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  • Writer's pictureHelen Avaient

Umihotaru in Tokyo Bay Japan

Umihotaru is the world’s only highway rest stop that sits on top of water, in the sea. One side is reached through an underwater tunnel, the other reached by a bridge from land. At 650 meters long, is it an island though, surrounded by water?

Walking around the structure you can be forgiven for thinking you are on a stationary cruise liner. The fit out was intentionally designed this way and even decorations on the floors make you feel like you are on that sea going vessel.

Umihotaru translates to “sea firefly”. The five-storey man-made structure is part of the Tokyo Bay Aqua-Line, a bridge-tunnel route that is 23.7km long. This includes a 4.4km bridge and a 9.6km tunnel underneath the bay (the fourth-longest underwater tunnel in the world.) The whole system opened in 1997 took 9 years of construction after 23 years of planning! It cost over $USD 11 billion.

The 1st floor is mainly a bus terminal, the 2nd and 3rd floor supply parking for 500 vehicles, the 4th floor stocks stores and amusement facilities, while restaurants and observation decks are on the 5th floor.

The observation decks give you a unique viewpoint of Tokyo Bay, and the skylines of Chiba and Yokohama. As it is in the middle of the sea, it can be quite cool and very windy out in the open. On a clear day, you can even see Mt Fuji in the background.

From the top deck, you can see the boring wheel, with its 14m cutting face, that was used to dig the undersea tunnel. On the 3rd floor is a technical museum which focuses on the engineering technology to construct the bridge and tunnel.

Restaurants and a fast-food court are provided for diners. At night, the window seats fill quickly as the views out over the ocean in the dark are spectacular. Of course, being Japan, there are various food vending machines on board.

The restaurants are popular with both locals and tourists. You can eat seafood, ramen, burgers, coffee, desserts and ice-cream. All with affordable price tags.

There are many different sea themed sculptures around the structure. The most popular was the bell of happiness. People line up to ring the bell and hope it symbolises happiness for them and their families.

The builders have taken handicapped persons into account in their design, and there are elevators and handicapped toilets available on each level.

A tower between Umihotaru and Kawasaki supplies air to the tunnel, earning it the name Kaze No To, which means Tower of Wind.

Umihotaru is one of those unique wonders that you should visit, just to experience it. While you are there taking in the views, shopping or eating, you will marvel at the ingenuity of the creators and how they built this island rest stop in the middle of Tokyo Bay.

Happy Travels!

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