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Japan Air Self-Defence Force Open Day 2019

In November 2019, the Iruma Base opened to the public.  It was a Japan Air Self-Defence Force open day event.  With an opportunity to get close to some famous aircraft, aviation enthusiasts turned up in droves.  I was one of them.

Japan Air Self-Defence Force Mitsubishi F-15J on tarmac

When the gates opened, everyone made a beeline for the big three: an F-4 Phantom II, a Mitsubishi F-2, and an F-15.   It was my first time, so I joined the line.  

Japan Air Self-Defence Force NAMC YS-11 turboprop airliner

Of course, it was hard to get good photos with so many people swarming around the planes.  So it was a patience game of waiting for a space to open.  Once one did, I had to move quickly.


After I finished photographing the aircraft on the ground, it was time to enjoy the ones in the sky.  There were lots of high-speed passes by jets.  We saw a Chinook doing a water drop.  Kawasaki T-4s buzzed the crowd, and there were paratroop drops.  It was very exciting!

Japan Air Self-Defence Force Mitsubishi F-2 multi-role fighter on tarmac
Mitsubishi F-2 on the tarmac.
paratrooper stick jumping from Kawasaki C-1 transport jet aircraft

On the tarmac, jets were only five hundred meters from where I was standing.  When they started up, the noise was incredible.  I had never heard jet engines close up before.  No one seemed to mind, though.

Japan Air Self-Defence Force Kawasaki T-4 taxiing with canopies open
JASDF Kawasaki T-4 after landing.

And there were the displays in the hangars.  There were parachutes, various engines and other equipment that the Japan Air Self-Defence Force used.  If you had time, you could line up with hundreds of other people to sit in the cockpit of a Kawasaki T-4 jet trainer.  Fun stuff, especially for kids.

Japan Air Self-Defence Force Kawasaki C-1 on tarmac preparing for takeoff
Kawasaki C-1 transport aircraft.

At this event, one thing surprised me but wasn’t aircraft-related at all.  It was the number of cameras!  There were so many.  And most of them had enormous lenses.  My 55-200 mm lens looked small against everything else.  So many people in the crowd had lenses well over 200 mm!

Japan Air Self-Defence Force F-4EJ Phantom II on ground with canopies open
F-4EJ Phantom II.
crowd looking at aircraft
Blue Impulse acrobat team Kawasaki T-4s on tarmac
Blue Impulse acrobat team Kawasaki T-4s on tarmac

The air show was an entertaining event to watch. The only complaint I could make was crowd management, which was extremely poor. Paths were poorly marked, with few staff directing the enormous flow of people when leaving. Hopefully, next year’s event will see this improved. Other than that, the show was brilliant! I can’t wait to go to the next one. You can see the base’s (Japanese) website here.  

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