We recently went literally under the sea!
No, not like in Little Mermaid where they are actually physically IN the sea, not under it. Now that I mention it… shouldn’t the song be “In the Sea”…? Or does under mean under the surface level of the sea? Hmmm.
Anyway, Tokyo Bay Aqua-Line is due for some (rather belated) introductions! Aqua-Line is an expressway that is part tunnel, part bridge connecting the two neighbors of Tokyo – Kanagawa Prefecture and Chiba Prefecture.
What used to be a 90-mins drive is shortened down to just 15-mins!
It’s the 4th longest underwater tunnel in the world, and the tunnel diameter is the world’s largest for an underwater shield tunnel used for motor vehicle traffic. Dunno why that would be of interest to anyone. But just in case, I cut-and-paste (made to rhyme! :D )
There is an expressway toll for Aqua-Line, which first started off at 3,000 yen (~SGD 40) for ONE WAY. But after the introduction of a discount with the use of ETC card some years back (probably around the same time they realized how little people were using the expressway due to the exorbitant tolls), we only had to pay 800 yen each way!
Oh yes, the ETC card has a similar function as Singapore’s Cashcard or Malaysia’s Touch ‘n Go card, except the ETC card does not hold any value, but works like a credit card instead.
The ETC card is crucial to driving in Japan, because not only would we have had to pay 3,000 yen for the Aqua-Line when paying in cash, but we would also have to pay the full toll price for other expressways in Japan too!
We went in June, which is the infamous rainy season as I mentioned in this post, thus the speckled windscreen and grey skies.
Returning to the key phrase at the start of the post… why did I say we literally went under the sea?
For some reason, I always thought that tunnels that pass through a body of water are built on the ocean bed or something, because uh, it’s impossible to go below it? Dunno why I thought it was impossible *shrugs*
BUT LOOK! We literally went UNDER the sea! Or ocean. Whatever floats your boat.
Guess what? That’s not the coolest part.
The end of the tunnel exits into an artificial island, Umihotaru, which literally translates to “Sea Firefly”.
Standing on Umihotaru is quite a surreal feeling. We’re literally standing on a structure in the ocean, in the middle of nowhere! (ok fine, you nitpicky person. In the middle of Kanagawa and Chiba. You happy?)
The above is the first photo I took after getting out of the car.
In that moment, I was overcome by the awe I had for mankind. We are capable of all these crazy engineering feats, yet at the same time, all the power we yield may well be the cause of our very own destruction.
… Why am I getting all emotional?!! I think it’s the age… and the weather… T_T
Umihotaru has 5 levels, packed with restaurants, gift shops and convenience stores. It even has an arcade, and a Starbucks! Starbucks you really are everywhere!
We had lunch at the food court, and since we were at Tokyo Bay, which is famous for asari (clams), every single stall had asari dishes!
It was a pity that it was raining, because I was told that on clear days, the scenery is a sight to behold! Mount Fuji can also be sighted on a good day!
Still, it was fun with the weather we had! It’s not everyday you get to battle the rain and wind while standing atop a man-made miracle in the middle of the sea!
This will be a good place to revisit when the weather is better for sightseeing!