How many parking lots do you know that are part of a man-made island? Probably NONE? Well, thats Umihotaru on the Tokyo Bay part of a tunnel connecting Kawasaki to Kisarazu below the ocean!! UMI and HOTARU, two words in Japanese which mean Ocean and firefly respectively, the island is indeed a firefly lit in the middle of a dark ocean in the night time like a firefly in a dark forest.The bridge and tunnel meet at the middle at an artificial island, where the parking garage resides. You can access the mid-ocean parking area by a car or a highway bus on either sides of Kawasaki and Kisarazu, Chiba. Many highway buses from Tokyo, Haneda airport, Kawasaki and Yokohama to some cities in south part of Chiba Prefecture run this expressway and stop here. You can access Umihotaru using this highway bus. Easy access to Umi Hotaru is from Kawasaki Station. Ask for Umi Hotaru highway express bus at the Kawasaki Station. Japanese web page of Keikyu Bus Service is here. I went to the place in a car from the Kawasaki side in a car.The aqua line length is 14.0 km. The west side (Kawasaki side) is 9.6 km undersea tunnel, and the east side (Kisarazu side) is 4.4 km bridge. “Umi-hotaru” rest area at the bridge-tunnel crossover point. The travel by the under sea tunnel itself is an awesome long drive.
Access: Car: Kisarazu Kanada IC (木更津金田 IC) (from Chiba & Kisarazu); Kawasaki-ukishima JCT・Ukishima IC (川崎浮島 JCT・浮島 IC) (from Tokyo, Yokohama & Kawasaki)
Bus: Kisarazu Station (East exit, bus stop no. 8) (from Kisarazu); Kawasaki station 9East exit, bus stop no. 22) (from Kawasaki)Welcome to UMI HOTARU : As we got out of the tunnel, we caught this amazing view of Yokohama Landmark Tower, the Yokohama Bridge, tiny structures from Umi Hotaru with the big Mount Fuji in the backdrop. Grrrr, wish I had a proper zoom lens camera.Visiting on a windy day, the sea had high waves, if you visit Umi Hotaru in winter season ensure that you are well dressed for the cold biting winds in the middle of the Pacific ocean. Umm Hotaru is well designed with various facilities and expansive parking including a shopping center that houses a variety of restaurants, souvenir shops, café’s and desserts. If you do not like the winds, you could stay indoors in the shopping area itself and enjoy the ocean views.That said, it is worthwhile to go outdoors and see the various attractions at Umi Hotaru. The boring wheel used to dig the undersea tunnel is one of those must see things at Umi Hotaru. It took 31 years to study the possibility to build a road connection in the middle of the Tokyo Bay and build the Aqualine, which opened to traffic in December 1997 after 8 years of construction. The total cost reached… 1.44 trillion yens (11 billion dollars)! The best NON PERFORMING ASSET in Japan. I was impressed by this 14m cutter face, which was used to make a tunnel under the sea.The crossing cost for a car of normal size is 3000 yens. It is significantly lower on weekends though,with ETC card car nearly 1000 yen off when we went there three years back. The toll fee was higher at the inauguration, but it was later lowered since the traffic was much smaller than expected. The main concept behind this construction was to offer another way around Tokyo, thus lowering the number of cars crossing through the capital. But due to the hefty fee, few people changed their habit. A view of the Yokohama Bay side and the Haneda Airport from Umi Hotaru is below.A monument I do not know what it is, but yeah well modern art, I suppose.
The views on the Kisarazu side are equally nice with the road coming out of the tunnel and connecting to the bridge on to the Chiba side. This spot is supposed to be a nice location for viewing the Chiba Makuhari fireworks too. Just hearsay, I might try it out next summer.Strong winds, high waves and don’t worry about doing your hair before visiting. They will not stay in one place and will be all over your face anyways….The shopping place inside the resting area of Umi Hotaru. Since it was the December month, the Santa was out too…Long decks to walk on either side provide for some brilliant views of the ocean on a sunny bright day. As the evenings approach it can feel eerie too. I didn’t quite like the sound of the waves gushing towards the night time and dreaded the fact of what it would be to experience an earthquake in the middle of the ocean. YIKKKKES>…Umi Hotaru in many ways seems to be a construction made to save a tunnel and a bridge that people hardly use. Apart from a number of restaurants that offers a variety types of food, there are also cafes and a viewing deck. EVEN a Starbucks cafe probably only one of a kind MIDDLE OF OCEAN Starbucks can be found at Umi Hotaru. Get some splendid views on a cool winter afternoon sipping a cup of you favourite coffee.On a sunny day, the birds were all enjoying alongside the waves. Notice the white seagulls, small dots at the left side bottom of the below image, since I took the snap from quite far….A time-lapse I shot over the iPhone