TOKYO (Reuters Life!) - Fancy a look at the stars while waiting for your flight? How about a slot-car race, strolling through an old-time Japanese street, or shopping at a Hello Kitty store?
All will be on offer at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport from October 31 as the airport resumes full-fledged international service for the first time in 32 years, when its role was usurped by the opening of Narita International Airport.
The high-ceilinged, brand new international terminal -- built to complement the completion of the airport’s fourth runway, which will eventually increase capacity by more than 30 percent -- replaces a small utilitarian building with minimal facilities.
On the fourth and fifth floors is a recreation of historic Tokyo streets, housing shops and restaurants behind traditional wooden walls and decorated with red lanterns.
The fifth floor includes an entertainment zone called “Tokyo Pop Town” with a planetarium-equipped cafe and stores selling Japanese animation and character goods. Among those for sale is Hello Kitty, the enigmatic -- and popular -- feline from Sanrio.
A broad observation deck is equipped with convenient holes in its tall fencing to offer plane aficionados perfect shutter chances for shots of departing and arriving flights.
Haneda lost its crown as Tokyo’s international airport in 1978, when Narita opened, though a few international flights still operated. For nearly a decade, its only international departures have been charter flights.
But with Japan’s government eager to promote Tokyo as a 24-hour international air hub to rival South Korea’s Incheon, Haneda was expanded and international flights relaunched.
Narita’s operating hours are limited as part of a deal hammered out with local landowners in order to build the airport, which faced stiff opposition.
The biggest draw for the new airport is convenience.
While traveling to Narita, some 70 km (44 miles) northeast of Tokyo, takes at least an hour, and requires a trek up several flights to the check-in areas, Haneda will be about 30 minutes from the heart of the city.
One train line is a monorail whose final station is just several minutes walk from the check-in desks.
Cities set to be linked to Haneda from the start include Taipei, Bangkok, Singapore, Honolulu, Los Angeles and Paris, with flights to New York, Detroit and Vancouver to be added within a few months.
Reporting by Elaine Lies; editing by Paul Casciato