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MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — In an effort to provide a less costly ride for Misawa residents to Tokyo during the holiday season, the base is expanding its shuttle bus service to Narita International Airport.

Passengers opting for the 12-hour bus ride can save about $100 in transportation expenses, per person.

Misawa’s Information, Tickets and Tours office added three extra Monday night trips to Narita in December, in addition to the weekly Thursday departure. Seats are still available for Thursday’s bus, and for Dec. 17, Dec. 20 and 27.

Additional departure dates are planned in April during spring break and possibly the summer months, during the peak of the permanent-change-of-station season, according to base officials.

“Base leadership asked if there was any way we could expand and get a more reasonable price [to Narita] for young troops,” said Bob Smith, 35th Services Squadron Community Support flight chief.

With the departure of the Patriot Express from Misawa more than a year ago, servicemembers and their families are paying more out of pocket when traveling back to the States. Train fare between Misawa and Tokyo runs about $160 one way, while airfare is about $180, said Monika Mulrooney, Misawa ITT manager.

ITT’s Narita shuttle costs $70 one way for passengers. Each bus can accommodate 38 passengers.

“We want to do all we can for our Airmen during the holiday season, and one of those things is to help them get home for the holidays,” said 35th Fighter Wing Commander Col. Terrence O’Shaughnessy, in a written response to Stars and Stripes. “The ITT Narita Shuttle is a great low-cost option for people trying to get to the airport or Tokyo area. I’m extremely pleased that we could offer this additional service and am thrilled to see people taking advantage of it.”

Facts about Misawa’s ITT Narita shuttle:

The bus typically departs for Narita airport every Thursday at 10 p.m., with arrival at 10 a.m. on Friday. It departs from Narita immediately after dropping off passengers and arrives at Yokota Air Base at 1 p.m. Friday to pick up Misawa passengers flying into Yokota on the Patriot Express. The bus departs from Yokota on Saturday at 2 p.m.

Cost, one way, for passengers 5 years and older, is $70; 4 years and under is $40. One-way tickets for pets are $75.

The Thursday shuttle can accommodate up to four pets, depending on size. Pets ride in their kennels, in a temperature-controlled compartment underneath the bus.

The last special shuttle run in December departs Dec. 17 at 10 p.m. The bus will depart Narita for Misawa at 8:30 p.m. on Dec. 18.

Reservations may be made up to 90 days in advance of the trip date, or tickets may be purchased from the bus driver, cash only, on the trip date on a space-available basis.

For more information or to make a reservation, call Misawa ITT at DSN 226-3555.

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Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.
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