“The Olympic year had arrived in the Land of the Rising Sun with unmistakeable finality … The city had been ripped apart for new subways, new highways, new belt parkways, new hotels, new sports complexes, new buildings and even a new monorail to whisk travelers from the airport to the heart of town in fifteen-minutes instead of an hour-plus.”
– Complete Book of Olympic Games, Prof. Dr. Amresh Kumar, 2007
Monorails were a futuristic mass transit concept designed to use urban air space and leave the ground to vehicular traffic. The first permanent monorail was put into operation as part of Disneyland’s theme park, in 1956, followed in 1957 by the opening of a short monorail track at Tokyo’s Ueno Park. Seattle constructed a monorail for use during its 1962 World’s Fair.
But, the first large-scale commercial application of the monorail concept anywhere in the world was completed in time for the 1964 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, moving people from the city center to Haneda International Airport, one of a series of Olympics-related public works projects that ‘announced’ to the world of Japan’s coming-of-age. At the time of its completion, two weeks before the opening of the Games, the Tokyo Monorail was the longest in the world: 8 miles. By 1980, the Tokyo Monorail was ferrying more than 2 million passengers per month.
The line was originally planned to extend from Haneda to Shimbashi or Tokyo stations. Cost overruns for the national railway’s Tokaido Shinkansen project shortened the monorail route. As a cost-saving move, the route was built largely over water with the elevated track following the coast line. The resulting construction eliminated a number of fishing and aquatic farming operations. In particular, the Omori no nori sea field in Ota Ward at Shinagawa, which had produced a premium brand of nori [seaweed] since the Edo Period, was destroyed.