Tokorozawa Aviation Museum: A photo guide

yellow North American T-6 Texan aircraft
A North American T-6 Texan.

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. It has several zones. One is for history and displays old mementos and exhibits, including some pilots’ outfits. Another 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 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. That is because the aircraft are there.

NAMC YS-11 turboprop outdoor display aircraft
NAMC YS-11 turboprop near the train station.

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.

Fuji T-1B jet trainer aircraft
Fuji T-1B jet trainer aircraft.

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.

Tokorozawa Aviation Museum
The Tokorozawa Aviation Museum.

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.

A brief history of the museum

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 the huge 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.

Sikorsky H-19 Chickasaw
Sikorsky H-19 Chickasaw.

What aircraft are at Tokorozawa Aviation Museum?

They include:

  • 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

Photography tips

  • 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.

Other photo spots in the area

  • Tokorozawa Aviation Park is right outside, and it is enormous.
  • Saishou-tei, a tea house, is a short walk from the museum. You can enjoy Japanese teas there and its beautiful garden.
Vertol V-44 helicopter
Vertol V-44 helicopter.

Tokorozawa Aviation Museum details

See the museum’s location and opening hours on the official website.

Wrapping up

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. We hope one might join the collection in the future. Anyway, if you are an aviation buff, you should enjoy this place. I know I do.

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