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While it’s often referred to in travel literature as Tokyo Narita Airport, Japan’s busiest international air hub is actually located in Chiba Prefecture, making it about a one-hour train ride away from downtown Tokyo (and you can tack an extra 30 minutes or so onto that if you’re not willing to shell out the extra cash for the express train). This makes Narita sort of inconvenient if you’ve got an early departure, or if you arrive late and don’t feel like spending two hours in transit before you can collapse in your hotel bed.

So our interest was piqued when we found out about a bed and breakfast built so close to the airport it’s actually inside the runway area, and once we heard the rumors that it costs just 1,000 yen (US $8.50) a night, we decided to go searching for the mysterious hotel ourselves.

Fresh off his visit to the similarly located Toho Shrine, our Japanese-language reporter Clone Kurosawa was in the mood to make his visit to Narita into an overnight trip by grabbing a room at the Ki no Ne Pension. Like Toho Shrine, the bed and breakfast is a holdover from the bitter protests held in the years preceding Narita Airport’s B runway expansion. As a matter of fact, it used to be a base of operations for the protesters, and went by the name Ki no Ne Union Cabin before switching to its current moniker.

In the end, the opposition groups weren’t able to halt the project, and today the B runway is up and running. That doesn’t mean the airport was able to acquire all the land it wanted though, as you can see from this Google satellite image of the Ki no Ne Pension.

▼ The hotel’s location, marked by the red pointer

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With a unique combination of airport proximity and secluded privacy, Kurosawa figured the Ki no Ne Pension would be great for busy businesspeople and amorous couples alike (not to mention absolutely perfect for amorous businesspeople).

Since guests can’t drive on the runway, the hotel is connected to the outside world by a tunnel. After walking from the closest train station, Shibayama Chiyoda, Kurosawa passed through the subterranean corridor, which emptied out into a network of access roads.

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The streets are flanked by sightline-obscuring walls and triple-layers of barbed-wire topped fences. While these aren’t usually the most inviting sights for tourists, they did at least mean less chance of any strangers staring at Kurosawa while he lounged in the Ki no Ne Pension’s pool.

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Still, our reporter wasn’t completely alone as he made his way towards the hotel’s address. He was greeted by the same welcoming committee that had been present on his visit to Toho Shrine: airport security in an armored car. He also could feel a sense of comradery from all the remote eyes on him thanks to the several security cameras he passed by.

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Eventually, Kurosawa came to a sign, partially overgrown with vines, for the Ki no Ne Pension and Pool. Just barely able to make out the arrow, he continued on in the direction it pointed, making his way up a small hill.

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Lo and behold, at the top he found himself in front of a two-story structure. Sure, it could use a new coat of paint, but it wins a couple of style points for its snazzy schoolhouse-like steeple and clock. Even with its weather-beaten exterior, we’d still say this is one of the nicest-looking hotels we’ve ever seen inside the runway of a major international airport.

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As promised, there’s an outdoor swimming pool. Granted, it’s a pretty simple concrete rectangle with no diving board or swim-up bar, but still, the idea of watching airliners fly by as you do the backstroke is pretty cool.

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Kurosawa was sold, so he walked to the entrance and knocked on the door. Then he knocked again when no one answered. And again after that.

With smaller properties like the Ki no Ne Pension, a lot of times there’s just a skeleton crew on site during the afternoon. Maybe the receptionist was cleaning the rooms on the second floor and couldn’t hear Kurosawa knocking down below?

Our reporter whipped out his phone and tried calling the number listed for the hotel, but to no avail. No one answered, and instead of someone saying “Thank you for calling Ki no Ne Pension,” Kurosawa could hear the guards at the bottom of the hill reporting his movements to headquarters on their walkie-talkies. With staying in the hotel off the table, it looked like his choices were down to spending the night back at his apartment or in a Narita security holding cell. Deciding to go with the former, Kurosawa made his way back to the station and headed home.

So, is the Ki no Ne Pension the cheapest, most convenient place to stay if you’re flying into or out of Narita? Maybe. But the odds are looking just as good that it’s simply the airport’s closest abandoned shack.

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Photos: RocketNews24
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