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Visiting Airport Observation Decks in Japan

DALLAS — Japan has the best aviation culture in the world, which also applies to photography; when you think of aviation photography, you probably think of Japan.

Japanese people love innovation and engineering, which can be seen in their modern cities, but they also love aviation, and planes perfectly represent both of them.

The country has also built some important planes for the aviation industry; most of them are military, like the Mitsubishi A6M Zero or the modern Kawasaki C-2, but for the commercial sector, they have done relevant planes like the NAMC YS-11 or Honda HA-420 HondaJet.

Innovation can also be reflected in modern airport buildings equipped with technological equipment for check-in or security.

But for aviation lovers, Japanese airports are perfect. Almost all the airports have “Observation decks,” which are terraces from where you can see planes and take photos. These terraces also have restaurants, resting areas, and charging zones, making them the best space to spend time seeing planes, taking pictures, or waiting for your flight hour. 

The Japanese Transport Ministry opened the first observation deck at Tokyo Haneda Airport(HND) in 1955. It was created to allow people to enjoy airport movements and increase their interest in aviation safely.

Due to the success of this first terrace in Tokyo, the administration of Osaka-Itami Airport(ITM) opened the second Observation Deck in Japan in 1958. In recent years, terraces have become more common in all Japanese airports, and they all have at least one small terrace used for families to see their parents leave or arrive.

There are a lot of observation decks in Japan, but we can show you some of them, at least the most important:

Tokyo Haneda Airport (HND) - Terminal 1

This observation deck was first opened in Japan in 1955. It is located on the 5th floor of Haneda Terminal 1, the terminal used by Japan Airlines, StarFlyer, and Skymark Airlines. 

The terrace is approximately 6,000m2 and is equipped with benches and binoculars. Inside the terminal are restaurants where you can buy food or drinks and bathrooms.

This one has two floors and two sides, so you can choose the terminal side you want to see or go to the higher floor with a panoramic view of the runway. From this terrace, if the meteorological conditions are correct, you will be able to see Mt. Fuji.

Tokyo Haneda Airport (HND) - Terminal 2

This is one of the most famous Observation decks in Tokyo Haneda. From this terrace, you can see the ANA operations and the 16L/34R runway. SolaseedAir and AirDo also use Terminal 2.

This terrace is located on the 5ft floor and is approximately 2,500 m2. It has two sides: one has a bar, and the other has a cafeteria, which you can use while enjoying the views. Also, inside the terminal, you have everything you need, including restaurants, stores, multiple charging zones, and restrooms.

Tokyo Haneda Airport (HND) - Terminal 3

This terrace is the smaller one in Haneda, but it offers more variety because it is located in the international terminal. You can still see ANAs and JALs, but many international airlines also fly here. From this one, you can see the 16R/34L runway.

The terrace is located on the 4th floor and is approximately 1,000m2. There is nothing besides benches and educative information, but everything you need is inside the terminal. On the same floor, there is a curious aviation store.

Osaka-Itami Airport (ITM)

The Osaka-Itami Airport (ITM) terrace was the second to be opened in Japan. It was opened in 1958 following the Tokyo idea and success.

Nowadays, from almost the whole 4th floor, you can see the ramp, which at the end gives approximately 4400m2, and you can pick any place in the terminal from where you can see.

Due to the space extension, you can choose which gates you want to see from this place. However, out of the 4400m2, only 1900m2 with ramp vision are perfectly equipped with benches and places where you can hide from rain or sun.

On the same 4th floor are cafeterias and restaurants; inside the terminal, you can find everything you need.

Sapporo New-Chitose Airport (CTS)

The New Chitose Terrace opened in 1991 and is on the airport rooftop. Just below it is the “food floor,” where you have many food options and everything else you need, like bathrooms or charging zones.

The observation deck is approximately 1000m2, probably one of the smallest in an international airport in Japan. It is equipped with benches and binoculars.

From this deck, you will see the east runway, part of the cargo ramp, and the gates just in front of the terrace.

Sapporo Okadama Airport (OKD)

Okadama is the regional Sapporo airport that operates Hokkaido Air System, Fuji Dream Airlines, and Toki Air. You will only see ATR 42, ATR 72, and Embraer 175.

However, this small airport also has a small observation deck where people can welcome or say goodbye to their families.

This 400m2 terrace is located on the airport's rooftop and is easily accessible via stairs or elevator. A vending machine sells snacks or drinks while you take photos or wait for a plane; everything else you need can be found inside the terminal.

Fukuoka Airport (FUK) - Domestic terminal

The Fukuoka Airport terrace is probably the most well-known among aviation photographers in Japan.

The distance to the closer taxiway centerline is 60m, which is close when an Airbus A350 or a Boeing 787 passes in front of the observation deck.

This observation deck has two floors: the lower one is 1400m2, and the higher one is 2900m2. You can see the entire domestic ramp and almost the whole runway from the terrace.

The best time to visit the terrace is at night, or you can go early and enjoy a beautiful sunset.

The short distance to the planes brings many visitors and aviation photographers every year. On this terrace, an 18mm lens(or 24mm if you own a full-frame camera) with a big aperture (for example, f/2.8) will be your best option to take lovely photos from there.

Japan has the best aviation photography culture in the world, and all the observation decks we mention here demonstrate this affirmation.

From all these terraces, you can take beautiful photos and enjoy the airport's movements.

Stay tuned to Airways for future posts in this new Visiting Observation Deck series.

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