter Dash 8-400s, I'd suggest NGO over FUK.
Osaka Itami is in the middle of the city, so there are ample hotels around including one on the airport itself. Both NRT, KIX, & HND have numerous hotels nearby. NGO is on an island and there is two hotels on the island itself. Unlike most western airports, most Japanese airport hotels are not total rip offs.
By the way September can be fickle in regards to weather because there is larger probability of typhoon.
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RE: Spotting Guide - Japan

Wed Jun 13, 2007 10:18 am

Quoting Carpethead (Reply 2):
NGO is on an island and there is two hotels on the island itself. Unlike most western airports, most Japanese airport hotels are not total rip offs.

There are three now.
Centrair hotel (right at the airport)
Comfort Inn (10 min walk)
Toyoko Inn (15 min walk)

I prefer the Toyoko. It has a choice of Japanese or continental breakfast. No English staff (they do speak Chinese) but you pay per room per night and not per person per room per night. But unlike the Centrair Hotel view of the runway.

NGO has a nice diversity of planes per day. You can get CRJs, Dash-8s, MD80s (?), a wide variety of 737s, A320s, A300s (China Eastern), A330s, A340-300, A340-500, 747-400D, 747-400 (international), 777-300, 767s, and 777-200ERs just in passengers. Over at Cargo...747s, DC-10s, MD-11s, LCF (but that parks at the passenger terminal international side remote stands), and the periodic AN picking up wings for Bombardier or parts for the 777 or other Boeing product. I have somewhere a file of departures and arrivals at NGO sorted by time, carrier, and aircraft type. Haven't updated in a while (almost a year) but it can't be too off. NGO schedules

Feel free to download the files if you decide to visit NGO and make changes.

NGO has a nice 180 degree view but the problem is staking your spot against the other spotters. I was there on a Saturday with the LCF coming in....I thought it was the paparazzi!

I like KIX's observation deck as it gives you the terminal, remote stands, approach and taxi way. But it costs money to go from the terminal to the deck and that just makes it sucky. With the new runway opening, there might be some new opportunities for getting planes on final that might be fantastic.

Never been to FUK but it seems to nice to spot at.

I would say...
For diversity of Livery
1) NRT
2) KIX
3) NGO
4) FUK
5) HND
6) ITM

For diversity of types
1) NRT, FUK, KIX & NGO get a lot of the same aircraft types But only at FUK, KIX and NGO can you see them all through one lens from the observation deck. NRT has the spotting disadvantage of two terminals.
2) HND ITM .. lots of Boeing and maybe a handful of Airbus

Accessibility to downtown
1) HND ITM FUK (All in urban spaces..HND is a on its own place and not center like FUK or ITM but nice local
2) NGO (20 min by train from JR station)
3) KIX (25 min by train from Umeta)
4) NRT (Too far from Tokyo)

If I had only one (7 day) week to spot in Japan I would do the following
Itinerary 1
Day 1) Fly into NRT
Day 2) Spot at NRT - take evening NH flight to NGO
Day 3) Spot at NGO - take evening train to Osaka (unless you really want to see EK or JetStar)
Day 4) Spot at KIX - take evening flight to FUK
Day 5) Spot at FUK - take evening flight to HND
Day 6) Spot at HND
Day 7) Depart Japan from NRT

Itinerary 2
Day 1) Fly into NRT
Day 2) Spot at NRT
Day 3) Spot at HND - take evening flight to FUK
Day 4) Spot at FUK - take evening flight to NGO
Day 5) Spot at NGO - take evening train to Osaka
Day 6) Spot at KIX
Day 7) Depart Japan from KIX

Seeing your flag as UK, I figure flying into/out-of somplace with non-stop to the UK would be best. If not... You can fly in and out of FUK or NGO via a variety of 1-stops (FRA, CDG, ICN, PEK, PVG, HEL, HKG)
My name is Centrair but HND is closer. Let's Japanese Aviation!
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RE: Spotting Guide - Japan

Wed Jun 13, 2007 10:21 am

Agree with all of the above.

Would also recommend Itami for photography because you are relatively low down on the roof terrace, unlike HND where you are way above the aircraft, making the angles pretty useless for good pictures. You can take good pictures at NRT, the roof terrace has holes cut in the fencing for that purpose!

On my last visit to Tokyo, I stayed at the Mercure in Narita city, it has a free shuttle from NRT, and the station at Narita city has a direct (but slow) train to the monorail connection stop for HND.

If you haven't read up yet about getting around in Japan, then I'd point out that very few people in Japan speak much English outside of the obvious tourist-orientated places, but that's not generally a problem, as in each large train station there should be at least one ticket machine in English, and most semi-fast, express and 'bullet' trains (Shinkansen in Japanese) have alternating announcements in Japanese & English. There are alao usually some signs in English in most stations, but be prepared for everything else to be in Japanese!

The one major pitfall to avoid is that not many ATM's outside of tourist areas accept foreign credit cards - they may have the familiar signs on them, but still only accept the Japanese versions. Stock up in Yen where ever you can, you will always need a lot more than you think, and that next machine that will accept your card could be a long way away!

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RE: Spotting Guide - Japan

Wed Jun 13, 2007 12:30 pm

Unless you have a 1000mm lens, KIX maybe not be good in the near future.
The old runway is slated to be shutdown after the second runway is up and running. The resurfacing is supposedly planned for six months. From any place on the current island to the new runway is about 1/2 to 3/4 mile away.

I'd second the report by Centrair (bias on NGO though  Smile ).
If it weren't for the uncertainty surrounding KIX's operations after August, I'd receommend both Osaka Airports over NGO any day.
Other notable places in Japan you might want to think about are: Sapporo and/or Okinawa (Naha), depending on what your budget is and if you have previously been to Japan before and also interesting in seeing some military action (on weekedays).
At Sapporo, you can get the colorful Air Nippon Network Dash-8s and HAC SF3s at the other secondary airport Okadama. Chitose has the two Japanese government 744 based and a squadron of F-15s.
At Naha, you can get the JTA 734s & RAC Dash-8s plus all three branches of the Japanese military are based there with P-3s & F-4EJs based there.
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RE: Spotting Guide - Japan

Wed Jun 13, 2007 12:46 pm

I hope you saved enough cash, I'm sure you did. Traveling in Japan is rediciously expensive. God knows why I bought me a car here and I usually avoid the tolls. I live near a town called Hachinohe and just to drive or take the bullet train will cost me nearly $150 one way and the airfare would cost me $500 one way on JAS. If you get a chance, go to the North Island. Saporro is tend to be really nice and so is Aomori, I am only an hour and a half drive to Aomori. Even the central area is nice too. Check out Sendai, also.

Hope you have a wonderful week here. I am stationed here for only 2 years then head back to the USA. Cheers.
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RE: Spotting Guide - Japan

Wed Jun 13, 2007 4:52 pm

Thanks all for your detailed replies. This is great and very helpful. Centrair, many thanks for your suggested itinerary as well.

I appreciate that weatherwise, it could be mixed given it's the end of the summer and typhoon season. However, I've also read that September can be wonderful. Sounds like a visit to ITM and KIX and definitely a stop via NGO needs to be considered. I've seen pics taken at NGO and the viewing deck looks fantastic.

I am prepared for costs - but having been London-based for the past couple of years, I would hope that I am suitably "acclimatised" to handing over large sums of cash for everything!
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