Google Maps

Google Maps.

I use it every other day. I would literally be lost without it. I find it amazing and fascinating. It is almost beyond comprehension what we can do with it. I use it to plot train trips, find out travel time, the cost of my fare, my train line options. I use it to find particular address and the best route from the station. I can print the map or have it on my smart phone complete with GPS telling me if I take the wrong turn. It will even talk me through my way to a destination. It is such a marvelous thing, it could have been in Back to the Future!

However at the same time there are some functions that could be taken as almost a little voyeuristic and an invasion of privacy. I am thinking of the the street view and the satellite view.  Put in an address and you can see a person’s house. You can look at the place from different angles and do a sweep of their street.

I must admit I got a bit of a shock the first time I put my address in and got an aerial view of my house, garage and magnificent tree. I love that tree! The view from the street complete with my car up the drive was a surprise too. I am still trying to figure out who was visiting the day this shot was taken! I’d be interested to know your opinion. Have you ever checked your place out on Google Maps?

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Having said that, recently I was taken on tour using the satellite and street function of Google Maps and I have to say this particular tour was fascinating and I would like to share it with you.

A Google Map Tour of Narita Airport

Narita Airport, Japan’s main International airport since it’s opening in 1978 possibly due to be overtaken by Tokyo’s Haneda airport in the near future.

It was the first ever international airport I flew into on my first ever overseas trip in 1986. I was 19 years old and was travelling with my classmates. We were all studying Japanese and were heading over to a New Zealand Expo to work for a month. Narita10Narita 5


When we arrived in Narita the security presence was surprisingly high. The were police in full riot gear and security procedures entering and leaving the airport were very tight.

I found out this was because the political scene around the airport development was fraught. Back in 1971 when airport development began the government expropriated land by passing a compulsory subrogation bill.

This led to violent clashes between riot police, landowners and their largely ultra left wing supporters who rallied behind them. During the second compulsory expropriation, more than 150 people were injured, 375 protesters were arrested and three police officers were killed. Long term strife followed with the transport authorities.

The planned opening of the new airport was set for March 30th 1978, but left wing activists stormed and occupied a control tower for several days delaying the opening until May.

Finally in 1991, the government and landowners agreed to seek a more peaceful solution through facilitated meetings. The government issued a formal apology with regard to the expropriation of land and the handling of the airport development and the protest movement largely died down but to this day, some 34 years later, there are still some farmers who have refused to move off their land and continue to battle the government through lawsuits.

Using google maps’ satellite function you can clearly see these small farming enclaves in the middle of the runways! Google Narita International airport and you can zoom right in yourself. There is even a small shrine in the middle of this major airport! My friend who showed this to me also took me through the street views. To get to these small farms there are underground bypasses. The farms have huge high fences around them.

Last time I landed in Narita I was very aware that as we cruised on the runway coming into the terminal we seemed to be making a lot of turns. I can now see on these satellite views that the planes have to go around the farms. Incredible!

Narita3 Narita airport 2

This is why the government has found it so difficult to expand Narita airport and the third runway which was planned has never been completed. It is why Haneda airport has been developed further and is now a very busy international gateway to Tokyo. The new Osaka Kansai International airport was also developed as an alternative to Narita which at its present size can not keep up with international demand.

These images are from Google Images

Narita’s proximity to Narita township and the fact that there are residential areas right in the middle of its runways means it cannot operate between the hours of midnight and 6am.

These farmers are either passionate about their cause or the world’s luckiest plane spotters!

Yoroshiku Onegai shimasuimages (1)


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