Rebun, Japan’s Northernmost Airport, to Close - Permission Granted by MLIT

Rebun, Japan’s Northernmost Airport, to Close - Permission Granted by MLIT

Rebun Airport Terminal.

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On February 17, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT) announced that it had given permission to suspend operations at Rebun Airport on the isolated island of Rebun, Hokkaido.

The government of Hokkaido Prefecture, which manages the airport, submitted a request to the ministry citing reasons which include increased maintenance costs. The airport will be closed for about six years from April 9 of this year until March 31, 2015.

The airport is the northernmost in Japan, situated at north latitude 45 degrees 27 minutes. The Hokkaido government said it opened in June 1978 “at the request of the island’s residents,” whose only access to the Hokkaido mainland was until that time via ship. Carriers like Air Nippon and Air Hokkaido opened a route to Wakkanai Airport that was in use until March 2003, but it was removed due to low traffic. Since then the airport has been used for disaster prevention, emergency helicopters and small private aircraft.

Most of Rebun Island is part of Rishiri-Rebun-Sarobetsu National Park. Here you can enjoy taking in alpine vegetation that can only be seen at high altitudes in Honshu. An official from the Rebun Town Tourist Association said, “There are lots of issues like the expansion of the runway, but we hope that if the business environment improves then we can reopen the route to promote tourism.”

Plans are for part of the airport apron to be maintained for emergency transport, such as for medical emergencies, even after the suspension of operations.