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A Flight That Crashed in Japan 35 Years Ago Mysteriously 'Appeared' on a Flight Tracking Website

Flight number JL123 was seen approaching a Tokyo airport, just a few days before the anniversary of its catastrophic crash.
For illustrative purposes only. Photo: Jordan Sanchez on Unsplash

On Aug. 12, 1985, domestic flight JL123 took off from Tokyo’s Haneda Airport but 12 minutes into the flight bound for Osaka, the Japan Airlines aircraft experienced technical difficulties that destroyed its tail, leading to a fatal fall into the mountains of Gunma Prefecture. Only four people on board survived, while 520 died, making it the deadliest single-plane crash in history.

Many still remember the tragedy, which is why Japanese netizens were shocked when they saw the flight number JL123 appear on flight tracking website Flight Radar 24, just a few days before the incident’s 35th anniversary. It appeared to be approaching the Tokyo-Narita Airport on Wednesday, Aug. 5.


According to Netorabo, Twitter user @m3600 noticed the flight number when she checked on cargo planes that fly near her house. This came just days before Japan’s Obon season, a time when people’s souls are believed to return to the physical world. This year, Obon is on Aug. 13 - 16. The coincidence seems to have spooked some people.

“What, JL123… Why is it there?”

“This is really scary because the direction of the plane keeps randomly changing… And JL123…”

“JL123, the airplane that had disappeared years ago. What is it doing in Narita?”

“I mean it is Obon season. Maybe they have returned.”

But there was a more logical explanation for the flight number appearing on the website. The plane spotted was actually Japan Airlines flight JL712, which was returning to Japan from Singapore, the airline said. However, an airline staff member randomly chose the characters JL123 during a technical test, and the label remained for about 30 minutes, J-Cast reported.

Japan Airlines apologised for the confusion, saying that they had no bad intentions and would reevaluate their airplane number rules within the company, Kyodo reported.

While the explanation for the incident was nowhere near supernatural, one netizen said that this could be seen as a reminder to remember victims of the crash.

“It’s almost 35 years since the tragic accident. Perhaps this wasn’t a mistake, but rather 520 spirits telling us to never forget what happened.”

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