Friday, December 12, 2008

All your US Navy base are belong to us

Recently I had my first excursion to a real life US military base here in Japan. Not any base, but the largest base in Japan; the Yokosuka navy base. It was an almost surreal experience, as me and Ms. Sunshine merrily walked from the station to the actual base and as we gradually got closer, signs, menus etc. started appearing in English and not only in Japanese. It felt a bit strange to see a noodle ship with the menu items rudimentary laid out in English and posts for apartments in the usual Japanese style, but all in English.

After being roughly told off by men with guns to wait a few meters away from the entrance we waited for our military friend to pick us up and guide us through the necessary paperwork needed to gain entrance to the base. Fortunately, since the US has not yet labeled Sweden as a part of the axis of evil and Japan is a close strategic military ally we could quickly go through the process and avoid being sent to Guantanamo. My key concern at the base was to avoid being shot by any of the military personnel since, even though the base is located on Japanese soil and lies under Japanese law, the US military has jurisdiction over any crimes committed by military personnel on the base, which theoretically means that I could have gotten the New York style Haitian immigrant treatment without any repercussions to the shooters if they were smooth enough.

The actual base struck me as remarkably unremarkable, it looked less than my expectations of a military base and more like an immigrant heavy suburb to Stockholm, minus the graffiti and with only white buildings. Somewhere around my fifth question to my host regarding under which conditions the guards would actually shoot at me and what actions on my behalf could get him court-martialed (since we were allowed in under his responsibility) Ms. Sunshine started to get worried about what I actually had in mind to do and stopped any further inquiries into this fascinating subject.

As we reached the on-base shopping center and our main destination things started to get surreal for real. It felt like we had been dropped in the middle of a boring small US shopping mall and not like we still were in Japan at all. Moving around the area were mostly western people with just a few Japanese people and at the entrance of the store they had even brought in one of those huge cumbersome and defect prone US style soda machines and as added measure, it only accepted US dollars.

As we entered the store, the illusion was complete. The nowadays familiar Japanese brands were nowhere in sight and the selection of everything from candies, clothes to DVD movies were the same as we had been in a US store. Even the Japanese brands they did carry were obviously “imported and then exported back to Japan” with English packaging. Since we usually do not have this kind of access to western product brands and also adding that the prices were both cheap to begin with and also tax-free, a minor shopping spree was initiated. The most prominent and important purchase was probably the full set of Arrested Development DVDs since my previously bought pirated copies were wearing a bit thin.

I guess this is the closest you can get to a day trip to the US here in Japan and it was an interesting experience.


Martin said...

When i was in Bosnia during the 90´s i went to several American military bases. It was just as you described and we also had our share of shopping sprees.
There were romours that one of the first things the Americans flew in when Nato took over the operations there was a Pizza Hut kiosk. And the camps seemed to be very sponsored if you ask me.

Anonymous said...

Typical Euro Trash. While expressing disdain for all things American or Military, this grammatically challenged Viking has no qualms about befriending one of these American Military fellows in order to tour that base he despises so much and engage in a shopping orgy obtaining the very items he holds in such low regard.

Mr. Salaryman said...

Nice! Well done Kaiju!

I have plenty of American friends and if you somewhere read into it that I am "expressing disdain for all things American or Military" you're way too sensitive.

I think it just takes a quick look around the blog to see that there's plenty of things from the US I like a lot.

That said, I feel that there are a plenty of things wrong with US foreign policy (which I hope will change in the near future with the leadership change in the US) but if you want to know more details on that I suggest you send me an e-mail since this is not a political blog. Thanks for commenting and take it easy!

Chefantwon's Rant said...

Actually, the base is on US soil under the Status Of Forces Agreement (SOFA). Any crimes commited upon the base are under US jurisdiction unless it involves a Japanese national.

The guards at the main gate generally won't shoot to kill unless you have a firearm or are threatening to kill them. Other areas on the base are not so friendly.

USAF - former security police (IE base security)

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