Why Is Japan Going Broke? Maybe Because It Keeps Building Airports It Doesn't Need

Man Alone at Airport

Photo: The Associated Press

If you’re landing in Japan you now have almost 100 airports to chose from. Lucky number 98 opened Thursday in Ibaraki, approximately 50 miles outside of Tokyo. Well, maybe not so lucky.According to MSNBC.com, “Ibaraki’s initial annual passenger estimate of 800,000 is now expected to be a quarter of that size. Small wonder that Ibaraki’s expected to lose as much as 200 million yen ($220,000) in its first year.”

$220,000 seems bad already but a lot worse since 200 million yen is currently valued at $2.2 million.

Though marching bands and airport mascots greeted the first flight to arrive, Japan’s new government has been vocally critical of the project. They couldn’t pull the plug on the 22 billion-yen ($240 million) construction because it was too far along when Yukio Hatoyama’s government won the majority last September, but they certainly won’t be forcing anybody to land there.

“We are not going to build any more airports, and we will not force airlines to use them,” Transport Minister Seiji Maehara said last week, according to msnbc.com, “and I do not plan to force Japanese airlines to fly to Ibaraki.”

The government’s unhappiness might have something to do with Ibaraki being over two hours away from central Tokyo by train, Tokyo already having two main airports, a public debt exceeding 200% of GDP, oh, and did we mention the $2.2 million it’s expected to lose in the first year alone.

Then again, if you are on that single flight per day to Seoul, you might just get an airport marching band welcome all to yourself.

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