I was visiting Japan with my wife from late December to early
January. Main purpose of the trip was to attend a wedding party of
my cousin. Her wedding ceremony was back in October.
This time was a more casual party. If I visit Japan, I also wanted
to see over-the-field training flight of Japanese air force's aerobatic
team, the Blue Impulse, and wanted to see Japanese Navy's YS-11, which
is expected to retire in a few years. However, the wedding party
was scheduled for December 29. Both Japanese air force and Navy
was in the new year's recess around that time, and all regular training
flights were on hold. Earliest possible date that I could see
those airplane flying was January 4th. I had to make a difficult
I decided to leave Pittsburgh on December 25th and come back on
January 9th. I was also given an opportunity to give a talk at
Meiji university on 27th. A banquet with my relatives was planned
for 28th, and the wedding party was scheduled for 29th. Then I was
going to travel with my wife to her home town to say hi to my
in-laws, and then fly to my home on January 1st. I planned to go
to Tokyo on January 3rd and visit Atsugi base for 4th and 5th to see
YS-11s, then move
to Sendai to see the Blue Impulse on 6th.
I was going to come back to my home on 7th, then meet with my wife on
8th in Tokyo, then leave Tokyo on 9th to come back to Pittsburgh.
It was a hell tough schedule.
I was super busy during the semester of fall 2010. I was too
exhausted to go through this tough schedule. I planned to slow
down my work for a week before leaving Pittsburgh to recover from the
exhaustion. But, no plan goes as planned. I was summoned for an
emergency call on 22nd. Apparently, the project that I was not directly
involved got into trouble, and everyone in the team was asked to work
for rescuing the project. This reminded me of the Thanksgiving
holidays of the last year and gave me a terrible feeling. I had to
give up whole my Thanksgiving holidays last year for rescuing a project that I
was not directly involved. This time it turned out not as bad as
the last time. Nonetheless, I had to work in full for 22nd and 23rd.
I was not able to recover from the exhaustion.
December 25. There was no direct flight from
Pittsburgh to Japan, and I had to change an airplane once. This
time, I changed an airplane at Chicago O'Hare. To catch a Japan
Airlines flight from Chicago, I had to leave Pittsburgh at 7:10am.
To avoid congestion at the check-in counter (I couldn't check in from
home since it was an international flight.) I wanted to be there by two
hours before. To get there by 5:10am, I wanted to park my car at
an off-airport parking by 4:40am. To be there at 4:40am, I had to
leave home at 4:10am.
I flew United Airlines from Pittsburgh to Chicago (I wish I could
fly by myself!). The airplane flew as scheduled, and we were able to check in Japan Airlines
flight at Chicago. I worked on one of my research projects in the
international flight and didn't sleep much. I was able to finish
one of the outstanding issues though.
By the way, if you are tired of ever decaying airline services,
and if you don't want to be treated like a cargo any more, you should try
Japan Airlines next time. Their
level of service is magnitude better. Japan Airlines' cabin
attendants are courtesies. Interior of the airplane is clean.
And, in-flight meal tastes like a real food. You can expect a similar
level of service from All
Nippon Airways, too.
December 26. We arrived at Tokyo Narita airport.
We wanted to fly directly into Tokyo Haneda airport, but we were not
able to secure a ticket. In Chicago, we were told that only three
of the four checked luggage may be coming, which made us feel uneasy.
But, we were able to pick up all four bags at Narita.
For the first time we used Japan Rail Pass, which
allowed us to use almost all Japan Railways trains.
Two-week pass cost about $550 per person. Only a non-Japanese
citizen and a Japanese citizen who has a permanent-residency status in a
foreign country can use this pass.
(Japan Rail Pass. Click to enlarge)
I picked up the
passes at the JR counter at the airport and headed for Shinagawa where we were going to
stay for two nights by train. We met with my parents at Shinagawa, and we
had dinner together. We wanted to eat something light.
But, I ended up with eating a tempura (Japanese traditional deep-fried
food). I really shouldn't have finished everything, but since it
tasted so nice, I ate all. Then we came back to the hotel room and
fell asleep instantly.
(View from the hotel room at Shinagawa)
December 27. My wife was meeting with her friend who
used to be in Pittsburgh. I had some time to spare in the morning,
and went to Akihabara for shopping. Usually I spend at lest half a
day to walk around Akihabara area to search for interesting PC parts.
But, I didn't have time to do so this time. I just went to
Yodobashi camera next to the
Akihabara station. Yodobashi is a camera retailer giant. Now
it sells PCs, CDs, DVDs, cell phones, and everything. In
I need to buy almost every camera equipment over the internet. I
can buy stuffs from Ritz camera or Best Buy, but usually they don't have
what I want in stock, and I end up placing a back order. So, it's
the same thing. The problem is I cannot actually
see and use before buying. But, at Yodobashi, it has wide variety
of camera lenses, parts, bags, supplies, etc., in stock. I can
actually see it before buying. I didn't buy too many things this
time though due to this crazy U.S. dollar - Japanese Yen conversion
rate. (Japanese economy is not in a good shape, and it doesn't
make sense for JPY to go up against other currency at all!) But, I
bought some lens pouches. I was able to make sure my lenses fit in
Then I briefly met with a friend. He gave me a key chain
commemorating 50th Anniversary of Blue Impulse.
(Blue Impulse 50th Anniversary Commemorative Key Chain)
Then I went to Meiji university for
a presentation. The presentation was open to public. I
thought about announcing on YSFLIGHT.COM, but since it had nothing to do
with YSFLIGHT, I didn't. I sent out invitation to some of the
friends, and yuichi, who is maintaining
Ysflightsim! Japan, came
to the session. I thought my presentation went well, but I forgot
buying a bottled water, and I was losing my voice toward the end of the
presentation. There was a banquet after the session. I ate
too much again. Food there tastes much better than in Pittsburgh.
I couldn't just stop. It was 10pm when I arrived at the hotel.
December 28. I woke at 5:30am due to jet lag. I
was exhausted but couldn't sleep again. We checked out the hotel
and went to see the new international terminal of Tokyo Haneda airport.
I really wished I could have flown into Haneda airport, not Narita
airport. Narita airport is a shame. There is nothing good
about Narita airport. It is too far away from Tokyo. In my
opinion Narita airport should be given to Japanese air force. This
airport must have caused enormous economic loss to Japan over the years.
I hope this trip was the last trip that I use Narita airport. On
the other hand, new international terminal of Haneda airport was nice
and clean. It is easy to change to a domestic flight at Haneda
airport unlike Narita airport.
Then we moved to a new hotel and went to a banquet with my
relatives. The food was nice. I ate too much again.
After the banquet, we were suggested to have some more drink only with
cousins. I really should have been excused. I was exhausted
by then. I was more than ready to sleep. But, I also thought
it's a rare opportunity since I'm living in the U.S. I went with
my cousins. My wife and I came back to the hotel room after 11pm.
Both of us nearly fell to the bed and slept.
I'll go to Atsugi base and Matsushima base to take pictures of
airplanes when all these events are over.
I didn't realize my death flag was set
then. (What's death flag?)
December 29. We attended the wedding party of my
cousin. The party was nice. My cousin looked happy. And the food was good. I was
expecting the party to be 2 to 3 hours, but it went on for 4 hours.
After the party, we were supposed to take a Shinkansen train from Tokyo
station to Osaka. Although the hotel was within walking distance
from Tokyo station, I was thinking to use a taxi since we were carrying
big bags. However, we ended up with walking with other relatives
to the station. It added some more exhaustion on me and my wife. I should have insisted on using taxi then.
Anyway, the main missions of this trip was accomplished. It was a
(View from the next hotel.)
December 30. My wife's voice got hoarse. Also I
started coughing lightly. I didn't expect it to become a serious
sickness at this time. We couldn't get seat reservations from
Osaka to Hakata, so we were prepared to stand for 2.5 hours.
However, when we came to the platform, I saw one train bound for Hakata
nearly empty. It was a slowest Shinkansen train, because it
stopped every station, and was going to
take 5 hours. But, we were able to sit. We took it, and
spent five hours to get to Hakata. It was not bad. I liked
to see cities from the window.
Hakata is a few hundred miles south of Tokyo. It was warm in
Tokyo. I didn't even need to wear a jacket. With a light jacket,
I got sweat. Since Hakata is far to the south of Tokyo, I expected
it to be even warmer. Contrary, it was cold in Hakata. It
was too late. I had sent my thick jacket to my home last night
since I didn't think it was necessary. All I had was a light
jacket, which was not enough to keep myself warm. With the accumulated
exhaustion and the cold air, my stomach went into safe mode. I
couldn't eat anything.
December 31. I went shopping with my wife and sister
in law. I started feeling a chill. When I feel a chill, I
usually have at least 100F fever. But, I didn't want my in-laws to
be too worried about my condition. I tried to be as normal.
But, I couldn't eat dinner this day.
January 1. When I woke up, I didn't feel a chill.
I supposed my fever was temporarily gone. I usually don't get
motion sickness at all. But, maybe due to my health condition, I had
motion sickness after riding a car to the Fukuoka airport. I felt
my body heavier than usual. My fever may have come back again.
I wanted to take cold medication the night before, but I didn't
because I was worried about causing further damage to my stomach.
My wife purchased some vitamin drink. I drunk it and took a
cold medicine hoping it makes me sleep in the airplane. As I
hoped, the airplane from Fukuoka to Tokyo was nearly empty. Nobody was
sitting beside me. I was able to sleep for about an hour in the
airplane. When I arrived at Tokyo Haneda airport, I felt slightly
better. The airplane from Haneda to Aomori was also not full, and
I was able to sleep a little more. My parents picked me up at the
airport, and I finally came home. Obviously, it was impossible for
me to go to Atsugi base in two days. So, I delayed the trip by one
day. New plan was to leave my home on January 4.
January 2. I slept almost all day.
January 3. I was still coughing but was able to walk outside again. My
stomach was also gradually gaining its function again. I was ready
to go to Tokyo next day.
January 4. I moved to Tokyo with a Shinkansen train.
I was able to see friends from my college. I couldn't drink
though. But, my cough didn't stop. I couldn't sleep well
because of severe cough. We often say human body is a very well
designed machinery. But, is it so? If it is, how come I get
exhausted because I cough too had to sleep. Human body is not so
well designed as a system.
January 5. After almost 10 days in Japan, I still woke
up at 5:30am. This trip had been too hard for me to recover from jet
lag. One of the friends I saw yesterday recently started digital SLR, so he joined me and tried to take pictures of airplanes. The
forecast was predicting northerly wind. Atsugi base has runway 01
and 19. If the wind was from the north, runway 01 should have been
in use. To take pictures of landing airplanes, it was supposed to
be the best to go to the south side of the air base. So, we went
to the station which is about 15 minutes walk to the approach end of
runway 01. But, when we started walking, Atsugi ground called
"Runway change. Now using runway 19." We were lucky to hear
it early enough. We haven't walked 100ft from the station yet
then. We rushed back to the station, and took a train go the
station near the approach end of runway 19.
Although my primary target was YS-11 of Japanese Navy, Japanese
Navy was still in new year's holiday, and they were not flying a regular
training. (I was sure some crews and airplanes were on alert
though.) Nonetheless, airplanes of CVW-5 from aircraft carrier
George Washington flew a lot. I saw CAG (Commander of Air Group)
airplanes of VFA-102 Diamondbacks, VAQ-136 Gauntlets, VAW-115 Liberty
Bells, and also VMFA-242 from Iwakuni base.
of Japanese Air Force
of VFA-27 Royal Maces
|| A CAG
F-18D of U.S. Marines VMFA-242 from Iwakuni base.
E-2C of VAW-115 Liberty Bells
F-18F of VFA-102 Diamondbacks.
EA-6B of VAQ-136 Gauntlets. This airplane may soon be replaced
In the afternoon, I unexpectedly met with yuich (admin of
I knew he was living near Atsugi base, but I never expected to see him
At night, I headed for Sendai in a Shinkansen train.
January 6. My airplane-fan friend gave me a ride to
Matsushima base. It was very nice of him. He took me around
the base to several different photo spots, and I was able to take some
nice shots of the Blue Impulse. It was very windy there. It
was understandable why Japanese air force used this air base for
cross-wind landing test when they were developing F-2 strike fighter.
On this day, F-2s were using runway 25, but T-4s including Blue Impulse
airplanes were using runway 33. He took me to really close to the
approach end of runway 33, and I could take some pictures from really
On the way to the base, I purchased some souvenir at Seven Eleven
near the base. Those items were most likely unofficial.
Actually, the coaster has an error. What's "11th Fight Squadron"?
No such squadron exists. But, I thought it interesting to see a
convenience store selling a Blue-Impulse related souvenir. So, I
purchased some of them anyway.
Unfortunately the weather became cloudy in the afternoon, and the
over-the-field training included no vertical maneuvers.
Nonetheless, I enjoyed watching some new maneuvers and formations (new
since I saw them two years ago.)
| T-4 Blue Impulse
#6 taking off for the morning flight heading for off-shore training
|| Blue Metro
(weather recon) landing runway 33.
|| Blue Impulse #1
coming back from the morning training session.
| #6 coming back
from the morning training session.
|| #1 to #4 taxing
out for the over-the-field aerobatic training in the afternoon.
Unfortunately, the sky was too cloudy to perform vertical maneuvers.
|| #1 entering
| Cleared for take
|| Change over turn.
|| Double roll back.
I saw this maneuver for the first time.
| Point Star
|| Swan formation
|| Grand Cross
| #4 landing runway
33 after the field acro.
|| #6 landing runway
|| Thanks for the
nice aerobatic and formation flights!
Then I traveled back to my home with a train at night.
January 7. I went shopping to buy some stuffs.
Other than that I was taking a rest almost all day. I tried to
recover to prepare for the international flight in two days.
January 8. I moved to Tokyo with a train. My
wife also left her home and came to Tokyo. We rendezvoused at
Tokyo station. We went shopping for the last time before leaving
Japan, and then headed for Narita. We stayed a night at a hotel
nearby Narita airport to catch morning flight of the next day. The
hotel was nice. I would have enjoyed staying there if I had been
healthy. But, I still was coughing hard and my wife's cold was not
over yet. I regret that we couldn't have a few glasses of drinks
in the hotel bar.
January 9. Left Narita airport for Chicago. We
hoped this was the last time we used Narita airport. Narita
airport is a failure. Way too too too far away from Tokyo.
It makes much sense to use Haneda airport rather than Narita.
Narita airport was one of many things that everyone knew it didn't work
but nobody corrected for very long time. It must have been causing
very big economic loss to Japanese economy over the years. Opening
Haneda airport for scheduled international flights was one of few good
news from the last year. At this time, the number of international
flights from Haneda is limited, but it would increase soon. I
definitely want to land at Haneda next time. I think Narita
airport can be a good air-force base.
And, I was determined to visit Japan in a warmer season next time.
Probably it would be in 1.5 years.
Death flag Death flag is a property
of a character (such as a movie character, a game character, a person in
a novel, etc.), and the character will die in the
story if this flag is set. Strictly speaking, the flag is set by the author of the
story. However, an audience can observe a flag-setting event in
the story. For example, if a character says "When the war is over,
I'll come back to my home town, propose my long-time girlfriend, start a
farm, and live a quiet life," this character is most likely to die a
dramatic death. Until the character says such a flag-setting
phrase, the flag status is unknown to the audience. However, as
soon as we hear such a flag-setting phrase, we can confirm that the flag
is set. Hence, although the flag had been set by the author, we
can say "This guy's death flag is set" when we hear a flag-setting