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You don’t have to be an aviation buff to recognize the names of pioneers in the field, like the Wright brothers and Charles Lindbergh. But the history of air travel is full of lesser-known dreamers and innovators, such as Chuhachi Ninomiya. A soldier in the Imperial Japanese Army, Ninomiya achieved unmanned powered flight with his fixed-wing, rubber-band-powered monoplane in 1891 -- 12 years before Orville and Wilbur’s manned flights on the sands of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Many experts believe Ninomiya was on track to achieve manned flight and that he would have if he’d been able to raise the money needed to complete his work.
While Ninomiya’s dream went unrealized, his homeland has, of course, grown into an economic powerhouse and become one of the world’s most important aviation markets. American Airlines has been serving Tokyo -- Japan’s capital and its financial and cultural center -- for more than 20 years. And today, we provide daily nonstop service to Tokyo from New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, and twice-daily service from Dallas/Fort Worth.
If you have experienced Tokyo, you know it is impossible, within the confines of a magazine column, to do justice to the energy, intensity, and sheer size of the city. More than 12 million people reside within the capital, and nearly one out of every four Japanese citizens lives within commuting distance of it. According to a recent study, Tokyo has the biggest metropolitan economy in the world (followed closely by that of New York). It is one of the world’s elite financial centers and home to hundreds of major global corporations.
But it is more than commerce that attracts throngs of visitors to Tokyo each year. The city is Japan’s premier cultural destination. At the Tokyo National Museum, the largest repository of Japanese art in the world, you will find everything from woodblock prints to samurai armor. The performing arts also flourish in Tokyo; you will find music, theater, and dance ranging from the ancient and traditional to the ultramodern.
Tokyo is a shopper’s paradise as well, particularly the world-renowned Ginza shopping district. Bustling commerce is seemingly everywhere, yet there are opportunities for visitors to escape, unwind, and reflect. The local public baths, known as sentos, offer you a chance to relax while soaking up some local culture. Or you might visit Sensoji, also known as Asakusa Kannon, the city’s oldest and best-known Buddhist temple. It dates back to 628 AD, when, legend has it, two brothers fishing in the nearby Sumida River caught a small statue of Kannon, the goddess of mercy and happiness. The temple was built in her honor.
Tokyo has some of the most highly acclaimed restaurants in the world; they feature traditional Japanese cuisine as well as every other kind of food imaginable. And for a truly authentic, if slightly more humble, dining experience, try a breakfast of nigirizushi (which most of us know simply as sushi) at the famous Tsukiji Fish Market, one of the largest fish markets in the world. It occurs to me that some of the qualities that attract me to Tokyo -- the pace; the balance of modern technology, commerce, and traditional values; and, most of all, the sense of continuous discovery -- are also qualities that drew me to the airline business so many years ago.
I hope you will have a chance to experience this city, which is like no other, someday soon. In the meantime, wherever you are going today, thank you for flying American Airlines.
Chairman & CEO