SAPPORO — Sapporo’s “New Chitose” (CTS), also known as 新千歳空港 “Shin Chitose Kūkō” is one of Japan’s busiest airports. This architectural marvel serves one of the world’s most traveled routes; between Tokyo and Sapporo, carrying 8.2 million passengers in 2012.
In addition to CTS, the city of Sapporo also boasts Okadama Airport, which is located in a more central location. This airport serves a much smaller number of flights to regional destinations in northern Japan.
Sapporo’s Gateway in Detail
The New Chitose Airport lays at an elevation of 70ft in the Hokkaidō prefecture of Japan. It was originally built to replace the adjacent Chitose Airport in 1991. Its total land area makes it the largest airport in northern Japan.
In 1994, CTS became the first airport in Japan to operate 24 hours, though after 10PM there is a noise restriction in the area allowing six departures until morning time.
The airport has four North/South facing runways (01R/19L – 01L/19R – 18R/36L – 18L/36R), longer than 8,800 feet, capable of handling large and heavy airliners. The Chitose and New Chitose airports have dedicated runways but are well connected with new-generation taxiways. During winter season, all runways are used to mitigate with strong snowstorms and airport congestion.
According to official Japanese publications, CTS has become Japan’s third busiest airport (following Tokyo-Narita and Haneda). It is also ranked at the 64th place in the worldwide list of busiest airports.
The airport’s long-haul operations had KLM as its main service provider to Amsterdam in the 1997-2002 period. Later on, Qantas and JAL operated to Cairns and Honolulu respectively.
The airport’s main international terminal has a semi-circular layout and one of the most modern interiors in the region.The arrivals custom and passport control area is fed with long walkways adorned with great wooden floors and moving walkways. The baggage claim area has a wide-open space with excellent lightning and air conditioning.
The departures/check-in hall has been designed with tall ceilings, wide windows and most refreshing light colored floors.
The international terminal is separated from the domestic with a long hallway that passes through a fantastic shopping center, where the most exquisite Japanese products are sold – all the way from raw/live seafood to the most expensive delicatessen.
Shopping & Dining Excellence
Passengers and visitors have a wide range of dining choices at this incredible airport. Two themed food areas are dedicated to the region’s Hokkaido Ramen Dojo, where some of the best Ramen dishes in Japan can be found; and the Streetcar Dining District, which features some of the best Hokkaido specialties. All the area is packed with many souvenir stores, attended by the most polite staff members one could imagine.
The domestic terminal, on the other hand, is slightly dated. The roofs at the check-in area are low and shady, though it is easily forgotten when the main atrium comes to light, hosting one of the most impressive dining and shopping centers in northern Japan.
In the easternmost side of the terminal, a food court sits behind a 500-ft long window that faces the airport’s main runway. The court is designed so passengers can appreciate the views of arriving and departing aircraft while enjoying a traditional Japanese meal. It’s quite impressive how these airports are designed so that passengers and visitors can come to enjoy the aviation-themed environment and simply spend some time doing something different.
To add more pleasure to the Avgeek dream list, at the northern end of the food court, a nice surprise awaits. All Nippon Airways (ANA) has dedicated this space with an amazing ‘Sky Museum’ full of the airline’s merchandising, vintage aircraft, 787/777/737 real-sized tires, food carts, and much more. To complement, ANA exclusively uses a gate on the outside of the store so that customers can see the airline’s branding even on a 777-300 that usually occupies that spot.
Moreover, at the southern end of the court, lies a historic museum showing the different phases of the old and new Chitose. At the entrance, there’s a wonderful wall with a quick “History of Aircraft” diagram, which then opens to the museum space with a set of Flight Attendant uniforms used by the airlines that have made part of the airport’s history. Airline memorabilia and other interesting products are there for permanent display.
In the 4th floor (level 4F) of middle section of the connecting hallway between the international and domestic terminals, there’s an airplane hobby shop, where different sizes and brands of aircraft are sold. For the Avgeek community, it’s a must visit.
CTS recently went through a large expansion. The airport has become an attractive shopping and dining center where people from the surrounding cities come to enjoy the quality of the products that are sold within. The New Chitose has been qualified as one of the most pleasant airports in the country.
Other than shopping and dining, CTS also offers a very particular feature: The Onsen Manyonoyu hot spring bath house. Located inside the terminal building, it offers passengers the comforts of this typical Japanese facility. In addition to this, the airport also features a hotel specially tailored for connecting passengers.
Not only adult passengers can pamper themselves with those above-mentioned features. There’s a large playground for kids, named “Doraemon Wakuwaku Skypark,” which is designed after the creators of Japan’s most famous animated character, Doraemon.
Japan has managed to create impeccable airport infrastructures, not only dedicated to the aviation sector but also to the shopping industry. This is why this airport review focused exclusively on those areas that we do not often see in our side of the world – what makes them attractive to the eye of the regular eastern traveler.
Visit Japan. Visit Sapporo. You will not regret it.
Editor’s Note: Special thanks to Korean Air, who provided transportation and lodging for this report.