Tokyo Gov. Naoki Inose called Sunday for allowing commercial airliners to use U.S. Yokota Air Base in western Tokyo to handle the tourist influx expected for the 2020 Summer Olympics.
“It would be appropriate to open the Yokota Air Base for joint military-civilian use and an international airport,” Inose said on a TV news show, without noting that it would overload East Japan Railway’s already congested and suicide-plagued Chuo Line.
He made the proposal while commenting on reports that the government is thinking of building a fifth runway at Tokyo’s Haneda airport in Tokyo Bay. Inose said Haneda “would not make it in time for the Olympics” and called for a “change in mindset, rather than spending money.”
After the show, the governor noted that former Gov. Shintaro Ishihara’s efforts to open Yokota to joint military-civilian use failed and suggested that another attempt be made by starting with private jets.
“It is necessary to have private jets gain a toehold first,” he said, suggesting it could pave the way for commercial airliners to use the 3,350-meter runway at Yokota, which is roughly 45 km from central Tokyo.
During the 2003 gubernatorial election, Ishihara pledged to secure U.S. consent to turn Yokota into a joint military-civilian airport, but the U.S. government again rejected the proposal.
Another option would be to use under-utilized Ibaraki Airport in nearby Ibaraki Prefecture. The joint civilian-military use airport, part of the Air Self-Defense Force’s Hyakuri Air Base, is northeast of the capital in the city of Omitama and considered an alternative gateway to Tokyo.