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Kobe Airport: worthless piece of pork


24 Jun 2003
I thought I'd start this thread because it is related to a lot of issues raised in another thread about the uglification of Japan and people's inability to stop it.

I'd like to talk about the construction of Kobe International airport, which is being built on an artificial island as I write this. Before I do, I think a short discussion about its next door neighbor, Kansai International Airport is in order.

Kansai International airport (KIX) was opened in 1994 as the world's first airport built on an artificial island. It also has the world's longest terminal building and has the distinction of being the most expensive public works project in the world in the 20th century. It was hailed as a marvel of modern technology, with its own internal railroad and supermodern architecture it would bring about a rennasaince to the economically depressed Kansai region, or so they said.

Things have not gone entirely according to plan, however. First, the island it is built upon is sinking. Thus far it has cost over 300 million dollars US to reinforce the island to prevent it from slipping underwater, which has been a major scandal. Secondly the airport is effectively bankrupt. The high costs associated with the construction force the airport to charge the highest user fees in the world to airlines and many of them have simply chosen not to fly into KIX. It doesn't help matters that no tourist in his right mind would ever choose to visit Osaka and that most international business is conducted in Tokyo either. The federal government has to pay the airport authority 90 billion yen annually just to keep it operating.

For some reason the fact that the airport is a complete failure that has excess capacity hasn't prevented the government from going ahead with plans to expand it. They are currently building a second, larger artificial island to act as a second runway. This is costing the government billions of dollars to build something that isn't really necessary and is tremendously destructive to the environment. 3 entire mountains were destroyed to build the first island and this one is projected to require 250 million cubic metres of soil, an even greater amount. It is truly idiotic.

Anyway this brings us to the decision of the Kobe municipal government to construct its own international airport on an artificial island. Seeing neighboring Osaka build something big, useless, costly and stupid has apparently caused some sort of jealousy at the Kobe city hall and now they have to have one too. In this case it is the local government that is going ahead with the plan because even the central government decided this was too wasteful a project, and that is really saying something. For those of you unfamiliar with the geography of the Kansai region, downtown Kobe is a mere 40 minute commute from the above mentioned Kansai airport! It is absolutely inconceivable that this new airport, which is actually close enough to KIX that you can see it on a clear day, will ever be succesful. The costs will run into the 10s of billions of dollars and presumably they have already demolished a couple of mountains to build it. The Kobe Mayor believes the project will create a golden age for Kobe though this is ridiculous. For a laugh, I recommend checking out the Cities explanation for the project at www.city.kobe.jp/cityoffice/39/port/1-6_e.htm . You can see some pictures of the airports construction there too.

Thankfully a group of concerned Kobe citizens has formed a grass roots organization to stop this horrendous waste. I recommend visiting their website at www.kobe-airport.gc.jp/
They have an English page which provides some startling information about the costs of the project. You can also add your name to the petition, which has about 300,000 signatures already, opposing the airport. I hope they are succesful, because this is going to bankrupt the city if they don't stop it.
Perhaps its a desguised form of quick-starting the regional economy with a huge project. The Japanese government is known to have supported wastes of money so that they could keep social peace.

The protest website seems to be offline. Shame... :(
I think that was my mistake, I mispelled the web address. its at


You are right, It is totally a quick way to inject some money into Kobe's economy. The problem is that its all borrowed money and in the long run the city will have to pay it back because there is not a snowball's chance in hell this airport will ever turn a profit.
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