There’s a broad variety of types to be seen at Hyakuri Air Base, including F-4 Phantoms and F-15 Eagles, as Paul Filmer illustrates from his recent trip.
Hyakuri is one base where you’ll always find photos on the internet and in in reports due to its proximity to Tokyo and, of course, the fact that the F-4 Phantoms are still flown from here.
In the morning the only decent places to shoot from are the famous platforms on farm land that the base was built around.
We found the gate to the land easily enough and were then confronted with signs mostly written in Japanese on how to gain access. There were two phone numbers and we took a punt at one of them.
It was obvious that the person at the end of the line spoke no English, but we banked on the fact that they would know the only reason a foreigner would call would be to ask for access.
It was still early so we hung out for a while and then security came by for a chat. This is normal procedure at all Japanese military installations. They asked a few questions, took a copy of our passports and bid us a good rest of the day.
After these formalities were complete, and with no sign of anyone coming to let us in the gate, I had the idea of asking security to call the number and explain that we’d like entry.
Unbelievably he took the phone and talked for five minutes before giving us the thumbs-ups and driving away.
A few minutes later a car appeared and out jumped a tiny old lady. She fussed around and got us to sign some paperwork, took the cash required, and unlocked the gate for us. Some say the forms are some kind of Communist Propaganda and others say it’s a petition against the airfield, but we’ve never found out for sure!
A small narrow track flanked by high security fences led to a more open area where we could park and it was here we found the first platform made out of wood.
Further along there were another two platforms, along with a crude toilet, and it was this location that we made our home for the morning.
These platforms allow you to shoot over the high fence and also get a good overview of the ramp and runway.
It wasn’t long before a couple of local photographers pitched up, just as the first aircraft taxied out for departure, right next to us.
The base mostly flies a mix of RF-4E, RF-4EJ, F-4EJ Phantoms, T-4 trainers and F-15J Eagles, along with U-125 and UH-60J. They follow a similar pattern to the flying at Nyutabaru where each squadron takes turns to launch and rotates throughout the day.
As the sun goes around this area becomes less desirable to shoot from so we eventually had to depart for the other side of the airfield.
There are lots of places to shoot from this side, although of course it can’t compare with the close in platforms. We had to contend with more heat-haze and more distance subjects too.
Here we bumped into Mark McGrath from Glasgow, which was pretty surreal!
We tried a couple of different spots along this side, but the light decided to make life harder for us as the sun decided to disappear for the day.
We eventually left as the light faded and the wind started to make the temperature quite chilly.