One Man Lives – And Farms – In The Middle Of Tokyo Narita Airport

When I take the Narita Express from the airport into Tokyo, I’m always amazed by the farming that’s going on nearby. Tokyo is such a densely-packed city, and it’s hardly the only one in Japan. How can its exurbs be vast farmland?

Toyko Narita airport was built on top of former farming villages, despite local opposition, backed by the Communist and Social Democratic parties, known as the Sanrizuka Struggle. While land for the airport was initially acquired voluntarily from its owners, by 1971 the Japanese government began expropriating property.

Opposition clashed with construction workers and police, leading to deaths and mass arrests. Over 500 guerrilla actions have taken place against Narita airport since its opening in 1978.

Five households still live on Narita airport grounds. The son of one of the men who refused to leave still farms his land, assisted by 10 volunteers, some of which were former student protesters. He’s turned down an offer to leave worth over $1.6 million, and finds farming easier now with less air traffic disruptions due to Covid-19.

Narita airport’s second runway was supposed to go through his farm but routes around it instead. He still sells “produce to around 400 local customers.”

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. where I live (SWFL) he’d still be writing Letters to the Editor about the damn noise.

  2. Those fights at Narita were extremely violent; they were on the tv news almost daily back in the early/mid 70s.
    Now everyone wants Haneda ( in contrast to the days when China Airlines was punished by being allocated slots there rather than Narita, under pressure from Beijing)

  3. @Sam – I haven’t seen it on other blogs, so you tell me? I was sent to the video on YouTube by the blog I link to in the post, which I saw in my Google News feed

  4. Japan’s Shinkansen trains were supposed to be extended to Narita but I believe that was stopped due to heavy opposition as well. Japan actually has much stronger property rights than the US re: eminent domain and takings.

  5. All these years later, the government still has watchtowers around the farmland at NRT, ensuring the farmers don’t come over the fence to create disruption or havoc on the airfield

  6. I’m always impressed with people who refuse to sell out; who hold their ground when big business tries to take over local, family areas. This story reminds me very much of Edith Macefield’s house in Seattle. She refused to leave her home, so a huge shopping structure was built up around it. It was an inspiration for the Disney/Pixar movie UP.

  7. Cool story. I love a nice big baked potato with butter, sour cream, and a slight hint of jet fuel.

  8. Up through the late 1990s, there used to be an even more amazing farm located smack in the middle of the ramp area between the Terminal 2 main building and the satellite gate building. It was very small, but it was so close to the terminal buildings that aircraft using nearby gates had to cut their engines and be towed in and out to avoid literally blowing the guy away. When he died (presumably of old age), it took the airport all of a couple of weeks to seize the land and pave it over.

  9. If you have a layover at Narita, there are a series of volunteer-led short tours (available in English) that you can take that leave from the airport and run about three hours or so. One of those is a farm tour a short distance away. You can get up close and personal with Japanese agriculture in the area. Do a search for Narita Layover Tours and it will describe some of the options. We were there in February and planned to take one but were a little tight on time. Next visit, perhaps.

  10. This is the future we pray for. Where one’s rights are respected and not overtaken by the big buck, the corporations and the kickbacks that smother the righteous who just want to live on what they have. There is always the possibility of compromise instead of oppression.

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