They call it “Marine Air” because you have to swim to get there

I speak, of course, about Kobe Airport, the latest boondoggle in Osaka Bay. I was in the area this weekend and I decided I would hop over for a visit on Sunday.

What a mistake.

For starters, the place is tiny. Someone asked before whether it could handle 747s; it obviously can’t. If a 747 landed there it defintiely wouldn’t have room to park… heck, it might break the runway.

To make matters worse, half of Hyogo Prefecture apparently had the same idea as me. The Port Liner terminal at Sannomiya was so crowded around 10 AM that security people with megaphones had to usher people around the platform to keep the stairways from being blocked. Riding the train out to the airport was like riding the Ginza Line at rush hour, only the groping salarymen in suits were replaced by whining kids and their grandparents.

By the time we got to the airport, 20 long minutes later, airport security had blocked off the main entrance to the departures floor from the train station. You could only get through if you had a boarding pass; us sightseers were forced to go downstairs and enter through the arrivals hall.

The windows overlooking the apron (and both of the aircraft parked at the terminal) were roped off, and a solid line of people were gawking at the foggy view of Osaka Bay and the barely-finished island (the ground there looks like a baseball infield). Like most Japanese airports, the terminal has an observation deck on top, but the security guards warned sightseers in the terminal: “The deck is extremely crowded today! There is not enough room to walk!” And that kept me from going up there.

I would have walked back to Kobe, because the Port Liner is a cramped, old and busted transit system to begin with, and it doesn’t help when gazillions of people are trying to ride it at once. Unfortunately, the only way off the island was to take the train or hitchhike. While I’m sure that hitchhiking would have been a minor adventure, I decided that I might as well brave the crowded train ride back to Sannomiya. By the time I got back to Sannomiya, the security people in the station were warning people not to go to the airport unless they were planning to board a flight. Good advice.

I ended up flying home from Kansai later that evening. It was a much more pleasant experience, despite being farther away. God only knows what they’re going to do with that second island, which is supposed to be completed next year. Maybe it’ll be a base for the upcoming war with China.

2 thoughts on “They call it “Marine Air” because you have to swim to get there”

  1. Joe,

    FYI- if you go to google earth and zoom in on KIX, you can see rows of those giant dump trucks lined up on the second runway. An awe inspiring site my friend.


  2. Man, I’d give any place that’s in the news in Japan about a 6 month grace period before it’s safe to visit. Apparently Japanese gawkers tend to flood any news-making area to satisfy some kind of curiosity or maybe just get close to something famous.

    My conversation partner’s husband told me that when the sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subways occurred in 1995, he took a trip to the Seventh Satyam (a building in Yamanashi prefecture owned by the Aum cult) just to see what it was like — he said it was really crowded with onlookers. But get this: IT WAS A FREAKING CHEMICAL WEAPONS FACTORY! Why anyone would want to go anywhere near that place is beyond me.

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