Sunday, February 12, 2012

Umihotaru Of Tokyo Bay Aqua-Line

The final stop we made during the tour was to Umihotaru (海ほたる), literally means "sea firefly". It is an artificial island at the bridge-tunnel crossover of Tokyo Bay Aqua-Line, which connects the city of Kawasaki in Kanagawa prefecture and the city of Kisarazu in Chiba prefecture. Tokyo Bay Aqua-Line has an overall length of 14 kilometers, which includes a 4.4 kilometer bridge and 9.6 kilometer underneath the bay, making the underwater tunnel ranked as the forth-longest in the world. Three of the world's top five underwater tunnels are in Japan.

Tokyo Bay Aqua-Line is able to provide a shorter connection between the east side, Tokyo-Kawasaki-Yokohama, and the west side, the Bōsō area, which still offers much room for development. As a matter of fact, the driving distance from Kawasaki to Kisarazu is only 30 kilometers whereas it is 100 kilometers via the Tokyo Bay Ring Road. The travel time that is needed to use the conventional route along the semi-circular coastal road is hence reduced to one-third.


Welcome to Umihotaru.

Back to Umihotaru, it is a glorified five-story parking lot, measuring 650 meters in length and 100 meters wide, which forms a rectangular man-made island in between the bridge and the underwater tunnel. The parking lot on the first, second and third floor on this man-made island is always full, particularly on weekends and holidays. Shops, restaurants, cafes and amusement facilites occupies the forth and fifth floor.

The man-made island Umihotaru with an observation deck commands a 360-degree panoramic view of Tokyo Bay and has become one of the most popular scenic points for tourists. Another distinctive cylindrical-shaped man-made island, that uses the bay's almost-constant winds as a power source, houses a ventilation station for the tunnel and is named Kaze-no-tou (風の塔), which means "tower of wind".


The forth floor where there many restaurants are found.


Beautiful paintings on the wall on the fifth floor.

The road was opened on December 18, 1997 after 31 years of construction. The idea of the construction of the highway and Umihotaru was to connect the underdeveloped southern part of Chiba with intensely crowded Tokyo and Kanagawa. However, the development on the Chiba side never took off and it remains totally rural; a world apart from Tokyo although the project which was built at great cost in the middle of the ocean.

Another goal expressed during the planning of the Aqua-Line was to reduce the traffic through downtown Tokyo, but as the highway toll is quite high, the reduction in Tokyo traffic has not been as great as expected.


One of the popular spots at the viewing deck. A perfect place to view the sunset.


With Zoltan from Hungary, at another photography spot on the viewing deck.


Thao Nguyen from Vietnam, who was interviewed by Miss Kasahara, a reporter from Chiba TV.


This may be the final group photo the Chiba Kun Ambassador take together (photo credit: Masataka Ishizaki).


A spectacular view of Umihotaru overlooking the Chiba prefecture side in the background.

Therefore, to save a tunnel and a bridge that people hardly use, a huge entertainment area in Umihotaru was constructed. Although the Aqua-Line is officially built as a rest area for drivers, it is now used by the visitors as a tourist spot. Apart from a number of restaurants that offers a variety types of food, there are also cafes and a viewing deck. In fact, there is even a Starbucks cafe on the artificial island and as far as I know, the only Starbucks cafe in the middle of the ocean.

The viewing deck on the fifth floor is quite a popular spot for plane spotters as Haneda Airport is very close by. On a clear day, especially during winter season, visitors can also spot Mount Fuji in the far background.


Breathtaking sigh of sunset with Mount Fuji clearly visible on the right.
Address: Nakajimachisaki Umihotaru PA, Kisarazu City, Chiba Prefecture, 292-0071 Japan.
Access: Car: Kisarazu Kanada IC (木更津金田 IC) (from Chiba & Kisarazu); Kawasaki-ukishima JCT・Ukishima IC (川崎浮島 JCT・浮島 IC) (from Tokyo, Yokohama & Kawasaki)
Bus: Kisarazu Station (East exit, bus stop no. 8) (from Kisarazu); Kawasaki station 9East exit, bus stop no. 22) (from Kawasaki)


Unknown said...

I've went there once, on my way to seaworld at Chiba. But it is more fascinating in your lenses view.


calvin said...

@ kapten z:
hello kapten z! we didn't visit the seaworld in kamogawa this time, but would love to pay a visit there one day!

thanks for your compliments! :D