Kakamigahara Aerospace & Science Museum
The Kakamigahara Aerospace & Science Museum closed for renovation at the end of September 2016 and reopened in 2018. After a first visit in 2013, time for another visit to see the changes they’ve made. But first a little bit of history.
Kakamigahara is the location of Japan's second airstrip built in 1917. The surrounding area was, and is, an important manufacturing site for both military and transport aircraft. Now better known under the name of Gifu (pronounced Gihu) airbase.
The airbase is used by the Japan Air Self-Defense Force making it the oldest existing air force base in Japan.
This makes it a interesting place for spotters outside the airbase.
When walking from the parking lot to the entrance of the museum. You are greeted by some big airframes outside in the courtyard in front of the museum. Because they are displayed outside they look a little scruffy, but still worthwhile.
Entering the new refurbished museum, the amount of light in the main display hall is very noticable. This tempted me to take pictures without a flash. A first for me, still have to work on this skill. The results are not my best. The hall were the Kawasaki Ki-61 Hien is displayed is in contrast very dark. Emphasizing the “Hien” which is highlighted.
All the aircraft (jets and props), and helicopters on display all have a direct history with the airbase. All bearing Gifu Squadron markings. The odd one out is a “Blue Impulse” F-2. Do not know the idea behind this. All of the other non Gifu related aircraft which were on display in 2013 are now gone.
Most of the artifacts on display are testbed aircraft or are modified airframes for testing.
The most interesting ones are:
X-5 flying boat ( never entered production)
VTOL transport aircraft (Which dominates the main hall)
As everything in Japan the artifacts displayed are in immaculate condition to say the least.
Especially the Kawasaki Ki-61 “Hie” is displayed in a splendid manner. The sole surviving airframe is restored to perfection in bare metal. Some exterior JASDF markings are projected with a laser onto the airframe. I spent a lot of time here to admire and photograph this beauty. The Mitsubishi Zero in the same hall is a replica, so I could not be bothered to take pictures of that one.
The Kakamigahara Aerospace & Science Museum also houses various displays concerning the Japanese space exploration . Housed on the second level of the museum. Here you also get a splendid view of the aircraft on display at ground level.
Additional to all the airframes on display there are plenty of scale models and photographic placards to tell the story behind Gifu airbase.
And to make things very easy for foreigners visiting this museum they are bilingual, Japanese and English.
The last spot I visited was the museum shop. A neat little shop with very interesting stuff on sale. Bought two books regarding the restoration of the Kawasaki “Hien”. All Japanese of course but plenty of splendid pictures. And yes I’m an addict when it comes to detail shots of aircraft.
I must say that this was a very nice revisit of this museum. It really has improved. In the way they sorted out their collection and in the way they are displayed.
Text & photography: Ludo Kloek