A good portion of the airspace over central Japan has been reserved for the exclusive use of the U.S. military since the end of World War II, a fact that isn’t widely known in Japan. Over the past several weeks, however, it has become a sudden reality to thousands of Tokyoites and residents of Kawasaki who live below new low-altitude flight paths that bring commercial aircraft in and out of Haneda Airport.

As the Asahi Shimbun outlined in a January 26 article, domestic authorities have been seeking U.S. cooperation to allow joint civilian-military use of the Yokota Air Base in western Tokyo in order to handle the expected increase in international visitors, even if it was only during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. The U.S. military, which controls Yokota, refused to even negotiate the issue, even though they allow Japan’s Self-Defense Forces to share the base. However, they did finally budge on the matter of the so-called Yokota airspace, which extends from the Izu Peninsula on the Pacific Ocean to Niigata Prefecture on the Japan Sea, allowing commercial flights to use special routes that go through a small portion of this airspace in order to access Haneda, but only for three hours a day. The government was relieved, but others are upset because those routes go directly over their homes.

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