Category Archives: Aviation

When aliens attacked Kawasaki

Continuing the alien theme started by Curzon:

Close to midnight on August 5, 1952, four American air traffic controllers walking across the tarmac at Haneda Airport (then a US military base) spotted a round, bright object in the sky over Tokyo Bay. They went up to the tower and took a look through their binoculars, and noticed a larger dark ellipse surrounding the light.

Over the next few minutes, the controllers tried to get visual confirmation from an airborne observer plane, which couldn’t see anything. They were able to get a radar fix on the UFO, though, and so they had a scrambled fighter jet intercept it. The pilots didn’t spot the UFO, though, and shortly after the radar intercept the UFO disappeared.

The original US Air Force report is available in scanned format here. Nobody was ever able to explain what happened; my personal theory is that the aliens were coming for Kenzo Tange so they would have someone to do their design bidding on Earth.

Employment law in Japan: the Civil Code, the Labor Standards Act and work rules collide (with a cameo by Northwest Airlines!)

Japan and the US supposedly operate on fundamentally different legal systems. Japan has a “civil law” system where all the rules ultimately have some source in a neatly-organized set of statutes, whereas the US follows the English “common law” system of letting ancient court cases govern large areas of law, such as contracts and real estate. Although this is what you’ll learn in a Law 101 class, the distinction is actually not so simple in practice. Both systems are fundamentally patchworks of overlapping statutes and judicial fiat.

Japanese employment law is a good example of this. The Civil Code (民法), which is the general basis of private legal relations in Japan (contracts, property and familial relationships), has some basic rules governing employment and labor contracts. The Labor Standards Act (労働基準法), enacted by the Diet after World War II, goes into more detail about workers’ particular rights. Since then, there have been even more statutes covering family care leave, temp staff dispatching and other more minute areas, and there have been a number of precedents which seemingly overwrite the statutes altogether. Lifetime employment, arguably one of the key principles of Japanese employment law, is not enshrined anywhere in the Japanese code books; it comes entirely from court cases playing fast and loose with the Civil Code.

In practice, people usually look to expert advice to figure out what’s going on. One of my favorite online resources is a law firm called Eiko, an outfit of eight horribly serious-looking Japanese lawyers and one not-so-Japanese lawyer based in Osaka. I have no clue how good they are in the courtroom, but they put out four short articles each month in Japanese through their “Business Law Front Line!” (ビジネス法務最前線!) newsletter. You can subscribe here.

This week, one of their topics is employer liability for economy-induced work stoppages. This is a phenomenon you’ve probably heard about in the news: many Japanese companies are shutting down entire lines and telling their employees to take some time off. The full article, by attorney Yukari Ikeno, is here. Here’s a translation of the meat of it:

Under the Labor Standards Act, when work stops “due to the fault of the employer [the company],” the company must pay wages (or salary) at no less than 60% of the ordinary rate.

On the other hand, under the Civil Code, when an employee is unable to provide labor “due to the fault of the creditor [the company],” the employee does not lose their right to receive the full amount of their salary.

Although it is hard to interpret which of these two standards applies to form a duty to pay, the Supreme Court held, in its decision of July 17, 1987 on the Northwest Case (ノースウエスト事件), that if the Civil Code standard is fulfilled, the worker may claim the full amount of their salary under the Civil Code provision.

As some additional color (and because I love to talk about the history of Japanese aviation), this was a case from the late 70s which arose during a Northwest Airlines employee strike in Tokyo. The strike forced the Tokyo station to close, halting Northwest’s continuing service to Osaka and Okinawa. Northwest told its employees in the latter cities (who were not striking) to stay at home and cut their salary for the duration. The Supreme Court used this opportunity to state that the Civil Code provision covered a wider range of issues than the Labor Standards Act provision—and then said that it didn’t really matter, because the strike was caused by the union and therefore the employees had no right to invoke either provision.

Continuing:

This interpretation gives rise to doubt as to why the Labor Standards Act, a law for the purpose of protecting workers, provides for a lower standard of payment than the Civil Code. It’s a bit confusing, but here is how we understand this point:

Under the Labor Standards Act, even language similar to that of the Civil Code would be rigidly construed against the employer from the general legal standpoint of protecting workers. Thus we understand that the company has an obligation to pay 60% or more in any case, except in cases of force majeure such as a factory being destroyed in an earthquake.

On the other hand, under the Civil Code, as the language states, when the employee has become unable to provide their labor, the employee must prove that there is some fault on the part of the company, thus limiting, moreso than the Labor Standards Act, the cases in which the liability of the company may be found.

So compensation under the Labor Standards Act, despite being lower in amount, also greatly relaxes the worker’s responsibility to provide evidence, and is therefore viewed as protecting the worker.

Views diverge as to whether losses from the current worldwide recession can give rise to the 100% payment under the Civil Code. One can believe that these would have to be determined judicially on a case-by-case basis.

Oh no! Litigation! But wait, there’s a solution:

To avoid this sort of dispute, a company should preventively provide in its rules of employment that “for days when a work-stoppage allowance is paid, the worker may not claim any salary in excess thereof.”

That’s why your company writes really long rules of employment; they don’t want to have to go through all that just to find out how much they owe you. That said, such a provision would likely be more of a deterrent than an actual bar to claiming full salary, since the law still applies regardless of what the work rules say.

AWESOMENESS ALERT: Ark Hills to get Chopper Flights to Narita!

Joe has previously written about the potential for corporate and personal jets to make it big in Japan, what with Japan’s massive excess of airports previously noted in this post. Joe also pointed out the enormous heliports in Shin-Kiba, a relatively remote and underutilized location.

For me, when I look at a Google Maps satellite view of Tokyo, all I see is wasted potential. Almost every major skyscraper in Tokyo has a rooftop heliport. Narita Airport is infamously far away from the center of Tokyo (and even more galling, Japan’s famous bullet trains don’t run to Narita, despite the fact that this would be the best way to promote the symbol of technological Japan to the world). There is a helicopter service that flys between Narita Airport and heliports in Tokyo, Gunma and Saitama—probably a good thing for the few rich executives living out in mountain ranches in Gunma—but basically pointless for those in Tokyo. Why? For some reason, it’s located out in Shin-Kiba, a relatively remote area near Tokyo bay, and requires a taxi ride from the station if you’re taking the train.

Joe and I have discussed this in the past as utterly pointless. The chopper flight costs thousands of dollars, yet if you live in most parts of urban Tokyo, it takes the same amount of time to get there as taking the express train or bus! Why, we lamented, can’t the Tokyo heliport be the top of the Shin-Maru building in Marunouchi, or atop of Roppongi Hills? That’s a type of service that executives and bankers could probably use, and it could probably get enough interest to level-up from a charter flight to a quasi-regular heli-bus service.

But there’s breaking news on this front: starting next month, Ark Hills in the Akasaka/Roppongi area, one such building with an unused heliport on its roof, will become a heliport offering chopper flights to Narita Aiport! This is even more awesome for everyone’s favorite Viceroy because I work in Ark Hills! (Although it seems unlikely that I’ll be able to afford the inevitably overpriced fare.) Here’s an excerpt from the Nikkei story:

Mori Building Co. will start in April helicopter charter service between Narita airport and Ark Hills, a major commercial complex it owns in central Tokyo, targeting foreign business executives visiting Japan on company-owned private jets.

President Minoru Mori has been nursing the idea for many years, feeling himself that the two hours it takes to travel from Narita to the firm’s headquarters is annoyingly long. From the airport to central Tokyo, for example, takes about an hour by express train. The charter flights will be serviced with rented helicopters until an aircraft purchased from Eurocopter for 500 million yen arrives in May.

Helicopter services between Narita airport and Tokyo are already available, but most of the flights, operated by companies like Excel Air Service Inc., use Tokyo Heliport in Shinkiba, close to the southeastern edge of the city… Ark Hills’ prime location, in Minato Ward, gives Mori Building a competitive edge over its rivals.

The helicopter service is also intended to make areas around Ark Hills more attractive places to locate businesses. Mori Building currently owns and manages a total of 110 business and multipurpose buildings, and many of them are situated in Minato Ward. The company estimates that as of the end of March, 95% of the space will be filled with tenants and that the average rent per 3.3 sq. meters will be 36,000 yen, up 12.5% year on year.

Here’s a Google Maps look at the Ark Hills heliport—scroll around a bit to see lots of other helipads on other neighboring tall buildings.

The service is supposed to go public next month, but one of the first beneficiaries of direct flights from Narita to Roppong is Tom Cruise:

tom_cruise_valkyrie_helicopter

Hollywood star Tom Cruise (46) has brought his whole family to Japan with him for the first time. He arrived in Tokyo yesterday with his wife, actress Katie Holmes (30) and their daughter Suri (2). They flew by private jet into Narita Airport, where they were greeted by about 1,000 fans, before transferring to a helicopter for the trip to the Roppongi Ark Hills complex in central Tokyo. Cruise is in town to promote the WWII movie “Valyrie,” which opens here March 20, and the helicopter was painted with a promo for the flick. Cruise and family will be here until Thursday and attend the movie’s Japan premiere.

Regardless, I’m mighty please with the powers-that-be for finally listening to Joe (and my) recommendations to open up helicopter travel, and hope this is a harbinger of more good things to come.

The ANA-Shinsei theme music continuum

If you spend enough time in Japan with consumption habits like mine, you will eventually discover that All Nippon Airways and Shinsei Bank have very similar corporate theme songs. This is because both songs were composed and performed by Taro Hakase, a Japanese violinist who sports a generous afro, a skilled bow and a sizable repertoire of corporate contracts.

Here’s the ANA music, “Another Sky,” as presented in their employee tribute video which plays while an ANA flight deplanes. They also play it as hold music on their reservations line and as boarding music on international flights.

And the slightly sadder Shinsei theme song, “Color Your Life,” as performed live by Mr. Hakase. Unlike ANA, Shinsei doesn’t have an opportunity to force-feed this one to every customer, although you can easily get a whiff of it as the hold music on their customer service line. “Color Your Life” is also the company’s retail banking slogan, to tie in with its offering of cash cards in every color.

This is why being on hold with Shinsei gets me in the mood to take a flight somewhere.

Coming soon: Europe to Haneda?

It looks like the legal framework is now in place for flights between Tokyo’s Haneda Airport and the Netherlands. As mentioned in this space last year, the Japanese government has been pushing the notion that Haneda can replace Narita during late night and early morning hours as the capital’s terminal for long-range international flights, and this pairing seems to be the first beneficiary of the idea.

For those detached from the airline industry, KLM (the Netherlands’ main airline) is now owned by Air France, and has been partnered for something like 15 years with Northwest (the #3 international carrier in Tokyo) which is now owned by Delta. Haneda-Amsterdam service could be a boon for the AFKLDLNW bloc in securing a more solid position among frequent business travelers to Tokyo. JAL might be interested in the route as well, but they wouldn’t have the benefit of intra-European feed that KLM enjoys.

Shimamoto v. United and Japan’s legal attitudes toward alcohol

One of the odder legal stories of 2008 may have been a certain lawsuit against United Airlines by a certain Yoichi Shimamoto and his wife Ayisha. FlyerTalk had a big thread on it. Here’s a quick summary of what happened:

The Shimamotos were on a United flight from Japan to the US in business class, where alcohol is free and generally quite readily dispensed. Mr. Shimamoto became thoroughly trashed on the flight, and apparently a little belligerent. After deplaning at their first stop in San Francisco, while the couple was waiting in the immigration line, they got into an altercation of some sort and Mr. Shimamoto started beating his wife in public. He was arrested for assault, tried and convicted, and sentenced to probation in California followed by deportation to Japan.

Then it gets really weird. First, Mrs. Shimamoto successfully petitioned to have Mr. Shimamoto’s probation transferred to Florida, where Mrs. Shimamoto had a house. Then, with Mr. Shimamoto safely parked somewhere around Orlando, the couple sued United in Florida for Mrs. Shimamoto’s physical injuries and Mr. Shimamoto’s legal expenses, claiming that United should not have served more alcohol to Mr. Shimamoto while he was obviously wasted out of his mind. After a couple of weeks of spirited online discussion between armchair pundits, the Shimamotos withdrew their case. Perhaps United offered a settlement of some kind—the news reports do not say.

* * *

Although the gut reaction of most is to say “Ah-ha! Frivolous American litigiousness strikes again!” it’s actually quite easy for a booze server to incur tort liability because of their drunken patrons’ malfeasance. Every US state has some sort of “dram shop act” which imposes this sort of liability. Sales to minors are pretty much universally a basis for seller liability, and sales to the visibly intoxicated can lead to liability in many states.

Extending this general concept to an airline is not that illogical, although perhaps inconsistent with the fact that airplanes don’t really fall under a particular state’s jurisdiction while in flight (although the airlines themselves, which are tied firmly to the ground, might). Another hurdle is that most international flights fall under the Warsaw Convention, which caps the carrier’s liability for physical or property damage to passengers.

Of course, the real oddity in the Shimamotos’ case is that it wasn’t just the battered wife who sued—it was also her husband, who wasn’t really hurt except to the extent that he got himself in legal trouble. Still, the question of making airlines responsible for cutting off their patrons is an interesting one, and it may someday be solved in court by a more credible group of litigants.

* * *

A few posters at FlyerTalk have raised the question of whether Japanese law (and, by extension, society) condones or even encourages the practice of passing blame to the liquor or its server.

To some extent, this idea is actually getting traction in Japanese law, at least as far as The State is concerned. Anyone who eats out regularly in Japan has probably noticed the growing number of establishments that proudly state they will not serve alcohol to customers who come by car—this is largely because Japan’s revised Road Traffic Law of 2007 makes it a criminal offense for a restaurant or bar to provide alcohol to a person “at risk of” drunk driving. Another example is serving booze to minors, a crime under the “Fuzoku Eigyo” Act (which governs the nightlife industry generally) which can land the proprietor in jail.

Civil liability between private parties is a different story, though. It’s pretty well known that Japan is not a very litigious society—depending on which expert you ask, this is either because of cultural reasons (aversion to argument) or economic reasons (filing fees in Japanese courts are based on claim amount, so big lawsuits on a marginal basis are uneconomical to file, whereas the US system of charging flat filing fees encourages outlandish claims that can be whittled down through negotiation). So it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that suing the bar for the drunkard’s acts has been less of a question in the Land of the Rising Nama.

It does come up, though. The scariest case for the bartender must be a 2001 case in Tokyo (noted in the Japanese Wikipedia article on drunk driving) where a group of friends drank for seven hours straight, got in a car and ran over a 19-year-old girl. The driver got seven years in prison, but his friends were found civilly liable to the tune of 58 million yen for having the guy drink while they knew he was getting behind the wheel. But in a more distant commercial context, there seems to be some reluctance to extend liability like this. Take one case in Saitama last year where families of victims of a drunk driving spree demanded that the barkeep’s criminal responsibility was as great as the driver’s. The judge handed down a suspended sentence for the alcohol providers, claiming that “there is no evidence that [they] expected the driver to act so recklessly (運転者の常軌を逸した暴走行為まで予見していた証拠はない).”

What’s the conclusion? Japan has a looser attitude toward alcohol in many ways (when’s the last time you’ve been carded here?) but its system can be pretty harsh on people who completely ignore its dangers. Thankfully, Mr. Shimamoto wouldn’t have much legal support under either system: the only tangible difference between the two countries in his case is that he can actually afford to waste the court’s time in the US.

Making a future for corporate aircraft in Japan – maybe using airports you didn’t know existed

Japan has long had an aviation policy which favors airplanes as a mode of mass transit, and favors big carriers like ANA and JAL. You can view this as populist or pro-corporate, or perhaps both. But one thing is for certain: private aviation has never been able to take off here, despite all the wealth and business available to support it.

As late as the mid-90s, long-haul private jet flights had their pick of five daily slots at Narita which were shared with charter flights, making it impossible to fly in and out of Tokyo without a couple months’ notice—enough to make US biz-jet industry representatives complain to Congress. Even for domestic flights today, the flight plan must be filed with the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport a week or so before the flight, making it impossible to just jet around the country at short notice.

Another key problem is the lack of available facilities. Most huge cities around the world have airports with little or no scheduled service which can serve private planes almost exclusively: New York (Teterboro and Westchester), London (Luton and Farnborough), Paris (Le Bourget), Los Angeles (Van Nuys), Miami (Kendall) and Atlanta (DeKalb) have all gotten it right. The closest thing in Tokyo is the tiny airport in Chofu, which isn’t big enough to handle business jets and can’t be expanded due to the surrounding city area. (The situation is easier in Japan’s secondary cities, though—Osaka has the giant Yao Airport and the new Kobe Airport, and Nagoya’s old Komaki Airport offers many slots for private flights now.)

It isn’t even practical to keep a business aircraft on the ground in most parts of Japan because of high landing and parking costs. The Japanese business jet charter industry, inasmuch as it exists, largely relies on planes and crews based in Guam or other cheaper locales which are close enough to be halfway practical.

Still, Japan has an active Business Aviation Association which has been lobbying to make the government’s policies more friendly to small planes. Just last month, JBAA sent MLIT’s aviation bureau a request to upgrade Tokyo’s airports for easier use by private aircraft—mainly focusing on better facilities at Haneda and more slots at Narita.

The most interesting component of JBAA’s efforts is their proposal to upgrade of a third Tokyo airport for use by business aircraft. There has been much-publicized talk over setting up a big third airport to serve commercial traffic as well, but if the third airport’s role is downscaled a bit, more options become available. One thing you might not know about Tokyo is that it already has a ton of airports—at least ten within a couple hours’ drive of the city center. A good handful are enormous and can theoretically accommodate planes of all sizes. The only problem is that most of them are used for military/defense purposes. Here’s a Google Maps mashup I threw together to illustrate the options available.


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The JBAA has centered its lobbying efforts around the four largest military bases: Yokota, Kisarazu, Shimousa and Atsugi. Each is about as far from Tokyo as Narita (in the 50-90 minute range) and fairly well-situated for access by road (assuming someone who can afford a jet will at least spring for a limo to the airport).

Of course, there are problems inherent to any such proposal. These fields would have to be vacated or at least significantly ceded by defense units which seem to like their digs, and which might do more for the neighborhood economy than a collection of Learjets and Cessnas would. There’s also the ongoing presence of community protesters to consider—the same folks who forced Itami Airport to stop accepting 747s could easily derail plans to keep a vacated defense facility alive. And, of course, we live in a time when private jets often seem like an unacceptable luxury for many of the businesses which used them with reckless abandon just a couple of years ago.

Hiroshima’s airport syndrome

E-mail from a friend:

I look at the map and there’s a great airport right by the bay of Hiroshima. Great I think. Just like Fukuoka, an airport right in city center, nice and convenient.

But no, that’s the “Hiroshima West Flying strip.” The actual airport is, of course, up in the f***ing mountains, 50km and an hour bus ride away from Hiroshima.

How the f*** did this country get trains so right, and yet planes so wrong?

Check it out on Google Maps. You have to zoom into Hiroshima City to see the smaller airport.


View Larger Map

Hiroshima West was Hiroshima’s only airport from 1961 until 1992, when the new Hiroshima Airport opened outside the city. For a while Hiroshima West stayed alive as a hub for small regional prop plane flights, sort of like Sapporo’s Okadama Airport, but nowadays its operations are limited to a couple of podunk destinations, and everyone else has to either take the Shinkansen or subject themselves to the hour-long bus ride from the new airport.

Japan’s trains lucked out—they were set up (for the most part) before 1920, back when it was easy to find and expropriate land for lines and stations. Japan’s airports are much more recent creations. There are only two significant Japanese airports which predate World War II: Tokyo Haneda and Sapporo Chitose. Most of the major airports of the early postwar era were built as military bases during the war (Itami, Komaki, Fukuoka, Okinawa) and didn’t get civilian operations until the 1950s, by which point they were starting to be strangled by their neighboring cities, right when runway and terminal extensions were needed to handle the new generation of jets. This is how we ended up with inconvenient monstrosities like Narita and the new Hiroshima airport.

(The biggest postwar rail development, the Shinkansen network, is not coincidentally also an inconvenient one in places like Yokohama and Osaka, where they had to stick the terminal in the middle of nowhere for lack of better options.)

To Japan’s credit, most of the big-city airports here are now multimodal, with direct rail connections into the city. There are two rail lines that pass right by Hiroshima Airport—the Sanyo Shinkansen and Sanyo Main Line—and there have been a multitude of plans to connect one or both of these lines to the airport by a spur line, monorail, maglev, ropeway or any number of other mass-transit means. So why hasn’t this happened?

Both of those lines are JR lines, and Hiroshima is one city where JR has an ironclad grip on domestic travel. Tokyo-Hiroshima is 4 hours by Shinkansen: by plane it’s 90 minutes, but the transfer from Hiroshima Airport to the city takes 60-90 minutes depending on how long it takes for the bus to show up, and another 45-60 minutes to get to Haneda and check in makes flying a bigger hassle than it’s worth on this heavily-traveled route. The airlines can stay competitive in Tokyo, Osaka and Fukuoka thanks to relatively convenient airports, but the inconvenience of Hiroshima Airport works in favor of the one company that has the power to make it more convenient.

TSA is on kabuki alert

America left its ticket and passport in the jacket in the bin in the X-ray machine, and is admonished. America is embarrassed to have put one one-ounce moisturizer too many in the see-through bag. America is irritated that the TSA agent removed its mascara, opened it, put it to her nose, and smelled it. Why don’t you put it up your nose and see if it explodes? America thinks, but does not say.

And, as always American thinks: Why do we do this when you know I am not a terrorist, and you know I know you know I am not a terrorist? Why this costly and embarrassing kabuki when we both know the facts, and would even admit privately that all this harassment is only the government’s way of showing that it is “fair,” of demonstrating that it will equally humiliate anyone in order to show its high-mindedness and sense of justice? Our politicians congratulate themselves on this as we stand in line.

That’s from Peggy Noonan’s new book Patriotic Grace, as quoted here.

What the Diet’s been up to lately, part 2: rethinking airport policy

For decades Japanese airports have been governed by an Airport Improvement Act (空港整備法) which apportioned control and funding of airport projects between the national and regional governments. Earlier this year, the Diet signed off on an overhaul of the statute which changes its name to the Airport Act (空港法) and focuses the law on promoting the competitiveness, rather than development, of Japan’s airports. After all, the country has already over-developed its airports in many areas ([cough] Osaka [cough]); now it needs to rationalize their existence.

Administrative matters

Under the old law, there were three “categories” of airports: the largest international airports were designated as Category 1, the main city airports as Category 2 and the smaller regional airports as Category 3. Category 1 airports were funded, constructed and controlled solely by the Ministry of Transport unless privatized. Category 2 airports could be centrally controlled, in which case Kasumigaseki would fund 2/3 of construction costs, or could be moved to local control, in which case Kasumigaseki would fund 55%. Category 3 airports were controlled by local governments and construction costs split 50/50 with the state.

The new law has reshuffled these categories a bit and made them more logical. Category 1 is now effectively gone, which makes sense since it has been obsolete for some time: three of the Category 1 airports (Narita, Kansai and Chubu) have been privatized and funded under their own respective statutes for some time, while the other two (Haneda and Itami) currently operate in roles more befitting of Category 2 status.

Categories 2 and 3 are now known as “state-administered airports” and “regionally-administered airports” respectively, and the small collection of regionally-administered Category 2 airports are now lumped in with the Category 3 airports. So now the system is a bit easier to explain: if the Transport Ministry runs the airport, the state pays 2/3 and the prefecture pays 1/3; if the prefecture or municipality runs the airport, costs are split evenly.

Policy matters

The new law also requires the Transport Minister to prepare and publish a Basic Plan (基本方針) for the country’s airports. While the plan is still in development, the Transport Ministry has given some preliminary comments on what will be in there. Among the more interesting specific points raised:

  • International terminal projects at Category 2-level airports such as New Chitose, intended to improve capacity as direct international flights to the regions become more popular. Chitose has really been overdue for some terminal expansion, in this blogger’s lofty opinion.

  • Improved airfreight handling systems to make Japan’s airports more competitive with Asia’s as cargo hubs.

  • More multilingual signage at regional airports, adding Chinese and Korean (and possibly Russian or other languages) to the existing Japanese and English. Some airports are already there but others are apparently lagging.

  • Soundproofing homes in areas adjoining airports—a huge policy issue already around Narita, Itami and other land-locked airfields.

  • Expanding Haneda’s international services to Beijing and Taipei, and permitting scheduled long-range flights from Haneda during the late night and early morning hours when Narita is closed.

  • Maintaining the current status quo in the Kansai region: KIX is the wave of the future for everything, Itami is suffered for as long as people want to use it, and Kobe is heavily restricted so that it doesn’t really compete with the others.

Provisions for “joint-use airports”

One interesting footnote to the new law is that it specifically contemplates joint-use airports; i.e. those split between commercial/private operations and SDF/US military operations. There are a few airfields, such as Misawa Air Base in Aomori, which already operate on this model. The real unwritten target in this instance seems to be Yokota Air Base, the huge US Air Force logistics airfield in west Tokyo: policy wonks and Tokyo politicians have been salivating for a while over the prospect of starting commercial flights there, and there’s even a note or two about it in the Transport Ministry’s planning materials.