Turkey and Japan are two countries close at heart, although they are geographically far away. Establishing an air bridge for 30 years between Turkey and Japan, whose relations commenced more than a century ago and strengthened over time, Turkish Airlines eloquently connects one of the most attractive destinations of the Far East to the widest flight network in the world.
Commemorating the first flight to Japanese capital Tokyo 30 years ago in 1989, a reception was hedl in Palace Hotel,one of the most prominent hotels in the city, and saw the participation of Turkish Ambrassador to Tokyo Murat Mercan, Turkish Airlines SVP, Sales (II. Region) Kerem Sarp, Turkish Airlines SVP, Corporate Communications Seda Kalyoncu and around two hundred guests. .
Showcasing the importance the flag-carrier airline puts on Japan, a special commercial film too had its first run during the reception. Besides a traditional Japanese rock band Kuni Ken’s performance, TRT Folk Dances Ensemble too, entertained the guests with songs from Turkish culture. Japan’s two of world-famous sportsmen, footbal player Yuto Nagatomo, who is playing for Galatasaray, one of Turkish Super League teams, and golf player Hideto Tanihara, starred in the commercial film Turkish Airlines produce specially for Japan.
A Bridge of Friendship with Turkish Airlines
Turkish Airlines sponsored the exhibition Treasures and the Tulip Tradition in the Ottoman Empire, which was held in honor of Japan declaring 2019 the “Year of Turkish Culture”. In 2014, Turkish Airlines sponsored the Japan Basketball League, Japan’s professional basketball league. In addition to these, the most unforgettable event occurred in 2015. The film Ertuğrul 1890, for which Turkish Airlines was one of the sponsors, was filmed as a joint Turkish-Japanese project. The film told the sad story of the Ertuğrul freight ship. The aircraft that took the invitees to the world premiere of the film belonged to the flag carrier. On the return journey from a visit to the Japanese Empire, the Ertuğrul freight ship sunk in the Kushimoto waters. While the Turkish Airlines aircraft that flew to Japan for the premiere was called “Kushimoto”, the body of the plane was painted as old pajamas, in commemoration of the aircraft that brought the Japanese citizens who had been stranded in Iran in 1985. The three captain pilots and 12 crew members disembarked from this retro-plane dressed in the uniforms of the crew that had brought the Japanese citizens from Tehran. The actual team that carried out this rescue operation participated in the journey and met the Japanese citizens they had rescued.
As this 30th anniversary celebration has been a warm reminder of this long process and the events that occured, let’s go a little further back and take a look at the 1980s, when the first flight took-off..
First Flight to Japan
Commercial and cultural interaction is one of the strongest means of bringing countries together. At the beginning of the 1980s, a time when Japanese electronic goods were in high demand, when black market music sets, televisions, video players and cameras had entered every middle class house, the epic series Shogun was being shown on TRT (Turkish National Television); introducing old Japanese culture to all viewers, even helping them memorize a few words. Words like wakarimasu, anjin san, konichiwa and hai were on everyone’s lips. Even more, as Toshireo Mifune, who played Lord Toranaga in the series, was a bit plump, parents started calling their plump 5 to 10 year olds “Lord Toranaga.” In later years, when imported goods were allowed to enter the country, goods with “Made in Japan” written on them filled the store windows, but still there were not many Japanese tourists.
In 1985, the Japanese came upon the Turkish agenda for a different reason. Iran was at war with Iraq and the Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein, attacked Iran, bombing the region where the Japanese who were working in Iran were living; he also stated that he would bomb any passenger aircraft. All other countries had rescued their citizens, but 215 Japanese were trapped in Tehran. In a risky operation, a Turkish Airlines aircraft responded to the cry for help and took off from Istanbul -the nearest departure point- just a few hours before the planned Iraqi attack. The Japanese citizens were taken from Iran and brought to Turkey. This event cemented friendship between Turkey and Japan even further.
In the 1980s, when commerce and production began to gain speed in the Far East, Turkish Airlines started to fly to the region. By 1987 many Asian cities, including Singapore, Bombay, Delhi and Kuala Lumpur, had been added to the flight network. However, Japan was still beyond the reach of the aircraft in the fleet. The efforts to get to the Far East was sped up. In the following year, while sitting at the table with Japanese state organizations, three Airbus 310-300 aircraft were ordered, enabling Turkish Airlines to reach cities that were further away. Flights to Japan were now on the horizon.
With the arrival of two of the airbuses in 1989, flights to Bangkok, Moscow, and Tokyo were opened. The advertisement that appeared in the newspapers at this time read as follows: “Until today flying to Tokyo from Istanbul was very difficult. First you had to fly to Europe, that is rather than flying east, you flew west. You had to spend the night there, getting a new ticket and checking in your baggage again; the journey to Tokyo was long and complicated. But now all this has changed.”
In the last 30 years, Turkish Airlines played a crucial role in the progress of collaboration in various sectors between Turkey and Japan, tourism in particular, while carrying hundreds of thousands of people between the two countries. Becoming one of the fastest growing airlines in the world with the advances it has made in the last 15 years, the flag-carrier airlines prepares for the 2020 Summer Olympics that Japanese capital will host next year. Flying to more countries than any other airline, Turkish Airlines will increase its current 7 weekly flights to Tokyo to 10 flights in next April and 11 flights in June, for the Olympics when thousands of sports people and tens of thousands of sports fans will flood the city. The flag-carrier airline will also relaunch its flights to Osaka next April and will keep supporting the strong bond between Turkey and Japan.