Akita welcomes back the Onagori Phone.

As a regional airport serving one of Japan’s least populous prefectures, Akita Airport doesn’t have all the amenities you might find at larger air travel hubs, like the full-on onsen bath in Sapporo’s airport or the spaceship-style capsule hotel at Narita. What Akita Airport does have, though, is the Onagori Phone.

Onagori is a Japanese word meaning “reluctant goodbye,” and the Onagori Phone’s name makes perfect sense once you know which part of the building its in.

The phone is located in the departure lobby on the second floor of the domestic flight building. It’s mounted on a glass wall that separates the passenger boarding area for outgoing flights and a section of the airport that’s in front of the passenger security check. In other words, the wall divides the part of the airport for people who are about to leave Akita and the part for those who are staying behind, and there’s an identical connected handset on each side of the glass, so that you can say goodbye to a friend, family member, or loved one right before they get on the plane.

An Onagori Phone was first installed at Akita Airport several years ago, but it was shut down in the spring of 2018 as building renovations started. On May 30, though, just over five years since the device went out of commission, Akita Airport announced that the Onagori Phone is up and running again, and free for anyone to use.

▼ A photo of the Onagori Phone shortly following its shutdown on April 20, 2018

The return of the Onagori Phone warmed the hearts of Twitter users reacting to Akita Airport’s announcement with:

“This is such a beautiful idea.”
“I like this better than using a smartphone.”
“So happy it’s back!”
“For a while, I was living away from my family for a work assignment, and I’d always use the Onagori Phone when I had to say goodbye again after coming back home for a visit.”
“I love the Onagori Phone! I used it so many times when I was in a long-distance relationship during my student days.”
“When my friend was moving to Tokyo, we said goodbye to each other through our tears with this.”
“I’m going through Akita Airport this month. Hope I get to use it.”

You could make the argument that in the modern era, with so many people are walking around with a smartphone in their pocket, the Onagori Phone isn’t really necessary. For younger kids who don’t have a phone of their own, though, or older relatives who still aren’t so comfortable using a touchscreen-operated mobile device, the Onagori Phone makes it easy to say goodbye or I’ll miss you one more time, and being able to talk while seeing each other’s face through the wall lets you say “Hope to see you again soon” with a smile.

Source: Twitter/@AXT_airport (1, 2) via IT Media, Akita Airport
Top image: Pakutaso
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