Photos of an eerily empty Narita Airport

Fetched a friend from Narita Airport last spring and took pictures of a strangely quiet airport devoid of travellers.

My friend didn’t want to make the 20-hour trip from Mexico at the height of the covid pandemic and had postponed it once, but in the end she had to if she wanted to renew her reentry permit (she holds a permanent resident visa but has been away for many years already).

Narita Airport Terminal 1

No buses and even cars on sight outside, only a lonely stretch of pavement that disappears into a gray sky.

Narita Airport Terminal 1 Narita Airport bus waiting area Narita Airport international departure

Inside is equally empty of people.

I have always been excited going to the airport; it’s like passing through a warp zone: you come out at the other end and it’s a completely different country, culture and climate.

This however, feels like the perfect place to be ambushed by covid-infected zombies. I couldn’t wait to make my get-away.

Narita Airport living Japan display

PCR testing area

It’s interesting that “PCR” is the same in English, Japanese, Chinese and Korean, yet very few people know what it stands for (or what it means).

Narita Airport PCR testing center Narita Airport shopping and dining

Pay phones and post boxes

A row of pay phones like relics from a forgotten era. You might be tempted to make a last phone call to loved one before being overwhelmed by hordes of the undead. But then again, there might not be anyone at the other end.

Some time during the pre-pandemic distant past, I stopped by a gas station and asked the attendant, “do you have a pay phone around here?” “Everybody carries a cellphone now,” he replied, half-ignoring my question and half-apologetic.

And just like that, the conversation ended as quickly as it started.

Narita Airport pay phones

The sight of a post box, on the other hand, reassures me every time. These ubiquitous red post boxes are all over Japan and reminds me that home is near (or is reachable).

In the post-apocalyptic movie The Postman, Kevin Costner tries to convince a community of stragglers that civilization would soon be restored as evidenced by the mail he is belatedly delivering: getting your mail is a sign of a functioning government.

You should watch the movie. It’s bad.

Narita Airport post box

Fast track to Tokyo 2020

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics was supposed to be the event that would bring godzillions of tourists to Japan (on top of a record-breaking 12-month high of 2.3 million registered in 2019).

Instead, the coronavirus pandemic decimated the world economy and brought international travel to a virtual standstill. Even Japan closed its borders, breached only by a handful of its citizens and permanent residents.

Narita Airport fast track to Tokyo 2020

Social distancing is the least of your worries inside this almost abandoned airport. That didn’t stop me from wearing an N95-grade mask eventhough I wasn’t going near an airplane.

Narita Airport social distancing

Cancelled flights

All these cancelled flights make me wonder: isn’t international travel overrated? In this era of Internet and virtual reality, do we really need to fly thousands of miles to enjoy a place or talk to a client?

It has long been established that flying is bad for the planet (aviation accounts for almost 2% of greenhouse gas emissions).

Maybe a good effect of the pandemic is putting a brake on unnecessary travel and reducing the overall carbon footprint of humans on the planet.

Not that it would matter in the long run, anyway.

Narita Airport cancelled flights