After spending the day exploring Kumamoto, it was time to head back to the airport. The easiest place to catch the bus to the airport is at the Kumamoto Kotsu Center that is located downtown. Inside of the bus terminal, there are kiosks to pre-purchase the bus fare, which is ¥730 to the airport. You can pay exiting the bus, but that requires exact change.
Right on time, the bus shows up at the indicated platform and it is labeled “Airport Limousine” on the side. The seat pitch on this bus is not so friendly and made it a very uncomfortable 50-minute trip to the airport.
I must be becoming Japanese because I was dozing in and out of sleep on the bus and didn’t really wake up until we were about 5 minutes from the airport. The bus was nearly full by the time we reached the airport. The bus dropped us off exactly where it picks up passengers near the Arrivals Hall.
Arriving, I was interested in checking out the NAMC YS-11 that I mentioned at the end of the last report so I did the walk down to the end of the airport. Here is a better shot of this beautiful aviation relic. It was in a gated off area so I couldn’t get closer.
Walking back to the Departures Hall, I pass the empty International Terminal (there are only seasonal charter flights from Taiwan/China/Korea).
The façade of Aso Kumamoto Airport (I have no idea why Aso is in Kanji, but Kumamoto is in Hiragana).
The entrance of the Domestic Terminal showcasing the airlines that serve KMJ.
Again, the doors here are all adorned with hardwood. Unfortunately, only the façade is fancy and the rest of the airport is vintage and need of a makeover.
The JH check-in counter is next to JL. Approaching, there are three agents, two at counters and one at the kiosk. There is no one in line at the counters, but I went to the kiosk. The agent standing there greets me and does the check-in for me at the kiosk. This flight is less full than the previous flight, but I decide to stick with my originally booked seat (8K). The agent then hands me my boarding pass and reminds me of the boarding time.
With 90-minutes to my boarding time and no lounge access (there are NH and JL lounges airside), I head up to the observation deck to see what is on offer. If you are golfer, there is a makeshift putting green for you to use in the back corner. Not the nicest of observation decks, but it does its job.
Up first is this LQ B738 in Kumamon special livery, very appropriate for service into KMJ!
There is also a JL B738.
To stay with the 737 theme, there is also a NH B735 getting backed up.
The NH B735 taxis to the far end of the airport, and then takes off bound for ITM.
I didn’t mention it yet, but you might have noticed something interesting when the NH B735 was taking off. There was a NH B787 in the pictures. Believe it or not, KMJ is frequented by this NH B788 in from HND. I’m not a huge fan of the 800 series (too short and stubby), but here are some close up shots including a detailed shot of the cockpit and landing gear.
I really like this front-on appearance of the B787 with those awesome wings and big Rolls-Royce turbines…
… but then she turns sideways and shows how ugly she is.
The ground crew waves her goodbye as she heads off to the very, very end of the tarmac (all of the 737s were only using part of the runway).
Moments later, she comes barreling down the runway, gets the front wheel up, and then rises up into the sky making a sharp turn north towards HND. Look at how much wing flex there is in the second shot, the wing tips are higher than the fuselage of the plane!
Then bizarrely, this J-Air CRJ-200 takes off from the opposite direction (north) bound for ITM so I almost miss it and only get blurry shots. This was strange because all of the other planes were taking off south and making U-turns to head north.
The tarmac was now empty other than the LQ and JL B738s so I head inside for some dinner. Here is a look at the Departures Lobby from the 3rd floor.
I stop for dinner at a ramen shop to get one last bowl of delicious Kumamoto ramen (similar to normal tonkotsu ramen, but with a much more intense garlic taste) and karashirenkon (a famous food in Kumamoto), which is lotus root stuffed with spicy mustard and cooked.
We are now 20-minutes from the boarding time, so I make a quick stop at the FIDS. Delays for flights to Tokyo, but my flight is still on time. Right above my flight is the NH flight to Nagoya-Centrair.
My plane is scheduled to arrive from NKM so I head up to the observation deck for one last spotting session. The Aso Kumamoto sign is now glowing green in the night sky.
Out on the tarmac sits the NH Dash-8 Q400 in the green special livery highlighting NH as an “ECO Friendly Airline.” This plane serves the KMJ-NGO route and will be racing us back to Nagoya.
All of my landing shots were too repulsive to show, but here is my plane arriving at the gate. Believe it or not, it will be the “Tea Green” plane again (credit to lagentsecret for correctly guessing the plane). I guess it was a 15% chance of getting the same plane, so the odds aren’t that low, but still surprising to fly the same plane twice in the same day and definitely a first for me! The GK A320 with sharklets heading to NRT is the distance.
I then head back downstairs and towards security. You have to walk through all of the omiyage shops to get to security, so I obligingly stop and pick up omiyage for my friends and coworkers. Omiyage sales single handedly prop up the Japanese economy.
There were three lines for security and it was cleared within a minute. I forgot to take a picture from landside, so here is an airside photo of security.
We are leaving from Gate 6, so it will be right for us.
Movie theater style concession stands that are run by NH. NH knows they only do bare minimum domestic catering so here is your chance to buy beers or snacks for the flight. It’s not uncommon for people to BYOB on domestic flights.
Here is my gate. No action yet, but the masses are patiently waiting in the seating area. They are so well-behaved, Americans should take notes.
I wander over to the windows to tag my bird basking in the spotlights.
KMJ has free WiFi and it is run by the city, so you can actually register your e-mail address and get free WiFi in the city at designated hotspots (otherwise you get 10 minutes if you want to remain “anonymous”). Boarding pass and corporate shots.
No reason was given, but boarding started 5 minutes late. Again, passengers needing special assistance were called first, which was then followed by general boarding. Everyone formed a neat single file line. The jetbridge was blind, but there was a smiling FA awaiting us as we boarded the plane. She bowed and gave me a “good evening” in English, again no hesitation to speak English.
A picture of the cabin during boarding.
Here is my seat for this flight. Again, clean and tidy cabin with a nicely folded seatbelt.
A view across the aisle.
The plane is very clean, not a crumb in sight.
Seat pitch is the same as before, easily passes the barf bag test.
Here are some discrete shots of the FA uniform. They have red or white blouses worn under a dark navy blue dress with a red belt. They have the rainbow neck-scarf as well as their hair tied back in a bun.
Boarding is a little sluggish, so I take a peek out the window to see a JAL Express B738 parked next door with a NH B772 behind it.
Once the front door closes, the FAs make two passes through the cabin. First, distribution of newspapers. Second, distribution of blankets. I take one of the fleece throw blankets since it is now a little chilly.
The safety demonstration on this flight is done in Japanese only, followed by a pre-recorded short English version. This differs from the previous flight and might be a reflection of differences in crew English ability. As we back up, we can get better shots of the JL B738 and NH B772.
We taxi down to the far end of the airport for a south departure, turn around and then bolt down the runway giving me a repulsive blurry shot of the airport as we lift up.
We pass over downtown Kumamoto before making a sharp U-turn to head north back to Nagoya. Here are some aerial shots of Kumamoto.
It then started to get really bumpy. The pilots came on and made an announcement in Japanese about strong turbulence over Kyushu and that it would be about 20 minutes before we hit clean air. No English version. The FA then came on and reiterated the request to keep seatbelts fastened (in Japanese only). It was very choppy and many passengers looked concerned.
Eventually, the captain came on and said that we were passed the dirty air and would turn off the fasten seatbelt sign. The FAs sprung to life to get the in-flight service started.
Here is a tour of the seatback compartment. We have the DREAM3776 magazine that highlights the all Embraer JH fleet. We also have the two-sided safety card. Two waterproof disposal bags (not shown), and the NKM airport information folder.
The seat has the basic one-button control for the recline and the overhead controls are all standard.
There is nothing to see outside except for blackness so I just sit and wait for the drink cart to arrive.
Drink offerings are basic, so I just take a coffee, which is served with a wet towellete and a small brownie. I find the coffee to be a little on the ‘dilute’ side, looks more like English tea, but that’s pretty standard in Japan.
The cup is dual-propose and also serves as a trash can.
During trash collection, the FA stops by and asks me a couple of questions about where I was going and what I do for a living (general Japanese curiosity). After trash collection, we were already beginning our descent into Nagoya. I made a quick trip up the front lavatory, which was spotless. The FA would clean it after every passenger. Leaving the lavatory, the FA was standing there in the galley so I talked to her a bit about FDA.
We approached from the southwest and soured past downtown Nagoya on our way up to Komaki.
We did a fly by of Komaki (the black void in the middle of the photo), before turning around and landing from the north.
We can see downtown in the horizon as we touchdown from the north.
It was a little rough on the landing, but we made it. Taxing back to the terminal we can see five other planes parked, so we are the last plane to land for the night.
We pull into our spot next to Red.
Deplaning, the FA smiles, thanks me for flying, and wishes me a good night. I give her an otsukaresama and head down the stairs. Walking through the retractable jetbridge…
…then down the long haul hallway back to the arrivals hall in the terminal.
No bags to reclaim so I’m out the door and on the bus back to Nagoya-eki within 5 minutes of deplaning.
Thanks for joining me on this trip aboard Fuji Dream Airlines. There will be more reports on this carrier in the future. For those of you interested in the Kumamoto tourism bonus, keep reading. For those of you that are here for the business side of things, scroll to the bottom for summary and scoring.
Kumamoto is a beautiful city nestled in the mountains of Kyushu. There isn’t a whole lot to see, but it is very famous for its castle and well worth a stop. Unfortunately for my daytrip, I was doomed to grey skies.
Up first is Suizenji Jojuen (??????), a traditional Japanese garden located in the outskirts of downtown. The hydrangeas (????) were in full bloom.
No trip to Kumamoto is complete without eating Kumamoto ramen.
Kumamoto Castle is nestled inside of a huge park near the city center.
Which brings you to the main attraction: Kumamoto Castle (???). One of the most famous castles in Japan, it is known for it’s ominous and foreboding black appearance.
Unfortunately, its shachihoko can't compete with Nagoya's…
The top of the castle offers impressive views over the Kyushu countryside.
The Honmaru Goten (????) houses some exquisite rooms from the Hosokawa Clan.
The nearby Former Hosokawa Residence (??????) is an excellently preserved example of a samurai mansion.
That concludes this report. Tune in for the next one.
Fuji Dream Airlines
Kumamoto - KMJ
Nagoya - NKM
Another good experience with JH, they get the job done with friendly crews, above average in-flight service, and a comfortable economy product. For a domestic flight, you really can’t expect too much more. They have quickly become my favorite domestic economy carrier in Japan, but this really is only because they are based out of Nagoya and provide me a lot of utility.
Cabin comfort: I like the E-Jets, like most people, and find them to be one of the better short-haul narrow-body products. The plane is very new and clean. The seat pitch was generous, no seat mate, and a good quality blanket. Lavatory was spotless.
Crew: Another flight on JH, another good crew. You can tell they care about their company and are generally friendlier than most economy cabin crews on NH that I’ve run into. They never hesitated to speak English to me. They were chatty and initiated conversations with passengers, which is not common for Japanese carriers. Friendly welcome aboard, service done with a smile, and a warm farewell deplaning.
Meal and catering: On the world scale, service is pretty bare bones. On the Japan scale, service is above average (NH and JL do not serve towelletes or snacks with drink service).
Entertainment: No IFE, only the inflight magazine and blackness outside of the window. Newspapers were offered.
On-time performance: Boarded and left late with no explanation, but arrived only 2 minutes late.
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