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Troubles at Naha Military Port

Date Posted: 1998-04-25

Previously, organizers of various events, such as Naha Tug-of-War, Okinawa Industrial Fair and other festivals were able to secure much needed parking space inside the fence of Naha Military Port. A simple application to the Commander of the Army Units in Okinawa was all that was needed.

However, the administrative system of the area was changed six months a go, and the application for the use of the space has now to be submitted to Japanese Self Defense Force Facilities Administration authorities. This, for one thing means that the approval of the application now takes two to three months whereas before, it could be handled in a matter of a few days. And what's more, the Japanese authorities now threaten charge for the use.

When a group representing organizers of several large-scale events who have utilized the space in the past met with officials of the JSDF to petition their case, but not much was progressed. "We are required to follow the orders from the central government. We are just enforcing rules set forth by them. This matter has to be decided ultimately by SACO," a Self Defense Administration official said.

He also explained that a request to use the site has to go through about 10 different offices, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and that takes time.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs lamented that the previous system was too easy. "Who takes the responsibility if there is an accident, for example," he said. He was equally unrelenting on the question of usage fee. "This is property of the government. Of course, there will be a fee for usage," he stated.

This worries the users. Yoshitaka Agarie, the chairman of the Naha Tug-of-War Organizing committee said in a recent interview. "This is a great concern to us. Every year, we put our giant rope used in the tug-of-war, together in the Naha Military Port area. It takes from two to three months to assemble the rope and it seems that now we would have to pay 3 to 4 million for rent. This is impossible and puts the whole event in jeapardy. And this is after all, an event that has made Naha City famous all over the world," Agarie said.

Organizers of other events have expressed similar worries. But there may be some light at the end of the tunnel. Officials at the Self Defense Facilities Administration Bureau have promised to give a positive consideration to any proposal to solve the problem to everyone's satisfaction.

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