Earlier this year, I wrote about JAL Todofuken Seal, collectible stickers the airline’s cabin crew hands out to passengers. Continuing on that topic, I decided to take a look at some of the ways aviation enthusiasts in Japan are pampered.
Not only to remind myself how lucky I am to live in what is, perhaps, the most aviation enthusiast-friendly country in the world, but also to hopefully give you some inspiration for when you are planning a trip to Japan in the future.
So, let’s jump right in.
#1: Special Liveries and Thematic Onboard Service
Even though the days of Pokemon Jets are gone, Japan still has quite a few logo jets many of which only fly domestically that make the country well worth a visit if you are a plane spotter.
The current “flagship logojets” are most certainly ANA’s four Star Wars Jets which were gradually introduced into the airline’s fleet between 2015 and 2017. Two of them fly internationally while the other two fly domestically, as follows:
- Domestic ANA Star Wars Jets
- Star Wars ANA Jet (Boeing 767-300)
- C3PO ANA Jet (Boeing 777-200)
- International ANA Star Wars Jets
- R2D2 ANA Jet (Boeing 787-9)
- BB-8 ANA Jet (Boeing 777-300ER)
Separately from the above, both ANA and other Japanese airlines operate several other logo jets including, but not limited to, Flower Jet (ANA), Bear Do Hokkaido Jet (Air Do), Disney Celebration Jet (JAL), and Musubimaru Jet (Ibex).
Interestingly, many of the logo jets in Japan also feature in-flight service inspired by the theme ranging from special aprons worn by the cabin crew all the way to thematic headrests and drink cups.
#2: Observation Decks and Parks
I never looked at this in any sort of detail, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the percentage of airports that have outdoor observation decks in Japan was considerably higher than that percentage in any other country in the world.
Regardless of whether that’s the case or not, the fact is that almost every airport in the country that is served by airline flights has an observation deck. In case of larger airports such as Haneda or Narita, there might even be two or three.
Many of those decks are great for photography. Others not so much either due to fencing that makes taking photos challenging or the deck’s position relative to the sun. But, even then, the decks are a great place to enjoy watching aircraft and are used by not only plane spotters, but also the general public.
Related to the above, many of the airports are also offer parks that with not only great views of aircraft but also basic amenities such as vending machines and toilets.
#3: Hangar Tours and Aviation Museums
While special liveries and observation decks are more prevalent in Japan than most other countries, they can still be found elsewhere as well. However, when it comes to airline hangar tours available to the public, I believe Japan is the only country in the world where they can be found.
Similarly to “factory tours” by beer and other companies in the country, both JAL and ANA offer factory tours that anyone can register to participate in. What is more, both of the tours can be joined free of charge. (To learn how to join the ANA tour, read this article.)
Both of the “blue” and “red” tours are held at the airlines’ facilities at Haneda airport, and besides the actual hangar tour, also include a brief explanation about how aircraft work, etc. as well as a small gift to the participants.
There are plenty of aviation museums in the country as well, even though most of them are focused on military aviation. When it comes to civil aviation, the type that can be found most commonly is YS-11 – the only successful Japanese airliner until MRJ enters into service.
If you are interested in aviation museums, make sure to check my reviews of Museum of Aeronautical Sciences which can be found near Narita airport and Aichi Museum of Flight situated near Komaki airport in Nagoya.
#4: Crews Used to Avgeeks
With more and more aviation blogs, etc. appearing on the Internet, it seems like more and more crews are getting used to aviation enthusiasts taking photos of every small detail of aircraft seats and things like that.
However, because of the sheer number of aviation enthusiasts in Japan and the local “avgeek culture,” I’d say there are no crews used more to filling out passengers’ log books and posing for photos among other things than the Japanese ones.
In fact, besides the usual flight information such as departure and arrival times and runways, it is not uncommon to find drawings or stickers in your log book entries.
In many cases, you will also be able to get post cards and stickers (such as the JAL stickers mentioned in the beginning of this article) to take home with you as a souvenir.
#5: Aviation-Themed Movies and TV Shows
The final thing I am going to mention in this list is the relatively high number of aviation-themed movies and TV shows in Japan, many of them sponsored by either ANA or JAL.
While all of those feature a fairly simple storylines of someone working hard to become a cabin crew, pilot, or air traffic controller, they are interesting to watch due to the abundance of airport and aircraft footage.
Unfortunately, I don’t think they have been dubbed in English, but you might be able to find subtitled versions.
All in all, if you are an aviation enthusiast and have a chance to visit Japan, you should definitely do so. Whether it comes to plane spotting or learning about the history of aviation through hangar tours and museums, there are few countries that can equal Japan in the quality of facilities provided.
If you enjoyed reading this article, you might also enjoy this one about the four reasons why I enjoy flying with Japanese airlines and this one detailing eight things to do as an aviation enthusiast in and around Tokyo.