A is for Apple - and Aomori

Toward the end of September we took a trip up to Aomori (pronounced ah-oh-mo-ri) Prefecture at the northern end of the island of Honshu which is famous for its apples - among other things.   As we didn't have time to dilly-dally, we went by Series E5 train "Hayate" service.

Did you know that unlike diesel trains, the end cars on the Shinkansen lines have no motors?  Instead, they are distributed by 3s or 4s in the other cars of the train.  This distributed layout greatly improves traction, and so, acceleration, and efficiency compared to the old way of having locomotives drag the entire train from the front.  The E5 can accelerate from zero to 300 km/h in two minutes.
The afternoon before we left, we took Momo the Wonder Dog up to her doggy hotel at Lake Hinuma. It is run by a veterinarian and is a place she has stayed before  - when we went to Matsushima in 2011. A new service offered by them is posting a photo of your pet each day, so that you can see how they are doing via computer or cellular phone.

Here she is on her walk that evening:

She doesn't look very happy.  Still checking  things out and remembering being here before perhaps.  Or maybe she was just PO'd at being left behind.
As with our trip to Matsushima, Miyagi Prefecture, two years ago, a part of our purpose for choosing this destination was to spend our vacation money in the Tohoku region to do our bit to help their post-earthquake/tsunami economy. There were some things things up there of course that we had wanted to see for a few years, and which have become even more interesting to us in the last two years. One was the Misawa Aviation & Science Museum, another was Lake Towada. Each of these attractions turned out to be much more interesting than we had ever anticipated.

First stop for us was Hachinohe City, Aomori-ken, where we stayed in a new business hotel just a couple of blocks from the train station.  Hachinohe port is known as the squid fishing capital of Japan.  The port was hit hard by the tsunami, as was one of the local rail lines.

Captain to First Mate: "That's not what I meant when I ordered "hard to starboard"!
The hotel was great.  Most floors are designated "non smoking", fully equipped room, and a surprisingly good complimentary breakfast buffet.

Afterward I asked one of the staff "I am puzzled.  At breakfast I kept hearing a voice say, "You look very nice today, sir." To which he replied, "Oh, that's just the breakfast.  It's complementary, you know."   (Sorry about that.  Blame it on the UFO.)

UFO over Hachinohe Station as seen from our hotel.
After check out, we walked the few blocks to the car rental agency to pick up a Honda Fit.  When planning this trip I had initially thought of taking local trains  and highway buses, but after looking at the sparse timetables and costs, we opted for a car.

First stop, the Misawa Aviation & Science Museum, just outside Misawa Air Base, which is used jointly by the USAF and JASDF.    The museum opened  in 2003 and has an interesting collection of aircraft on display as well as a dizzying number of hands on scientific exhibits and simulators.  We focused on the aircraft, though K spent some time flying a hot air balloon over the area (in a simulator).

Several aircraft are on display outside the museum, some of which you can enter.
Pandabonium's Outdoor displays album on Photobucket
As one might expect the museum is popular with schools. We waited at the entrance as a "herd" of school children went in ahead of us. The museum knows how to handle large groups so that they get educated without disrupting the enjoyment of adult visitors.

Inside is where the aircraft I was most interested in seeing are on display. First of all is a replica of the airplane called "Miss Veedol" which was flown by Clyde Pangborn and Hugh Herndon Jr. in 1931 on the first ever non-stop trans-Pacific flight between Japan and the USA (East Wenatchee Washington as it happened, since their intended destination, Seattle, was socked in). Wenatchee and Misawa are sister cities nowadays. I did some instrument flight training in Wenatchee back in the early 1990s, flying out of Pangborn Memorial Airport.

If aviation history is of interest to you, do watch the following video which will give you an appreciation for the aviators and their achievement.

The airplane on display in Misawa is a replica since the original Miss Veedol, a Bellanca J-300,  was sold after the historic flight and later lost by the new owners in the sea during a flight from Italy. Another replica exists. It was built a few years ago by the Experimental Aircraft Association in East Wenatchee and is named "Spirit of Wenatchee". In 2011, after the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami, it was brought to Misawa by ship and flown before cheering crowds to celebrate the 70th Anniversary of the 1931 flight. The Spirit of Wenachee gave the spirits of the people of Misawa a much needed lift. 

The exhibit of the local Miss Veedol is beautifully done with the surroundings looking like a hangar. Behind the aircraft are drums to represent the amount of fuel that was being carried at takeoff (915 gallons).  They barely made it.

Another aircraft I was keen to see was a replica of the Kokenki long distance research aircraft built by Tokyo Empire University Aviation Laboratory in 1938.  Flying a triangular course (which passed just to the south of Kashima City) the Kokenki set a new world's record for long distance flight of 11,651.011 km.  When they landed there was still 500 liters of fuel left which meant that they possibly could have continued another 1,200 km.   

It was powered by a modified BMW design engine - a V12 of 715 hp built by Kawasaki.  The metal fuselage and wings were made with flush rivets to reduce drag, and the whole aircraft was highly polished.  The replica is impressive, the original must have been a beautiful sight in flight.

Two other replicas that interest me are  Sanji Narahara's "No. 2" plane, which on May 5, 1911 became the first Japanese made plane to fly in Japan.  Narahara was Japan's first civilian pilot and built his own aircraft.  And there is a replica of Einosuke Shirato's "Asahi Go" from 1915.  As Japan's second civilian pilot, Shirato trained other pilots and made many demonstration flights around Japan.

Those four planes have been of interest for a while and I would have gone to see just them.  But in the last couple of years an interesting find happened when during a survey of Lake Towada in Aomori-ken, they came across a World War II training aircraft resting on the bottom at a depth of 327 meters (over 1000 feet).   The Tachikawa Ki-54 was used for advanced training of air crews.  It could carry two pilots and 6 passengers (students).  No records exist of the flight which ended in the lake, but through interviews with people who lived in the area at the time, the story emerged.     In 1943, the twin engined  plane had been on a flight from neighboring Akita prefecture to Hachinohe with two pilots and two passengers on board.  A mechanical problem forced them down and the pilot ditched the plane in the lake.  Sadly, only one person got out and was rescued by local fishermen.    Last year the aircraft was brought to the surface and has undergone some reconstruction work at the museum.  The remains of the the other three aviators were found in the plane.

Tachikawa Ki-54

Also, a movie was released in 2011 about Isoroku Yamamoto and a Mitsubishi Zero replica was constructed for the movie.  It is presently at the museum as well.

So, for an extra ¥100 one can now also see the beautiful Zero and the lost Ki-54.

I bought this movie with English subtitles (Amazon UK carries it as "The Admiral") and I  think it is pretty good.  It honors the man for his continued efforts to stave off war and when he could not do that, to bring it to as swift an end as possible.
The Ki-54 is eerie to look at.  Much of the damage one sees was done in bringing it to the surface.  The condition is remarkably good considering where it was for nearly 70 years.

The painted numbers and emblems are still clear.  The symbol on the tail is the group that it belonged to.  Made up of Chinese characters for the number 8 (八) arranged in a triangular fashion, so one can see three eights - it stands for Group "38".  

Pandabonium's Tachikawa Ki-54 album on Photobucket

We left the museum, stopping to admire the Herdon and Pangborn monument at the entrance, and headed for Sabishiro Beach, where Miss Veedol began her historic trans Pacific flight.    [In fact, Miss Veedol had started in New York and would circumnavigate the earth, but that race and the reward was already lost to Wiley Post, so the Pacific flight would give them a new record and a $25,000 reward from Japan.]

Sabishiro Beach

Sabishiro Beach Post Office - we stopped to ask if they had any stamps commemorating Miss Veedol, but they did not and suggested with check with the main Misawa PO.  They were very friendly.
We found a nice soba restaurant and enjoyed a very good lunch before heading inland and following the river toward our next adventure...

つづく (to be continued) HERE


Martin J Frid said...

So much greatness in one post, and then you tell us you have more! Looking forward to the next installment (drum roll).

I like how they display Miss Veedol in a replica of what a hangar must have looked like back then in the 1930s.

And how was Momo when you got her back...?

Pandabonium said...

More to come about the trip...

and more about Momo as well.

The Moody Minstrel said...

It has been a while since I've stopped in here. It's good to see "Pacific Islander" still going strong...not to mention Momo and crew. ;-)

As an aviation buff myself, I would LOVE to see that museum! Something else to add to my "priority visit" list.

BTW, Pandabonium, on another topic, a fellow ex-pat friend just posted online that he has a student who wants to do a longterm homestay in Fiji. He is looking for any kind of information or advice he can get on that subject. Is there anything you could offer on that note? If so, please let me know.


Pandabonium said...

Hi Moody. Thanks for stopping by. My pics didn't do the museum justice. Must see if you find yourself up that way.

As for Fiji, there are a couple of websites that post home stays offered and wanted. Most are in the capital of Suva. Here's one in the North of the country: http://www.responsibletravel.com/accommodation/7901/fiji-homestay

Listings: (copy and paste)


Check which currency is quoted as sometimes they just say dollar without specifying Fiji dollar. One Fiji dollar is about 54 cents US.