More women taking to plane spotting at Centrair

Chunichi Shimbun

More women have joined the groups of men taking photos of landing and departing aircraft at Central Japan International Airport (Centrair).

Given the nickname “Sorami” (Sky Beauties), these women — who own high-quality camera equipment typically used by professional photographers — are willing to wait hours just to take an original shot of their favorite aircraft.

Out on the runway, an All Nippon Airways Boeing 777 is conducting a touch-and-go exercise, landing and taking off again without coming to a stop.

Atsuko Kawakita, 22, stands out among the group of male photographers gathered at the Sky Deck on top of the terminal, where people can observe Centrair’s air traffic.

“I fell in love with the glamor of airplanes and airports and how removed they seem to be from our daily lives,” said the first-year student in Nagoya University’s Graduate School of Science.

Kawakita became a Sorami after going on a tour organized by Centrair in February. Impressed by the size of the commercial planes and the powerful sound of their engines as she walked on a path near the runway, she immediately bought a ¥30,000 camera and telephoto lens using the money she had saved up from a part-time job.

She found out about the touch-and-gos through an airport Twitter announcement.

“I keep missing the focus point,” she says while snapping away. “My goal is to take a good shot of the exact moment the plane takes off.”

The nickname Sorami was first coined last year at a photography event for women at Narita International Airport.

“The term of endearment spread through the Internet, and I think eventually to the Chubu region to women who wanted to try it too,” a Centrair PR officer said.

Takami Suzuki, 40, a part-time worker from Nishio, Aichi Prefecture, says she has recently become a Sorami, and that she’s been going to Centrair twice a month. She uploads her photos onto her computer and edits them to make them look like oil paintings.

Suzuki favors international planes and uses a single-lens reflex camera. On one occasion she stayed at the airport more than five hours.

“You get lost in it so easily,” she says with a laugh. “My daughter always looks bored while she waits for me in the terminal building.”

Tomoko Suzuki, a 43-year-old self-employed businesswoman, walks around the Sky Deck carrying a large bag filled with camera gear that collectively cost her ¥1.5 million.

She chooses a prime position and sets her camera with a 500 mm telephoto lens on a tripod. Using earphones, she listens in on communications between the control tower and airplanes while checking the position of planes using her smartphone.

But Suzuki’s dreams are bigger than the airplane shots she takes.

“I want to take part in a major photography contest,” she says. “I try taking photos from different angles, like from the shore.”

People traffic at Centrair has been down, so the operating company has started a new section on its website featuring recommended photo spots and techniques in the hopes of attracting more Sorami.

This section, appearing Saturdays, features topics and issues from the Chubu region covered by the Chunichi Shimbun. The original article was published April 27.

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