25 October 2010 | Despite Japan’s reputation for efficient infrastructure, the country has lagged behind its Asian peers when it comes to its main international airport. Tokyo’s Narita Airport is a long 60 to 90 minutes ride by train or bus from Japan’s capital, while Haneda, only 15 minutes by monorail from downtown Tokyo, until now has been handling mainly domestic flights. However, with the opening of Haneda’s new USD1.3 billion ‘Tokyo International Air Terminal’ on October 21, a first step toward Japan having a 24-hour airport hub has been made. International flights from Haneda will start on October 31 and by February 2011 the airport will offer flights to 17 international destinations.
Made in Japan
The design of Haneda’s new international terminal emphasises that the airport is ‘Made in Japan’ as the country is referenced everywhere from the Mount Fuji-esque roof with high, waving ceilings to an Edo-period inspired shopping street and the latest in Japanese pop culture. Says Yoichi Hirai, Haneda’s director of corporate planning, “We want to showcase the country’s different architectural styles and cultural elements from traditional Japanese to contemporary manga.”
The retail centrepiece of the departure building is the Edo Koji, a recreation of a historic Tokyo street, designed to offer a taste of old Japan in an otherwise ultra-modern setting. Built by a master craftsman from Kyoto, who usually works on temples and teahouses, and a team of 30 carpenters, the Edo (the ancient name for Tokyo) streets have been replicated using traditional materials and techniques. The shops feature traditional craftsmanship products and instead of Starbucks and McDonald’s passengers will find classic Japanese cuisine and a traditional teahouse.
Tokyo Pop Town
The fifth floor of the terminal houses ‘Tokyo Pop Town’, an area celebrating Japan’s anime and character culture. Attractions include a Hello Kitty mini-theme park and café, stores selling character and anime goods such as Shirotan, a science toy shop, and a Japanese design store. There is also a cafe with a planetarium that projects 40 million stars, as well as a 50-meter remote control mini car racing track.
Other services at the airport include a 10-minute haircut in the departure zone and for passengers on late-night and early-morning flights, the second floor has napping rooms (¥1000 for 1 hour) and shower facilities operating around the clock. More pictures of the terminal are available here and here.
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