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Why Not Allow Okinawans Access to Bases?

Date Posted: 2001-01-07

It is so unfair that, basically without restriction, US service members and their dependents are free to leave the confines of the bases and explore, shop,eat, and enjoy all that Okinawa has to offer while Okinawans can only gain access to the "Holy Land" via the generosity of someone connected with the military. Why should the military be permitted to enjoy a nice bowl of soba, a movie at Mihama, or just simply the pleasure of window shopping at a local store? It is virtually impossible for the average Okinawan to enter the base and enjoy a some American cuisine and a stroll through the commisary or PX. I can hear the replies stating how the military assists the already struggling economy by throwing their money at off base establishments. But couldn't the same be said for the Okinawans that would throw their money at establishments on the bases? If the PX, Burger King and other places on base are not in the business to make a profit, then that would seem ridiculous. I have no idea about the business practices of the establishments on base but I've always learned that you go into business to provide a service and also to turn a profit. It has been stated to me by several Okinawans that when they see members of the military in an off-base restaurant or shopping in one of the stores it is a slap in the face. I understand that if Okinawans were allowed full and unrestricted access to all shopping facilities and restaurants on the base that this would have serious economical repercussions for merchants and restaurateurs around the bases. However, in a true effort to promote harmony among both Okinawans and the bases, wouldn't it be possible to allow the Okinawans to enjoy a limited amount of the facilities on the base? For example, the food courts. I don't think that base security would be an issue because most restricted areas on the bases are surrounded by fences and are off-limits to any unauthorized person. If a terroist wanted to get on the base, they could do it easily. In reality, it isn't hard for a non- SOFA status person to gain access to the base. So why not open the gates to the Okinawans. If not to all, then only to registered citizens of a city or town that has a base in the city limits. For example, citizens of Urasoe City could have access to Camp Kinser and only Camp Kinser. Make the pass limited in the hours that access will be granted and open those gates. I imagine that the downside to this, from the viewpoint of the residents of the bases, would be the increase in vehicular traffic on base and the possible overcrowding of the base facilities. It would really be bothersome. But you know what, that is exactly how the Okinawans and non-SOFA status residents of Okinawa feel about the military presence off base. Double standards. If this suggestion is totally unreasonable than I'm sure that you will love my alternate suggestion. Require all SOFA status personnel to have a sponsor before they are allowed off base. Anybody without the proper authority would not be permitted to leave the base. How about also not permiting military personnel or their dependents, especially teenaged dependents, to drive off base. If you want to drive off base than you would have to pay at least the same amount of money in road taxes that the Okinawans do plus an added fee. Why should the military have to pay a reduced rate for road taxes? But this is a totally different topic. Returning to the idea of needing an Okinawan sponsor to leave the base. Military people need to realize that they signed up for the military and not a one to three or more year vacation in Club Med. Okinawa must be the best duty station in the entire military. They do as they please, have all the benefits of living in both America(on-base) and Japan(off-base). Who would ever want to leave? I will end this by saying that if Okinawans are not permitted free access to the bases, than why should the military be allowed to freely leave the base whenever they like? There is, after all, no real reason to leave the base. They are provided with everything they need to live a comfortable life on the base. If this would seem to much like being a prisoner while stationed on Okinawa, well, you'll be that much happier to leave. I know that this will never happen because the American government would threaten Japan in one way or another until the government in mainland forced the local government to allow the military off-base.

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