Hyogo: Why is Osaka Airport called Itami?

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A plane takes off from Osaka International Airport.

NISHINOMIYA, Hyogo — Osaka International Airport is also known as Itami Airport, with Itami being the name of a city in Hyogo Prefecture.

The airport straddles the cities of Itami and two cities of Osaka Prefecture — Toyonaka and Ikeda. Of the airport’s total area of about 3.11 million square meters, the city of Itami occupies about 70%, with the area mainly used for runways.

However, the central facilities of the airport, including the control tower, are in Toyonaka, making the airport officially located in Osaka Prefecture and officially named “Osaka International Airport.”

Then, why is the airport known to many as “Itami Airport” rather than “Osaka Airport?” The roots of the trend date back to prewar days.

Provided by Kanji Aranishi
The arch at the entrance when the airport was U.S. Itami Air Base

The predecessor of the airport was “Osaka No. 2 Airport,” which was built by the central government and opened in 1939. At that time, it was already dubbed Itami airfield.

At the start of World War II, the Imperial Japanese Army used it exclusively for military purposes. After the war, in September 1945, the U.S. military took over the facility and renamed it Itami Air Base. The name “Itami Airport” was inherited from the name, “Itami Air Base.”

As thousands of U.S. military personnel began to live near the air base, restaurants, bars and other establishments lined the streets of Itami and Toyonaka for U.S. soldiers to use. Local residents promoted exchanges with U.S. citizens.

Former Itami City employee Kanji Aranishi was among them. The 73-year-old man has continued to interact with former U.S. personnel who were stationed at the base.

“The 1957 romantic film ‘Sayonara,’ starring Hollywood star Marlon Brando, was set at Itami Air Base,” he said.

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio land at Itami Airport in February 1954.

In The Yomiuri Shimbun on Feb. 9, 1954, there was an article about U.S. actress Marilyn Monroe when she descended the ramp of a Japan Airlines plane at Itami Airport. She had arrived at Haneda Airport for her honeymoon with Joe DiMaggio, a famous baseball player of the New York Yankees, as well as to visit the U.S. troops stationed in Japan.

A photo of the two receiving bouquets from the welcoming crowd was published with an article, saying, “The Monroe Typhoon swept through Itami Airport.”

“Many famous Americans have visited the base, so the name Itami must have become widely known among the citizens,” Aranishi said.


If you are a frequent airline passenger, you may often see the three-letter airport code on tickets and baggage tags. The code for Osaka International Airport is ITM representing Itami. It was originally OSA for Osaka.

When Kansai Airport opened in 1994, the code was changed from OSA to ITM because two airports in Osaka might confuse airlines about where to send baggage and cargo.

This had the unexpected consequence of creating a solid image for Itami as being a place with an airport. The image has spread further in Japan and overseas.

The Yomiuri Shimbun

The website of the airport shows the name “Osaka International (Itami) Airport,” and signs at bus stops say, “For Osaka (Itami) Airport,” among others.

Itami City residents initially did not welcome the airport. In October 1973, the city government protested against the airport because the noise was getting worse with the increase in aircraft overhead.

In April 2007, after the noise problem had subsided, residents changed their policy and accepted the airport in the city.

“Itami Airport is a regional resource for the development of the city, and we would like to continue to work with it promoting its utilization,” said an official at city government.