The Growth of Kansai Airport As Seen in Google Earth

by Tony Mazzarri

Osaka is Japan’s second city. Second to Tokyo on many fronts, but still home to a large number of businesses and a major center for trade. However, for a period of time, many across Japan felt that Tokyo was consolidating far too much business and political power in the country. Many companies that were founded in other regions relocated to Tokyo. Osaka and other cities in its region were desperate to compete with the capital, although one front they were failing on was air travel. The airport they had at the time was inadequate for the needs of the region.

A new and larger airport was needed, but the dense urban developments in the region made it impossible to find any new land to build on. And with thousands of people having protested the construction of Narita Airport near Tokyo after losing their land, officials were wary of having a repeat in the Kansai region. So rather than using land already available and occupied, they instead decided to simply create new land in the bay to build the airport on.

Here is a timelapse of the airport’s construction created using Google Earth Engine.

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The initial portion of Kansai International Airport was completed in 1994, with an expansion that was finished in 2007. In September 2018, a powerful typhoon heavily damaged the only bridge leading to the airport after the storm sent a tanker ship crashing into the bridge, and the storm also caused severe flooding in one of the terminals and on a runway. This stranded at least 8000 people at the airport. The train portion of the bridge reopened shortly after, but the road portion sustained further damage, with only express buses allowed in one relatively undamaged lane and all other types of traffic are banned. It is believed that, given all the damage sustained, full restoration will take several months.