Sunday, November 16, 2003


The busiest airport in Asia (by far) is Tokyo Haneda airport. This carries around the same number of passengers per year as London Heathrow, but few people who have not lived in Japan have ever heard of it. The reason for this is that it is a purely domestic airport (the one exception being that flights to Taiwan used to depart from it, although I am not sure if this is still the case). Haneda is right next to Tokyo bay, and to get to it you go on a monorail that goes along the edge of Tokyo Bay through a landscape of smelters and other industrial artifacts. And when you get there, you find that it is indeed a major airport.

If, however, you wish to fly to anywhere outside Japan, you depart from Narita airport, which in terms of passenger movements is about half the size of Haneda, which is similar to London Gatwick. (For many years attempts to expand the airport were held up by rice farmers who refused to sell the land on which the extensions were to be built. Farmers are an incredibly powerful political lobby group in Japan, probably even more so than in France). And it is an immensely long way out of the city, being about 100km north. This means that getting to and from the airport is time consuming and expensive, which is extremely annoying.

But this morning it wasn't so bad. I caught the bus from Shinjuku station to Narita, and we went along the edge of Tokyo Bay, and then across the Rainbow Bridge, and across a few other bridge and causeway connected islands from the south of central Tokyo to the north. The weather was beautiful and the bay sparkled and the city was beautiful. (Beautiful is not a word you would always connect with this city). Then we went north through the industrial landscape of Chiba - somewhat lighter industry than nearer Haneda, but not especially light in absolute terms. I suppose I could have stopped off in Chiba to get some Zeiss Ikon eyes installed, but time was short. So on to the airport, where I am now.

Tokyo is of course a maritime city and a great port, but people who visit do not always fully appreciate this. The city is an immense mass of concrete, to put it bluntly, and the major attractions do not have anything to do with the water. However, a walk along the waterfront is a fine thing to do, as everywhere. Like everywhere else, Tokyo has had waterfront redevelopment since the retreat of container shipping. (Something I promised to write about previously but have not yet gotten around to). And, perhaps amazingly, one finds a little evidence of the past on sections of the waterfront. There is even a few remnants of World War 2 if you look carefully - gun emplacements and that kind of thing.

But I have a plane to board. To London.

No comments:

Blog Archive