A US military base in suburban Tokyo is ushering in thousands of tourists amid protests across Japan over the presence of several other US bases and the recent Osprey deployment, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Travel agency Hankyu Hanshin Express Co., Ltd. arranged bus tours and day trips to the Yokota Air Force Base, taking advantage of its free Friendship Festival. The base in Yokota is considered the “granddaddy” of all US bases in Japan: it serves as the headquarters of both US Air Force’s 374th air wing and the joint command and oversees all US military forces in Japan. According to the Journal, locals and over 100,000 tourists came to see “what lies beyond the barbed wire fences and tire shredders” during the annual open house, which dates back to the Korean War era. Japanese families get a chance to see the helicopters and jet fighters parked on the runways from up-close.
Hankyu Hanshin has been offering tours for the past two years, making a market out of Japanese’ interest in US military presence in the country. Bus tickets are sold at 5,990 yen ($76.74) and drop tourists at the base’s front gate, where they will be picked up six hours later. US military spokesman, Lt. Christopher Love, told the Journal, “We are aware that various travel agencies shuttle people to and from the Friendship Festival, but Yokota has no affiliation with them, nor do we receive any royalties. The festival is free of charge and open to the public.”