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Japan hopes upgraded Haneda airport to lure more foreigners

The full-fledged opening of Tokyo's Haneda airport to international flights will bring more foreign travellers, the transport minister said Saturday as Japan pushes ahead with efforts to promote tourism.

"I believe more foreign travellers will visit regional cities via Haneda by using extensive domestic networks as regular international flights start," Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Minister Sumio Mabuchi said.

"I hope this will lead to their discovery of new tourist attractions and tourism routes," Mabuchi told a ceremony at Haneda celebrating the completion of a fourth runway and a gleaming new terminal that is to open Thursday.

Haneda is to begin handling regular extensive international flights this month after a three-decade break, as Japan ties to fend off competition from rising Asian rivals and make tourism one of driving forces of the country's future growth.

The airport is currently limited to domestic flights and a limited number of flights to and from a few East Asian cities, leaving it in the shadow of the larger Narita international airport outside the capital.

Haneda is far more convenient for travellers, being located a mere 20 minute monorail ride from the heart of Tokyo. It takes more than double the time to reach Narita, which is located 60 kilometres (40 miles) from Tokyo.