TOKYO (AP) _ Toichi Shito, the farmer who for more than 30 years stood in the way of plans to expand Japan's main international airport, died Thursday of heart failure. He was 84.

Shito, who owned land that the government wants to turn into a second runway for the busy Narita airport outside Tokyo, lived on the site with his wife. He was one of the most stubborn of a handful of farmers who for decades blocked the airport expansion plan.

The showdown turned violent during the 1970s when the farmers used pointed sticks and crude barriers to defend themselves against the bulldozers and riot police sent to evict them.

Their struggle struck a nerve in Japan at a time when people were growing weary of heavy-handed bureaucrats and the government was forced to back down.

Shito's oldest son, Takao, 48, who will inherit the land, pledged to continue farming the plot, according to Kyodo news service.

``I want to follow my father,'' Takao Shito was quoted as saying.