Photo of the Day (2.14.2010)

Travel photos are typically taken once we arrive at our destination. But did you ever consider the airport as a great setting for travel photography? The rhythm of the passengers hustling about, brightly colored airplane tail fins and the ever changing sky all make for great subjects as you begin to document your trip. Flickr user jameskadamson shared this uniquely framed airport snap with us during a stopover at Tokyo’s Narita International.

Have any photos you want us to consider for Gadling’s Photo of the Day? Submit your best shots here.

TSA misses another “forgotten” loaded gun

Apparently all the security equipment in the world can’t fix stupidity and poor screening. A transfer passenger was arrested at Tokyo’s Narita airport last week when security staff found a loaded gun and ammo in his carry-on luggage.

The man was on his way from Dallas to Bangkok, passing through Narita.

The passenger told local authorities that he “forgot” he was still carrying his gun. This obviously means someone at Dallas Airport screwed up.

I’m not entirely sure how a gun and ammo don’t show up on the X-Ray screen. Airport security is supposed to be in place to prevent terrorists and stupid people from bringing a gun on our flights.

Japanese gun laws are extremely strict, and it would not surprise me if the passenger will spend a couple of weeks in a Japanese jail while the police investigate the matter. I’m sure they’ll be sending a nastygram to their US counterparts, politely requesting that they pay a little more attention to guns and a little less attention to bottles of water.

(Photo from Flickr/CC Kevitivity)

Hermes helicopter redefines the run to Narita

Regardless of what you do, a day will never have more than 24 hours. If you’re strapped for time, the only way you can buy time is to cut something else, and time spent sitting in traffic is at the top of everyone’s trade-in list. If you’re headed for the airport in Tokyo, skip the streets and take to the air. A new luxury helicopter service is shuttling passengers between the Asaka district of Tokyo and Narita International Airport. Swap an hour and a half in a car (or worse) for 30 minutes in the sky, reclaiming precious minutes you thought were lost.

The helicopters are designed with more than function in mind. The machines are pimped out by Hermes, with calf leather seats for up to four passengers. Starting on September 16, 2009, up to 22 flights a day will be run.

So, how much is your time worth? The hour you save by flying instead of driving will set you back around $790 for a one-way trip. For people who bill $1,200 an hour or redefine economies with the swipe of a pen, it beats the other ways to make the trip.

Smoke ‘Em if You Got ‘Em: Asia’s Best Airport Smoking Rooms

Unlike the US, in some parts of the world smoking is still politically correct. It is even encouraged. For the nicotine addicts among us, there is no better time to light up than after a 10-15 hour flight across the Pacific. Stuck in the terminal waiting for your connection? No worries. That’s what smoking rooms are for. Some resemble a bus stop shelter, some are more like a high class smoking club.

The best:

1. Narita’s best smoking room is near the Northwest gates. It’s no less hazy or crowded than the others, but if you cracked open a beer to go along with your cancer stick, you wouldn’t be the only one drinking.

2. Da Nang’s airport is a small one, but it has one of the biggest smoking rooms I’ve ever witnessed. You might even call it scenic because you can see the mountains through the large windows. Though I no longer indulge, I always feel the urge to light up when I pass this spot.

3. Everything about Don Muang seems classic these days. You won’t be flying into it anymore. That’s sad. I’ll especially miss those smoking rooms shaped like bus stop shelters. They smelled of stale, wet cigarettes, but were somehow welcoming.

Big in Japan: $10,000 worth of marijuana gets misplaced by customs official at Tokyo-Narita airport

There are a million reasons to hate flying in the post 9-11 world. From rising fuel surcharges and increased airport delays to overzealous security agents and declining airline quality, spending some time at home isn’t such a bad idea these days. Of course, if you want to encourage consumers to help stimulate the flailing airline industry, why not reward them with copious amounts of sweet and heady ganja?

Are you ready for this one…

According to customs officials at Tokyo-Narita airport, the main international gateway serving Japan, an unwitting passenger arriving accidentally received 142g (approximately 5 ounces) of pure cannabis after a customs test went sour. Believe it or not, a Japanese customs officer hid the huge sack of weed in a side pocket of a randomly chosen suitcase in order to verify the quality of their airport security.

However, the drug-sniffing dogs were unable to find the hidden parcel, and the customs official (who may have been sampling a bit of the contraband) could not remember which bag he put it in! Like all drugs in Japan, marijuana is highly illegal, which means that a quantity of this size is estimated to have a street value of around $10,000 or 1,000,000 yen.

Anyone finding the package has been asked to contact customs officials immediately.

The man behind the botched operation is one Mr. Manpei Tanaka, who serves as the head of customs at Tokyo-Narita airport. In typical Japanese fashion, Mr. Tanaka was extremely humble about the entire affair: “This case was extremely regrettable. I would like to deeply apologize.”

Of course, honorable words aren’t going to make the situation any easier on the absent minded customs official as it is illegal to conduct tests on a passenger’s bag.

According to Mr. Tanaka: “I knew that using passengers’ bags is prohibited, but I did it because I wanted to improve the sniffer dog’s ability. The dogs have always been able to find it before… I became overconfident that it would work.”

So far there have been no reports of anyone uncovering the missing weed stash, though customs officials are confident that it will be returned to the airport within the next twenty-four hours.

While a good number of people in North America tend to have a relaxed attitude towards smoking a bit of reefer from time to time, the Japanese are extremely averse to drugs of any kind. And, while the massive baggy of pot is extremely valuable, it is hard to buy and sell drugs in Tokyo without arousing suspicion.

So, I guess this brings up the simple question: if you were to discover some serious herb while unpacking your suitcase, what would you do with it? Feel free to chime in and share your thoughts with the rest of us!

(Special thanks to Julie Mac for sending this awesome bit of news my way!!)

** All images are courtesy of the WikiCommons Media Project. Also note that Gadling does not condone the smoking of marijuana unless it happens to be really kind bud. **