National

Seaplane line may launch sightseeing flights over Sea of Japan and Seto Inland Sea

Kyodo

The nation’s only seaplane company is thinking of launching a new service for tourists next spring to show off parts of western Japan facing the Sea of Japan and the Seto Inland Sea.

Setouchi Seaplanes plans to fly its amphibious Kodiak 100s between the Sanin and Sanyo regions. Poor transportation between the two regions has also prompted municipalities to examine the possibility of using its services for travel to remote islands and locations.

“We’d like to start by making the new flight service a bridge connecting the Sanin and Sanyo areas, and eventually expand operations all over Japan so our flights will become an everyday means of transportation,” said Tsutomu Ishimoto, 60, the planning manager for the Hiroshima-based company.

The unit of Setouchi Holdings Inc., based in Onomichi in Hiroshima, began holding sightseeing flights last year from Onomichi Floating Port, offering scenic views of the islands in the inland sea.

The 50-minute Setouchi Discovery Flight costs ¥32,000 ($290) on weekdays and ¥37,000 on weekends for adults, and ¥22,400 on weekdays and ¥25,900 on weekends for children 2 to 11.

To launch services between cities, Setouchi Seaplanes has decided to start a route from Matsue, Shimane Prefecture, though the price hasn’t been set yet.

In a trial flight conducted for the tourism industry in July, a seaplane carrying seven people departed from Lake Nakaumi in Matsue, providing contrasting views of the blue sea and green mountains as it flew along the Shimane Peninsula facing the Sea of Japan before returning to land on the lake.

“The aircraft ride was not as bumpy as I had expected,” said hotel manager Shyuntaro Takeshi, 54, one of the participants. “It may be interesting to add this to the options offered by our hotel.”

Stirring hopes for the economy, the company is also looking into the possibility of establishing a tie-up with West Japan Railway Co. (JR West), which runs the Twilight Express Mizukaze luxury sleeper train.

Under consideration is an option to offer sightseeing flights over the Sanin area enveloping Shimane and Tottori prefectures, as well as northern Yamaguchi Prefecture, to JR West passengers.