All About Osaka's Domestic Flight Hub, Itami Airport

Japan is a very busy country. With its booming economy, rapidly evolving technology, and constantly developing businesses, its citizens are used to traveling both around the world and Japan. Fortunately, Japan is one of the most efficient countries in terms of how they map out their systems, and their flight traveling services deliver no less in dependability. 

To curb the possible airway traffic that passengers may face, Japan has made airports that serve domestic purposes only. Although they do not serve international flights, they are still incredibly well-equipped and serve millions of customers yearly.  

What Is Itami Airport?

Itami airport is Kansai region’s main public domestic airport. Although its official name is “Osaka International Airport” – in Japanese, “Osaka Kokusai Kuko” (大阪国際空港). This is because it used to serve international flights during past years. However, most people presently refer to this first-class airport as Itami Airport, or in Japanese, “Itami Kuko” (伊丹空港).

Why Is It Called Itami Airport?

The airport is split into three areas: Toyonaka city and Ikeda city in the Osaka Prefecture, and Itami city in the Hyogo Prefecture. Although parts of the airport are in Ikeda and Toyonaka, most of it is in Itami, which is why it was given the name. The code of Itami Airport is ITM. 

Other Facts About This Solely Domestic Airport That Serves Osaka, Kyoto, and Kobe

Itami Airport’s operator is Kansai Airport. It is a hub for both Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways. It is built at an elevation of 12 meters. Its two runways measure 3,000 meters and 1,800 meters and are made of asphalt concrete. 

As of a report from 2006, the title of Japan’s 3rd busiest airport went to Itami, as well as the title of Kansai’s top busiest airport. Four years later, the airport was responsible for carrying 14,193,277 people in 62,293 aircraft movements (a movement is counted each time airplane lands and takes off) across 32 cities. 

In 2015, Itami Airport served 14,541,936 people for the entire year. That year, it also shipped 131,371 metric tons of cargo and oversaw more than double the amount of aircraft movements as it had 5 years prior, hitting 139,630. 

One Terminal Only

The airport is relatively small and operates using one terminal building. That building has 21 gates. Those gates are divided between JAL and Amakusa, who take the northern side of the building or “North Terminal”, while ANA and IBEX take the southern side of the building, or “South Terminal”. In the middle of those two divisions is an area that has shops and amenities for travelers, called “central block”. A renovation is scheduled to occur and finish by August 2020, which promises significant upgrades to the entire Airport.

Itami Airport currently serves All Nippon Airways, as well as All Nippon Airways operated by Ibex Airlines and ANA Wings. Other airlines include Amakusa Airlines, Japan Airlines, and Japan Airlines operated by J-Air and Japan Air Commuter. 

It offers trips to many parts of Japan, some of them being Fukuoka, Sapporo-Chitose, Tokyo-Haneda, and Tokyo-Narita, as well as seasonal trips to Kushiro, Iwami, Asahikawa, Memanbetsu, Matsumoto, and Tanegashima. Its designated cargo airline is ANA Cargo, which goes to Tokyo-Haneda in Naha. 

The History of Itami Airport

Established in 1939, this Itami Airport was first known as “Dai-ni Osaka Hikojo” (第二大阪飛行場) or No. 2 Osaka Airport. Before that, the only airport that existed in Osaka was by the Kizu river and was only used for seaplanes. In 1936, construction on No. 2 Osaka Airport commenced, which was the government’s answer to serve land-based planes. This was after businesses in Kobe clamored for more accessibility and easier transportation services.

War Purposes

Shortly after the airport was finished, the Imperial Japanese Army used most of its facilities for the Second World War, up until 1945, when the war ended. When the U.S. occupations dominated the base, they changed its name to “Itami Air Base”, expanding it from 53 hectares to 221 hectares. During the Korean War, this air base proved very useful as a strategic point. 

By 利用者:Si-take. / Si-take. at ja.wikipedia (Photo by Si-take.) [GFDL ( or CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Post-War Era

This airport was also made popular because of a visit paid by Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe while they were on their honeymoon during 1954. Itami air base was also featured in the classic film “Sayonara”, starring Marlon Brando, filmed in 1956. Itami Air Base wouldn’t hold its name for long, as it was returned to Japanese ownership in 1959, and called “Osaka Kuko” or Osaka airport. 

Once the Japanese government took a hold of the Air Base, it sought to turn it into an airport for jets to land in. Residents of Osaka were divided on this matter, but the project ultimately pushed through after the movement was supported by many groups. To accommodate the high-speed crafts, the government added another 82.5 hectares to the lot. Jet flights had been taking off from here since the mid-60’s, but by 1970, the main runway was fully ready and set to let the airport compete with other high-speed forms of transportation services, such as the Tokaido Shinkansen. 

An International Service

At Itami Airport’s peak, international airlines served in this airport, some of which were Cathay Pacific, Korean Air, Pan Am, British Airways, and one of their busiest carriers, Northwest Airlines. 

Over the years, Japan’s economy progressed rapidly, which lead to a lot of growing density and traffic around its airports. This disturbed many of the residents who had been living there prior to the airport’s heavy draw of crowds. That, combined with the noisiness of the jets, and the base’s obligation to support US troops that were fighting in Vietnam (U.S. military aircraft would sometimes be serviced here) turned Itami into a very controversial airport.

The government faced lawsuits filed by citizens due to the noise pollution generated by the airport. That was in 1969. By February of 1970, a rule was implemented that made sure no plane landed or took off from 10:30 PM until 6:30 AM. By 1975, this was moved to 9 PM to 7 AM. The case went on for years, and though the injunction of halted flights was ultimately lifted in 1981, though the damages the victims faced were still validated. 

Other kinds of restrictions were implemented at this airport, such as slot restrictions. Only 170 propeller aircrafts and 200 jets could land per day. As a response to make the most out of those flights, airlines created larger aircrafts to carry more people, which prompted more outbursts among Osaka residents, because of the increase in pollution and possible accidents. 

The Opening of Kansai International Airport

Itami’s problems that consecutively arose during the 1970’s called for the construction of another airport to ease the traffic. Consequentially, Kansai International Airport was built in 1994. Instead of closing Itami airport (which was the initial proposal), Itami would instead be used for domestic flights. 

The only way that Itami would take in international flights if it’s important; like a state visit, or special event. Occurrences such as the visitation of the Air Force One in 2005, the visitation of Wen Jiabao in 2007, and South Korean charter flights in 2015 are examples, but the rest of their flights serve only transportation within Japan. 

Currently, NKIAC or New Kansai International Airport Company promotes Itami Airport as the one you would use for business, while Narita International Airport – which serves both domestic and international airlines – is for leisure travel purposes. There are shuttle services between the two airports to make it easier to transfer airports and to possibly lessen the usage of domestic flights on Kansai International Airport’s part.

View the Map of Itami Airport Online

Itami Airport has a website, which is named “Osaka-Airport”. The website is in English, and they have floor maps of the airport in case you want to know exactly where to go for your flight. They even have legends and indicators of amenities. 

To find the map, simply look at the blue bar on top of the website, click “floor map”, which has a logo of a floor map, and is in between “flight information” and “access information”, and you will have different options that you can view and study. You also have the option to download their PDF. 

Hotel Suggestions Near Itami Airport 

Toyoko Inn rated 3.5 out of 5 stars by 228 reviews, goes for about 8,483 yen a night. It’s a decent hotel to stay before flying out. There’s Hotel Lotus for those who want a little more luxury in their stay, but the hotel does not allow those who are at a young age. Lastly, Reftel Osaka Airport Hotel is a no-frills hotel that is incredibly near the airport, and costs around 7,200 yen a night. 

Transportation Options That Can Bring You to Itami Airport

If you want to enter the airport coming from Itami city, you would have to go through an underground tunnel stretch that is located directly under the runway. Otherwise, you can get there by monorail and train. Each route depends on where you’re coming from. The website of Itami Airport (Osaka-airport) has a guideline of which stations to look for and line to take that range from the Osaka, Kobe, and Kyoto areas – even Hotarugaike station is covered.

How to Get to Itami Airport from Shin-Osaka Station Using A Bus

Luckily, Itami Airport has many bus options that can shuttle you around several areas in Osaka. Airport Buses can take you to Umeda Station, which costs 640 yen and takes 25 minutes, Namba, also at 640 yen and takes 25 minutes, and Shin-Osaka station, costing a little cheaper at 500 yen, with a 25-minute trip duration. Some buses head to JR Kyoto at night.

Note that Itami Station is different, and isn’t exactly near the airport. Hankyu Railway operates the Itami line (which is beside the Takararazuka line). 

The Mascot of Itami Airport

To celebrate Itami Airport’s 75th anniversary, a mascot was created to promote it, named Sora-yan. This name is a combination of two words; “Sora”, which is "sky" in Japanese, and “yan”, an expression native to Osaka alone that connotes emphasis. The mascot is a girl – and is in the shape of a short and stout, blushing airplane (the wings are her arms) with tiny eyes, a small grinning mouth. She wears a blue pilot hat, a silk scarf colored red, yellow, white, and blue – just like those worn by flight attendants. Sora-yan’s main goal is to make the incoming visitors and passengers smile – and that she does.

When you find yourself booking a ticket to see the rest of Japan, and you’re coming from Kobe, Kyoto, or Osaka, try taking Itami Airport.