Japanese aviation started in Tokorozawa, Saitama prefecture. And today, the Tokorozawa Aviation Museum sits in that exact location. It tells the story of the country’s connection with flight. This place is a mini-mecca for lovers of aircraft. The exhibits are excellent and worth seeing for anyone interested in the subject.
The museum is well-thought-out with several zones. One is for history. It displays mementos and exhibits from the past, including some pilots’ outfits. Then there is a laboratory/science area. That is where kids can do hands-on stuff with models (Japanese language ability here is a plus, though). Last, there is a commercial aviation section complete with a control tower. The tower came from an actual airport. It’s all good stuff, but most people will spend their time in the main exhibit area. And that is because the aircraft are there.
There are lots of helicopters and light planes. You’ll even find one jet trainer from the JASDF (Japan Air Self-Defense Forces). Some displays are on the floor, and some are suspended from the ceiling. A pity you can’t reach the ones high up to look inside. Anyway, they are all fantastic and in good condition.
As a military and civil aviation enthusiast, I enjoy all the exhibits. Yet, I do wish there was a real warbird in the collection. You’d think this might be the perfect place for a Mitsubishi Zero. Some years ago, they did have one for a short time, but it was on loan from an American institution.
The museum ranks very high, as the exhibits are excellent. Information on plaques is in Japanese and English (translations can be a little dodgy). It also has a gift shop, a restaurant, and an IMAX theatre. And if you have a smartphone with headphones, you can download an audio guide. That will give you the information to listen to as you walk around instead of reading.
While the museum is small, I doubt aviation buffs will mind as the displays are high quality. Some planes mightn’t be well-known outside of Japan, but it is the perfect place to learn more about them. It would be great if a Zero were in the permanent display. If that happened, the museum would become a much bigger tourist attraction.
Why is the museum in Tokorozawa?
As we know, Tokorozawa was the site of Japan’s first permanent airfield. And the first person to use it was Yoshitoshi Tokugawa. The original single runway he took off and landed on is still visible. It is now part of a huge park, the Tokorozawa Aviation Memorial Park. And that is why the site was chosen. To tell the story of the country’s beginnings with aviation at the spot it started.
What aircraft are at Tokorozawa Aviation Museum?
- Bell UH-1 Iroquois helicopter
- Curtiss C-46 Commando
- Farman III biplane (replica)
- Fuji T-1 jet trainer
- Hughes Kawasaki OH-6J Cayuse helicopter
- Kawasaki KAL-2
- Kawasaki Vertol V-44 helicopter
- NAMC YS-11 turboprop
- North American T-6 Texan
- Sikorsky H-19 Chickasaw helicopter
- Spad S.XII biplane (replica)
- Stinson L-5 Sentinel.
- In terms of lighting, it is easy to photograph as the museum is reasonably well-lit.
- There are many exhibits in a small space, so wide-angle lenses are very useful.
Where is the Tokorozawa Aviation Museum?
The museum is very close to Koku-Koen station, on the Seibu-Shinjuku line.
Coming from Tokyo, there are a few different ways to get there. If you come from Ikebukuro, take an express Seibu-Ikebukuro line train to Tokorozawa. Then change to a local Seibu Shinjuku and get off at Koku-Koen. The trip should take about thirty minutes.
If you are leaving from Shinjuku, you can use:
1) the Seibu-Shinjuku line (which is not in the big JR station, you can see the location on the map). Express trains take roughly thirty minutes;
2) Or use the Yamanote line from JR Shinjuku to Takadanobaba. Then change to an express Seibu-Shinjuku line. At Tanashi, switch to a local train to Koku-Koen Station. The trip takes about 50 minutes.
Before you go, check train timetables as you might get lucky and find an easier connection. At Koku-Koen station, leave via the east exit, and it is about an eight-minute walk to the museum.
Here is a Google map:
- The museum is open from 10:00 am to 4:30 pm (with last admittance at 4:00 pm) Tuesday to Sunday but is closed on Mondays;
- As with many museums in Tokyo, if Monday is a public holiday, it will be open and closed the following day, and;
- It is also closed on the third Tuesday in December and over the New Year period, from December 29 until January 1.
- Main exhibition hall – 520 yen
- IMAX theatre – 630 yen
- You can get both tickets as a set for 840 yen
Other photo spots near the Tokorozawa Aviation Museum
- Tokorozawa Aviation Park is right outside, and it is enormous. There is a lot there to explore, and;
- Saishou-tei, a tea house, is a short walk from the museum. You can enjoy Japanese teas there and enjoy a walk in its beautiful garden.
The Tokorozawa Aviation Museum is excellent for aviation buffs. While it might lack a big-name aircraft from Japanese history like a Zero fighter, what it has is very good. One day, we hope, one might join the collection. Keep your fingers crossed!
Please be aware that there are some entry procedures to go through due to coronavirus. I didn’t feel these to be intrusive or difficult. It was a temperature check for my visit; use disinfectant and fill in a small form. Everything is for safety reasons.
The link to the Tokorozawa Aviation Museum website is here. If you are an aviation buff, you should enjoy this place. I know I do.
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You can leave any comments and questions below.