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How a Farmer Fought Tokyo's Airport (and won!)

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Written by   7
1 year ago

Tokyo Narita International Airport is known worldwide as one of the largest and busiest airports. It is home to airlines from over all over the world, serves millions of people every year, and has many shops and restaurants. But one thing you wouldn't expect inside of an airport, is a farm!

Many airports have unique features to help them stand apart from all of the others. Singapore Changi airport has a slide down to a terminal, Denver International has an ice rink, and Las Vegas's airport has slot machines! But Tokyo Narita's farm isn't just another airport amenity, it is a real fully functional farm. The farm is owned and operated by Takao Shito, who is the son of Toichi Shito, who was the original owner back in the 60's.

The area had been farmland since about the year 700. The emeperor at the time decided to dedicate it to farming, and it had been in the possesion of the royal family eversince. But after Japan's defeat in World War II, as part of the peace treaty signed between the US and Japan, the royal family took a step back and sold off most of the farmland to poor farmers.

After the war Japan started to rapidly develop its economy, and by the 60's it was clear that Tokyo's Haneda airport wasn't big enough anymore. Haneda airport was right in the middle of the city and bordered the ocean, so expanding it wasn't really an option.

The government came up with the plan to build the new airport about an hour away from the city! It turned out that the new airport would cover a couple of farms in the area, and the locals weren't happy about this to say the least. The farmers fought back, and they fought back hard!

The intially small group of protesters grew into major protest. The reason behind this was that many believed the current government was too friendly to the American military and becoming too capitalistic. The protesting farmers were joined by the opposition socialist parties, which escalated it to the next level.

The protesters literally fought back! They built barricades and even constructed large metal towers, to prevent incoming aircraft from landing!

Things at one point got so bad, that the government changed their tactics. They acquired what was left over of the emperor's land, but this still wasn't quite big enough.

Japan has very strong property rights laws, and therefore couldn't force the farmers to sell their land, but they were eventually able to convince enough of them to change their minds. Except for Toichi Shito, he and his son were offered $1.7 million for their land, but still didn't sell!

This meant that the airport had to be built around their farm, and the builders had to dig tunnels under their property to get access. This caused many delays to the airport's construction and the government went way over budget on the project.

The airport was delayed by a couple of years, due to the continued oppositon of the protesters, and when they were finally finished with the airport, they faced another problem. Because Narita was an hour away from Tokyo, many airlines didn't even want to switch there, so the government eventually decided to make Haneda Tokyo's domestic airport and Narita the international airport.

Toichi Shito kept working on his farm until 1999, when he passed away, afterwards his son Takao took over the farm, and is still there to this day. He still receives help on his farm from the anti airport movement, which still exists! Passengers arriving to Narita can still sometimes see one of the protest banners that is still up.

If I was him, I would have taken the $1.7 million and retired!

Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoyed this story!

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Written by   7
1 year ago
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