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Japan opens 98th national airport in Ibaraki

By Roland Buerk
BBC News, Tokyo

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Japan's 98th airport has begun operations - offering just one flight a day.

Ibaraki airport cost 22bn Yen ($220m, £147m) to build and is being seen in Japan as a prime example of wasteful public expenditure.

It is located 80km (50 miles) and a long bus ride north of Tokyo.

The airport was conceived as a hub for budget carriers but the check-in counters were almost deserted as operations began.

There is just one plane a day, to South Korea. Another flight, to the Japanese city of Kobe, will begin next month.

The airport has become a symbol of decades of public spending to prop up the economy that has left Japan studded with bridges to nowhere and unneeded dams.

The new centre-left government, which came to power last year, has criticised the links between previous conservative administrations and the construction industry, and vowed to cut waste.

International travellers tired of long queues and crowded departure lounges should perhaps consider flying to Ibaraki.

But Ibaraki itself has little to commend it to Korean tourists who might be thinking of catching the single daily flight from Seoul.

Apart from one well-known Japanese garden the prefecture's main claim to fame is the locals' skill in making natto, a fermented soy bean dish that many consider an acquired taste.



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