Spottingtrip Japan: Hyakuri
The last airbase we visited was Hyakuri. We spent 3 days of spotting at this field. Hyakuri Air Base is located in the Ibaraki prefecture and the airfield is a shared civilian/military airfield. Based on the military part of the field are the last operational fighter squadrons flying the mighty McDonnell Douglas/Mitsubishi (R)F-4E(J) Phantom II and Kawasaki T-4, these belong to the 7th Air Wing. An Air Rescue Wing operating the UH-60J and U-125A is also based here.
Until March 2019 the 7th Air Wing consisted out of 3 squadrons flying the F-4EJ / (R)F-4E(J) and the T-4. These being 501 Hikotai “Woodpeckers” flying the reconnaissance version of the F-4, 301 Hikotai “Frogs” and 302 Hikotai “White tailed Eagle” flying the F-4EJ. Sadly the latter squadron officially ceased flying the Phantom II a month before our visit and it was relocated to Misawa Air Base were it became the first operational F-35 squadron within the JASDF.
This left only 501 and 301 squadron at Hyakuri flying the Phantom. Some of the airframes that used to belong to 302 squadron were handed over to 301 squadron. This was also visible on some airframes as the “White tailed Eagle” tail emblem was still faintly visible on some of the aircraft that now wore the Frog emblem on the tail.
Hyakuri is one of the more popular airfields for spotters to visit when being in Japan, not only for the nostalgic aircraft that were still based there in April 2019, but also for its great photo opportunities. Nearly in the middle of the runway and close to the military platform the Hyakuri Peace Park is located, this is a holy place where a shrine and some monuments are located.
Because this is a privately owned piece of land on the military airbase it is also accessible for spotters, there are even 2 towers and a scaffolding on the perimeter of the park that offer a great overview of the base which is greatly appreciated by the aviation enthusiasts.
Photography wise, this place is great to make pictures from in the morning up until around 13h00 as by then the sun has turned to much around. After this you can relocate yourself to the opposite side of the base and place yourself in one of the fields next to the civil terminal of Ibaraki Airport. A small stepladder with minimum 3 steps is needed to be able to take pictures over the fence. Heatwaves also tend to be a problem as the military aircraft use the runway the furthest away from you from this place.
Below you can find an impression of pictures we managed to make at the last airfield we visited in this great country.
Text: Tim Van den Boer
Photography: Tim Van den Boer, Ludo Kloek