1. Files
  2. Charts
  3. Japanese geography
  4. Free Flight Simulator Add-Ons
  5. Software
  6. Hardware
  7. Books
  8. Other Flight Simulator Tours

1. Files

These are Excel spreadsheets, which you can reformat and sort as you like

  • Itinerary for this tour, with altitudes, headings, distances, runway lengths
  • List of VOR and NDB frequencies for Japan (using FS2004's internal database). Currently, this is sorted into VOR and NDB categories and then alphabetized by abbreviation. But since ONC charts (described below) don't use the standard abbreviations, you may wish to sort the whole list alphabetically by name.
  • List of Japanese airports, altitudes, runway lengths (using FS2004's internal database)

2. Charts

  • Except where noted, all maps used in this website were generated with Microsoft Encarta Virtual Globe 1998.
  • For navigating and planning, I used a pair of Operational Navigation Charts (ONC), G-11 and F-10. ONCs are prepared for the U. S. military and show airports, terrain elevations, VORs, and NDBs at a scale of 1:1,000,000 -- the same scale as World Aeronautical Charts (WACs). Mine were purchased online at Sporty's Pilot Shop. Note: ONCs do not list radio frequencies; that's why I made the frequency tables described in the previous section. For more detail, it is also possible to purchase Tactical Pilotage Charts (TPC), which are made to a scale of 1:500,000 (the same as VFR sectionals, though they still lack radio frequencies and V-routes).
  • Both types of chart, ONC and TPC, have now been digitized and can be displayed in a web browser, one section at a time, using a free tool called Raster Roamer, currently maintained by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. To get started, select "Desire Product Level" (i.e., map scale) and scroll down to the world map. Click on the location you want to see and adjust from there.
  • I didn't know about this when I flew the tour, but VATSIM Japan has Standard Instrument Departure (SID), Standard Terminal ARrival (STAR), and Instrument Approach Procedure IAP) charts for several of the large Japanese airports.

3. Japanese Geography

  • I started with Dr. David A. Johnson's course website The Natural World of Japan. I recommend it strongly.
  • Geography is more interesting if you understand the placenames. Take Yokohama, for example, where the U. S. military maintains a large naval base. Yoko is coast, hama is beach or shore. This is near Tokyo. To is "eastern," kyo is "capital." Why eastern capital? Because the previous capital was Kyoto, and Tokyo is east of it. Or consider the many little islands: how many of the names end in -jima or -shima? Might that mean "island"? Look at the river names and see how many end in -gawa or -kawa. Might that mean "river"? Two websites can help you out. For a brief and manageable list of geographical terms, print out Thayer Watkins' Place Names in Japanese. Most of what you need to know is right here. If that doesn't help, look up the name of the city or terrain feature in Japanese Dictionary of Geography and Travels.

4. Free Flight Simulator Add-Ons

  • Super Flight Planner by Alessandro G. Antonini. I used this program (a) to extract information about airports and navaids from the FS2004 database and (b) to generate the basic plan for this tour.
  • Japan SRTM mesh by Jae Y. Shin. In Flight Simulator, the shape of the land (as opposed to what appears on the surface of the land) is determined by something called terrain mesh. Some meshes have more detail than others. For most of Japan, the standard mesh is Level of Detail (LOD) 5, meaning that it samples the elevation of the land once every 1223 meters. Shin's mesh is LOD 9, which means that it takes a sample every 76 meters. This doesn't matter so much in flat areas (like the American midwest), but in mountainous areas (like much of Japan), it makes a big difference: peaks look like peaks and valleys look like valleys. Everything looks more like it does in real life. Shin's mesh is split into two files: clicking on the link above will take you to AVSIM's file library. To find and download the two mesh files, search for japan mesh.
  • There are also some websites in Japanese where you can download terrain mesh, landclass, and additional scenery for Tokyo and Nagoya. I haven't installed any of these, so can't comment on their quality.
  • If you're not afraid to use scenery from FS2002, enhanced scenery for several more Japanese airports is also available. Very beautiful and very not free is photorealistic scenery from I haven't used either of these.
  • has organized links to make Japanese airports and AI traffic more realistic. Includes a special section dedicated to "the heroic efforts of the Japanese Coast Guard," including scenery and planes.

5. Other Flight Simulator Tours

6. Software

  • Flight Simulator 2004: Century of Flight. This program really requires an up-to-date computer with a good video card, plenty of memory (256MB minimum), and a fast processor (Pentium 4 running at 2 GHz or higher). If you have an older machine or a very basic video card (e.g., one that's built into the motherboard of your computer), try Flight Simulator 2002: it's inexpensive and runs well with fewer resources.
  • IL-2 Sturmovik: Forgotten Battles. If you feel like shooting something, try this World War II combat simulator. Be warned, though: this program is beautiful but hard. I am a long way from mastering it.
  • Photobucket. This isn't a program, just a free place to host your screenshots and digital photos. All of the screenshots from this tour are hosted by Photobucket.

7. Hardware

  • CH Products USB Yoke. If you are going to play Flight Simulator, you need some kind of controller. You can use the keyboard, but landing planes will be more work and less fun than it should be. Most people use a joystick: things to look for include programmable buttons, a throttle control, and a twist handle (if you want to handle the rudder yourself). With some exceptions, though, civilian planes are usually flown with a yoke, not a joystick. It is now possible to buy a yoke for your computer. You should know ahead of time that it will probably cost three or four times what you paid for the Flight Simulator program. For some people, this is simply out of reach. For other people, the block is conceptual: why should the accessories cost more than the program? That's a fair question. I decided to look at it this way. Getting my private pilot's license would probably cost me between $5,000 and $6,000 in the United States, much more if I were learning to fly in Europe. I can't afford that. So, I compromise and buy some extra hardware.
  • CH Products Pro Pedals. This is a harder sell than the yoke, which at least looks cool, whereas the rudder pedals just sit under your desk. But everything I've read about learning to fly with a computer says the same thing: get rudder pedals. Again, they will probably cost three or four times what you paid for the Flight Simulator program. Are they worth it? I guess it depends on how much money you have and how serious you are. I had a lot of fun and learned a lot about flying and navigation with just a joystick and the basic program. My goal now is to reach the point where, if faced with an emergency, I could land a small aircraft and live to tell about it. Not a twin-engine commuter plane, much less a jet: just a small, single-engine leisure plane. Not that this is ever going to happen. But just in case! Anyway, I decided that I needed to start practicing with rudder pedals.

8. Books

  • Cross-Country Flying by Jerry A. Eichenberger. This book is for student flyers who already know the basics of how to fly a plane and want to learn about planning a longer trip. Explains how the airspace system works (so you don't lose your license when you fly into a class-B airspace without getting clearance first), how to estimate your fuel needs, how to select landmarks for navigation, what you need to keep in mind when you're flying in the mountains, and how to stay alive "in the event of a water landing." A fun read even for someone (like myself) who has never actually flown a plane.
  • Earth: A Very Short Introduction by Martin Redfern. This book (which really is very short, only a hundred pages or so) is the first thing I read when I started to get interested in plate tectonics and had exhausted what was available on the internet. Before I read this book, I thought that geology was just collecting rocks. Not so! Geology is really the story of our planet, a story that is just as exciting as any novel. Did you know, for instance, that the Mediterranean Sea has evaporated several times in the course of the earth's history, and then been refilled by the Atlantic Ocean, pouring down through the Straits of Gibraltar in what must have been the world's largest waterfall? I had no idea.
  • A good atlas. Do you think of yourself as open-minded, cosmopolitan, and curious? If so, you need to own a world atlas. There's no two ways about it: if you want to be a citizen of the world, you need to know what it looks like and where things are. You also need a globe. Neither one has to be expensive!
  • What's missing from this list? A good book on Japan. Unfortunately, the one that everyone knows about, Ruth Benedict's Chrysanthemum and the Sword, is not accurate. This book was published in 1946, just after World War II. Friends, that was fifty years ago: the world that it describes (even if Benedict was right about she saw) has largely been obliterated: by the American occupation, which changed the economy and therefore the class structure of the whole country; by McDonald's; and by Hollywood.