TOKYO - To make Tokyo more attractive for foreign tourists ahead of the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, the Tokyo metropolitan government is currently reviewing the marine transportation network.
In particular, the metropolitan government has high expectations for a new route linking Haneda Airport and the centre of Tokyo.
Boats along this route would travel under the Rainbow Bridge, and passengers will be able to enjoy direct access to the Ginza and Nihonbashi districts while viewing high-rise buildings in the heart of Tokyo.
The route is also free from traffic jams and any commuter rush.
The metropolitan government wants to make marine transportation on this route comparable to that of the Seine in Paris and the Thames in London, where water buses can seen coming and going.
At Haneda Airport, two docks started to be used in 2011. Currently, water taxis and night cruise boats use them a total of 200 times a year. However, a regular ferry service is available only on weekends.
Meanwhile, a speed competition is currently under way between railway and monorail companies over services between Haneda Airport and the centre of Tokyo.
Tokyo Monorail Co. links Haneda Airport's domestic terminal and Hamamatsucho Station in 19 minutes at best, while Keikyu Corp. connects the domestic terminal with Shinagawa Station in at least 14 minutes.
However, it currently takes about 40 minutes to 90 minutes to travel by water taxi or ferry from the airport to the centre of Tokyo because the docks are located some way from the terminal.
Also, services are often suspended because the docks are near the mouth of the Tamagawa river, where sand piles up easily on the riverbed.
One official at a transport provider said marine transportation cannot be superior to land transportation.
However, the metropolitan government sees the potential of marine transportation, with a senior official saying, "It will be a new tourism resource for Tokyo."
British Ambassador to Japan Timothy Hitchens, who rode on a boat chartered by the metropolitan government from Haneda Airport in January, said that arriving at Hamarikyu in Chuo Ward was a wonderful experience.
Commenting on the Rainbow Bridge and skyscrapers that he saw from the boat, Hitchens said he did not know Tokyo was such a big city with waterfront areas.
Tokyo Gov. Yoichi Masuzoe, who accompanied Hitchens, proudly told him, "A boat would be more convenient if we could travel quickly to Nihonbashi and other areas in the centre of Tokyo without using the congested Metropolitan Expressway from Haneda."
The metropolitan government plans to search for model routes, as well as speeding up the development and renovation of docks in Tokyo, from next fiscal year.
Masuzoe has asked Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for cooperation to revitalise the marine transportation network in the centre of Tokyo.
Companies operating ferry services are also pinning their hopes on more active use of marine transportation.
KMC Corp. operates a route from Haneda Airport, where passengers can witness an impressive view of airplanes taking off and landing overhead.
"We believe customers from overseas will enjoy it," an official at the Yokohama-based company said.
The metropolitan government wants to bring Tokyo into line with Paris and London, where there are well-developed marine transportation networks.
In particular, it plans to completely change the bay areas and banks of the Sumidagawa river, adopting a more stylish look like the Seine.
The metropolitan government also is planning to introduce coffee shops and develop promenades there.
In addition, the metropolitan government is considering utilizing canals spreading from bay areas.
It plans to dig into the riverbed of the Ebitorikawa river, located at the west side of Haneda Airport, so that larger passenger ships can use it.