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Tourists overrun Haneda international terminal

A surprising name recently has joined the pantheon of popular Tokyo tourist spots―Haneda Airport’s international terminal.

Since the international terminal opened in October, it has been inundated with visitors who came to the airport not for flights but to stroll the terminal itself. The sightseers outnumber genuine air passengers by more than 2-to-1 on weekends and holidays, according to the airport.

The terminal’s shops, restaurants and travel agencies have been elated by the arrival of unexpected customers, given the sluggish economy. However, passengers are complaining about the difficulties they face trying to eat at the restaurants or even using toilets due to the congestion.

One of the international terminal’s popular spots is the Edo Koji shopping area on the fourth floor, which was designed in the image of shopping districts in Edo period (1603-1867). The shopping area was crowded Sunday with families, especially those with children, because the day was the middle of a three-day holiday weekend.

More than 50 people lined up in front of the area’s Setagaya ramen shop shortly after 1 p.m. that day, while the Takafuku sukiyaki restaurant posted a notice that customers would have to wait for about 120 minutes to enter the restaurant.

Many people waiting in front of the restaurants were not passengers taking flights. A 71-year-old man said he came from Yamato, Kanagawa Prefecture, with his wife and a friend. The man said his hobby was to take photos.
People walk among restaurants in the Edo Koji shopping area on the fourth floor of Haneda Airport’s international terminal on Sunday. (Yomiuri Shimbun)
People walk among restaurants in the Edo Koji shopping area on the fourth floor of Haneda Airport’s international terminal on Sunday. (Yomiuri Shimbun)

“I came here to take photos of the remodeled airport,” he said.

“I took enough photos, so I thought about having lunch. But it seems all the restaurants are full.”

The terminal is run by Tokyo International Air Terminal Corp. According to the company, about 15,000 to 20,000 passengers arrive or depart at the airport on international flights each day.

The total number of visitors to the international terminal, including passengers, is about 20,000 to 30,000 on weekdays. However, the figure jumps to about 50,000 to 70,000 on weekends and holidays, the company said.

The number of sightseeing tours that includes a visit to the international terminal is also on the rise. Tokyo-based Club Tourism International Co. said it operates more than 100 tours a month that include the terminal as a tour destination.

“Tours are booked as soon as we include ‘Haneda’ in the title,” a company official in charge of tours said.

According to Nippon Television City Corp., which manages Tokyo Tower, about 15,000 people visit the tower on weekends and holidays. Meanwhile, the average number of daily visitors to Ueno Zoo in Taito Ward over the three-day weekend that culminated in Monday’s Coming-of-Age Day was about 12,000. A zoo spokesman said, “I didn’t expect (the international terminal) to draw more than five times the customers we did (over the holiday).”

However, passengers using Haneda’s international terminal have begun voicing complaints about the congestion. Kozue Tanaka said she was on her way home from a sightseeing tour to Shanghai and waiting for a connecting flight to Itami Airport in Osaka Prefecture.

“I thought it’d be a good opportunity to visit the new terminal, so I refrained from taking a direct flight to Kansai Airport. However, the congestion was beyond my expectations,” Tanaka, 64, said.

Tanaka had about two hours to kill before her connecting flight to Osaka, but she got on a shuttle bus to a domestic terminal without having lunch. “I might miss my flight if I waited to enter the restaurants,” she said.

Women formed a long line in front of a toilet on the terminal’s fourth floor, the busiest floor for toilets in the entire terminal.

After receiving complaints from customers, Tokyo International Air Terminal has asked restaurants to increase the number of box lunches and snacks sold on a takeout basis. During busy hours, the company asks customers to use toilets on other floors of the terminal.

During the year-end and New Year holidays, the company increased the number of shuttle buses between the domestic and international terminals from three to five.

“The number of passengers using the international terminal was within our expectations, but the number of sightseers was overwhelming,” an official of the company’s planning department said. “We’re discussing a variety of measures to avoid passengers from being troubled by the congestion.”

By The Yomiuri Shimbun
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