US Navy

All posts tagged US Navy

Visiting US military bases is fun for me. The US Army, US Navy, US Air Force and US Marine Corps use 75 facilities within Japan and Okinawa, 51 of which are dedicated and the rest 24 shared with Japan Self Defense Force. Though those facilities are usually closed to civilians, they are open to residents around them once or twice a year, and you can get inside the military places during these festivals.

Visiting those facilities is one of the few occasions to get in touch with the United States. You can eat American-made hamburgers, hot dogs, steaks, turkey legs, and other American foods. You can pay foods, sodas, beer, sweets, and souvenirs with US dollars. You can talk to Americans in English. And, you can find out how average Americans live their daily life. What kind of groceries do they buy? What kind of foods do they eat? What kind of newspapers do they read? What kind of school do they make their children attend? You can catch a glimpse of those things without flying more than 12 hours to get to mainland America.

I have visited US bases and facilities in Japan and Okinawa for more than 15 years. With respect to what I have experienced, I’m grading each of these out of 5 by categories of accessibility, smoothness of entry and exit, freedom of movement, and availability of on-base building. 5 is the most excellent, and 0 the worst.

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As written several times in this blog, I like to visit US military bases in Japan when they are open to public. They are usually off-limits to Japanese civilians, but open a few times a year for friendship festivals. Once you pass through the gate, you can see the same landscapes in the United States as seen on TV which you can’t see while off base.
Why do Japanese people find so amusing about what are seen in the United States? Going to the United States is, for most of them born after WWII, a dream and an exciting unordinary experience. They long, they attempt, and some lucky ones carry out, to do it. Yet most of them have not enough time, budget or physical strength to take a long leave from their employer, buy airline tickets for hundreds of thousand yen, sit on a plane for many hours and stay for one week in the mainland America or Hawaii. Visiting a US base in Japan is a one-day trip, costs only train fares to it, and offers visitors almost the same experiences as going actually to the mainland USA.
Yokota Air Base, Camp Zama, Atsugi Naval Air Facility, Yokosuka Naval Base, Negishi Heights, Sagami Depot, Naval Support Facility Kamiseya and Ikego Heights are all I’ve been, out of 85 US military facilities within Japan.
Yokota Air Base (Fussa, Tokyo): the only US Air Force Base in the Kanto Plain. There is the biggest Friendship Festival in late August every year, with the most stalls selling the most kinds of products. Visitors enter from the Supply Gate to the festival venue. Some hangers are open for a stage and stalls. Restaurants and food courts are not open.
Camp Zama (Zama, Kanagawa): opens twice a year, in early April for cherry blossom festival and early August for bon odori festival. Although no buildings but a food court, a theatre and a bowling centre are open to public, you can walk around in almost all open areas in the camp site. Soda vending machines (both Japanese and American) are available. ATMs are also available and you can withdraw cash with an ATM card issued in the US or an international ATM card. You can have access to mailing boxes so if you have mail with an American stamp affixed you can put it in the mailbox to send it to an address in the US for the same fare as in the mainland US. Food stalls are lower in number so you’ll have to wait in longer lines to get foods.
Atsugi Naval Air Facility (Ayase, Kanagawa): opens a few times a year, in the cherry season, on the Independence Day of the USA, and in August. Entrance is narrow so you have to wait in a long line to get inside. Bag check is strict at entrance and there is sometimes a dog inspection, where a working military dog checks your bag put on the ground to smell it to check if there’s nothing suspicious in it. David O. Taylor Field, a wide football field, is usually open for a stage, food stalls and a playground. In many cases, the apron area of the air facility is open and some carrier-based planes are displayed.
Yokosuka Naval Base (Yokosuka, Kanagawa): opens a few times a year, in the cherry season, in summer, and more. The entrance is the narrowest so there is the longest lines in front of it. You have to wait for more than two hours! Besides, the exit is narrow, too, so you must wait for a long time to get out. McDonald’s and a food court are open to visitors in the base. There are various kinds of stalls, ranging from American foods to American sweets and cookies.
Negishi Heights (Yokohama, Kanagawa): opens in late April and in late August. The Community Center building, Negishi All Hands Club (a bar and restaurant complex) and the open space around them are available for visitors. An ATM is on the first floor of the Community Center and visitors can freely use it. US mailboxes are available too. There are fewer visitors than in any other US bases so you can have access to food stalls without waiting so much time. Bowling lanes, arcade games and a movie theatre are available for visitors. Billiard and dartboards are available at All Hands Club, but darts are not allowed to bring inside the venue.
Sagami Depot (Sagamihara, Kanagawa): opens not every year. I was there in September 2007 for Music Festival. Admission fee was 500 yen. High-pressure Japanese officers at the entrance refused my taking pictures of the entrance gates. Visitor’s areas were strictly limited but there were no signs indicating where visitors may stay. Some visitors lost their way in a restricted area and captured by military police.
NSF Kamiseya (Yokohama, Kanagawa): opens in late March or early April. The festival venue is an open space where food stalls and a playground area are set up. People wait in long lines in front of the food stalls.
Ikego Heights (Zushi, Kanagawa): opens in May. The easiest-to-access site of military bases in the Kanto Plain, within a 5-minite-walk from the nearest train station. The festival venue is only within a football field, where food stalls and a playground area are set up. Visitors should stay within the field and aren’t allowed to go any other place. There’s no need to wait in front of food stalls so much time.

I went to Ikego Heights at Zushi, Kanagawa to enjoy its friendship festival on May 9. It’s my first time to visit Ikego.
Ikego Friendship Festival entrance
Ikego Heights is within a few minutes walk from Keikyu Jinmuji Station.
Ikego Friendship Festival main stage Ikego Friendship Festival Ikego Friendship Festival Ikego Friendship Festival
That field was all that was open to public. All booths, playgrounds and demo sites were within the field.
1/2 chicken and Pepsi
This is 1/2 chicken, which I buy every time I visit a US base. That tasted very good.
Nachos, pickles and pineapple smoothies
This is nachos, a pickles and a cup of pineapple smoothies sold at another booth.
One mistake: when I bought them, I was handed the nachos dish and the pickles from a salesgirl of the booth but the smoothies wasn’t handed me. I found both strawberry and pineapple smoothies put on the table of the booth in advance, so I thought I should take the pineapple one, then I did it. It tasted not so good, it was a bit lukewarm.
About an hour later when I dropped in on the booth again after walking around the field, the salesgirl who found me called me to stop and said, “Did you take the pineapple smoothies on the table?”
“Yes, I took it,” I answered.
“Ooooh, that was only for display, not for sale!” said the salesgirl and she told the other salesgirls, “That person is what took the display smoothies!”
I felt guilty because I mistakenly took the smoothies that was not to be sold to a guest. I thought that the salespersons thought I had “stolen” what they hadn’t sold and were angry, but, instead of anger, they made another cup of “fresh” pineapple smoothies for me and handed it to me.
“This is fresh, cold and good,” she said. I drank it, and it was really fresh and tasted good.
“Better?” she asked. “Much better,” I lifted my thumb up and answered. The new smoothies was fresh, and so was my mind.
I’ve uploaded the set on Flickr.

I visited Negishi Heights today. At first it was scheduled to open to public last Saturday, but the festival was put off until the next day because of rain. Several US military bases are open in the spring season but I couldn’t go to most of them this year because I caught a cold in the base-open period. All I could go in this season was Atsugi NAF and Negishi.

Negishi Friendship Day Festival
NEX Mart

Here are some of the pictures of Negishi Heights Friendship Festival.

Sparky's show from Masayuki Kawagishi on Vimeo.

I uploaded a set of all of them on Flickr.

Spring is the best season to visit American military bases of the Kanto Plain. They are open to public to let people see cherry blossoms, see American buildings, and get American foods, drinks, T-shirts and goods. I enjoy feeling American taste every time I enter on base.

Torii

The first gate-open in this year is NAF Atsugi. I uploaded a set of pictures on Flickr.

I love to visit the US military bases located within Japan, such as Yokota Air Base, Camp Zama, Atsugi Naval Air Facility, Yokosuka Naval Base, etc. They are usually closed to civilians and normal Japanese people, but they open the gates a few times a year so that everybody can get into the bases (within limited areas, though).
Actually I’m not so much interested in military affairs, but I just want to know how the people (employees and their families) are living as normal Americans. I just want to get what they get, I want to eat what they eat, I want to drink what they drink, and I want to feel what they feel. These bases are very convenient for me to "enjoy America" without flying many hours.
Yokota Air Base is within an easy driving distance from my house. Friendship Festival is held in an August weekend every year. Every time I go to Yokota, I get T-shirts, first aid kits and tens of cans of soda and beer within my backpack at temporary stores.
Japanese-American Friendship Festival, Yokota AB

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