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.”