The sign above reads: “No entry during takeoff and landing.

Not a lot of people can say they’ve driven their car on an airport runway before, but did you know there’s a place where you can legally do that in Japan? It’s a rare spot located in Kasaoka City, Okayama Prefecture, where a road sandwiched between rice fields will lead you onto the runway at Kasaoka Fureai Airport.

Our Japanese-language reporter Haruka Takagi ventured out to find the road that intersects the runway, and when she arrived at the intersection, she saw it came with a gate and a warning sign.

The warning sign reads:

▼ “No entry during takeoff and landing.

That isn’t a sign you usually see directed at traffic on a public road, but it’s necessary at this location, because once you cross this bridge, you’ll wind up here:

▼ Yes — crossing an airport runway.

The photo below shows how the road crosses over the runway, with metal rods on either side to keep you on course.

The runway is quite small, measuring 25 metres (82 feet) wide and 800 metres in length, but it’s played a vital role in the community for decades. According to this booklet, the airport was completed in 1991 and used to transport local agricultural and marine produce, such as peaches, grapes, rosesfish and shellfish, to seven locations nationwide by air.

The airport was initially named “Kasaoka Fureai Airport” but more recently it’s been rebranded as “Kasaoka District Farm Road Airport”, or simply “Kasaoka Air Station“.

▼ The “Kasaoka Fureai Airport” sign, with its cute plane and rainbow, still looks out over the surrounding farms.

Sadly, the airport is actually closed as of 2021, as transporting produce by land is now more cost-efficient than flying, but the airport and its runway are still used for events today.

Haruka was curious to find out more about the unusual stretch of road that intersects the runway, so she spoke to an official at Kasaoka City about it.

Haruka: A road that crosses over a runway is quite rare in Japan, isn’t it? When using the runway, do you close off the road?

Kasaoka official: “That’s right. After closing the road with the gate, we move the metal rods and open the section of the runway that’s normally the road.”

Kasaoka official: “The rods that separate the runway from the road have tires so they can be moved. And to tell you the truth, immediately after construction the runway was about 200 metres (656 feet) south of where it is today, so originally, the road didn’t cut across it.”

Haruka: Eh!? Does that mean that the runway was shifted 200 metres north after construction?

Kasaoka official: “That’s right. According to Civil Aeronautics Law, there should be no obstructions around the runway, but after completion, an industrial park was constructed on the south side. I heard that it would’ve been violating aviation law if left as it was, so it was shifted to its current location, and as a result, the current intersection over the public road was established.”

Haruka: I see. So have there been any opportunities for planes to take off from this runway recently?

Kasaoka official: “We hold an event that involves flying airplanes once a year. In 2021, we held an event where Yoshihide Muroya, the world champion of air racing, came and ‘drew’ a white line in the sky over Kasaoka City. Airplanes such as the Self-Defense Forces’ JASDF Kawasaki T-4 and Honda’s HA-420 were also at the event — it was really exciting.

In the future, we plan to use the runway as a test takeoff and landing site for unmanned aerial vehicles called ‘flying cars.’ In June 2021, we conducted a demonstration flight of an autonomous aerial vehicle made by Ehang of China, which was the first outdoor test flight of its kind in Japan. We’d like to increase such test flights in the future and put it toward practical use at the 2025 Osaka Expo.”

Haruka: The first in Japan! It’s a good way to make use of the former airport!! Do you usually have many non-airplane related events?

Kasaoka official: “Well, we also hold events such as car exhibitions and we make small courses for motorcycles. The runway is used over 200 days of the year in some way or another.”

▼ These tyre marks on the runway prove it’s used by more than just airplanes.

Haruka initially thought the closure of the airport meant the runway was going to waste, but after speaking to the city official, she was pleasantly surprised to find it was still being put to good use, and much more frequently than she imagined.

▼ It’s a small but fine runway!

▼ The runway has seen a lot of unique contraptions over the years, including these gliders used for a ‘Bird Human’ contest.

▼ When Haruka visited, there was actually a large motorcycle and Harley Davidson event being held on the grounds.

▼ That makes perfect sense, as the runway is well-suited to racing riders.

Kasaoka Fureai Airport may now be seeing more action on ground than in the air, but it remains an important hub for the community. It might also become an important hub for flying cars in the near future too, particularly when this Kamen Rider hoverbike is a real thing you can actually buy now, with delivery scheduled for next year!

Related: Kasaoka Fureai Airport
Photos © SoraNews24

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