Flight to Ooshima

17 Jan 2009

Last year in April I went around the world with my professor and 2 people from the Narita Aeronautics Museum to visit famous (Aeronautical/Science) museums in Washington, London, Munich and Paris. One of the two people from the Narita Museum, Yamakawa-san, has a private flying license and invited me to one join him for a flight. After postponing several times because of busy schedules and bad weather, last January we went. I invited Tobi & Mae Rose to come along as the aircraft could seat 4, and we flew to Ooshima, the closest and biggest of the Tokyo islands.

We flew from Ryuugasaki airport (which is really tiny), where Yamakawa-san has an airplane he shares with 10 others or so.

Before taking off, a lot of inspection and checks are needed to make sure the plane is safe. All together it took about an hour! When Yamakawa was doing all this we were inside, checking the maps and the route Yamakawa had planned for us, while sipping a coffee...

Almost ready for take-off (still some taxiing and take-off checklist needed)

We flew south, over the Tokyo bay, straight over the "Umi Hotaru", which is an artificial island where the expressway connecting Kawasaki (south of Tokyo) and Kisazaru (Chiba) changes from tunnel to bridge. It is a very characteristic structure with the expressway making some loops and a building for sightseeing/resting/... (No good picture though, because we passed straight over it). Then we passed by Yokohama and had a great view of the harbour.

Yamakawa-san appeared to have even an instructor's licese, so he asked me whether I also wanted to try a bit. Sure! Of course, keeping straight and level flight was the beginning. Then trimming (adjusting the flaps' default, so you don't have to pull the steering column all the time) appeared to be quite tricky. And of course you also have to check your airspeed all the time... and sink rate... and the outside view (horizon, aiming point), and ... Well, althoug it is my research and I know the THEORY, I was happy Yamakawa-san took over for landing...

A friend of Yamakawa who lives on Ooshima was waiting for us with his son. Yamakawa apparently had arranged with him that he would show us around the island by car the whole day! We started with lunch (seefood) at a restaurant (Mantate). The local specialty of Ooshima (except for seefood, which is a local specialty in ANY Japanese see-side place where they don't have famous noodles) is Ashitaba. The picture shows a field of ashitaba just behind the restaurant, and they seem to use it for just about anything. From tempura (covered in dough and deep fried) and salad, to flavoring tea. Ashitaba literally means "tomorrow leaf", and it is said to have that name because it grows so fast that if you pick leaves today, you can pick fresh ones tomorrow. It's really nice stuff and I don't see why they don't have this elsewhere.

After lunch, we were brought to a small farm/shop where Tobi was extremely happy seeing some cows (they are very rare here in Japan) and we were treated on fresh milk and ashitaba tea. After that we were driven toward the crater (the whole island is actually a vulcano) and walked around a bit. Really going to the crater rim would take too much time, so we just enjoyed the overall picture instead of the close-up.

The next stop was the "Mabushi" fault (間伏地層断面).

Then we went on to a small harbour. Apparently the old house directly at the bottom of the hill, a bit to the right of the yellow boat was the home of the "izu dancers" from the "Izu no odoriko" story by Yasumari Kawabata (nobel prize winning Japanese writer). I read the story a year ago or so in "The Oxford Book of Japanese Short Stories", which I bought to have an easy introduction in Japanese literature (all are English translations).

Then it got time to go back, because we had to land on Ryuugasaki before sunset as there are no lights on the runway there... This is still Ooshima airport by the way, which is considerably bigger. All Nippon Airways even has regular flights on this airport (otherwise everyone would have to take the boat which takes a very long time). Although all passengers' luggage was screened, we could just go outside and more or less walk wherevener we wanted...

I thought it was a great opportunity to take my time and shoot a nice close-up of one of the airport lights.

On the way back I was allowed to fly a bit again. This time Yamakawa-san taught me how to make a nice turn and we ended up on the other side (west) of Yokohama (that WAS according to plan by the way). We passed very close to Minato Mirai, the relatively new bayside area with Japan's highest building (Landmark Tower) and the Pacifico Conference center where the ICAS 2004 conference was that brought me to Japan the first time.

Then we came to Yoyogi (this is the olympic stadium designed by the famous Japanese architect Kenzo Tange)

And one more of Tange's work: the Tokyo Metropolitan Government offices (at the right). And of course the rest of the Shinjuku skyscraper district.

Then we passed by my house and the Rikuge-en garden. We discussed before with Yamakawa that our houses were more or less along the route he had planned (he didn't know), and he planned such that we had some time to circle around a few times and get some nice shots.

The same for the University of Tokyo.

This is the Yasuda Court (Auditorium with clock tower), which is the symbol of the university. Unfortunately, the twilight, movement of the aircraft, and the zoom-level of the lens resulted in this kind of unsharp picture.

We forgot to bring our parachuttes, so we didn't really have any other option than to fly all the way back to Ryuugasaki in the Countryside and then get back by train again...

But at least I got a few more nice shots

And the landing is always the most fun of course :-)

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