Whats the deal with Bar Row?
Everytime I listen to AFN (or specifically, Eagle 810, as the local variety of Armed Forces Network is called here) there are always these amusing PSAs being blasted about 100 times per hour. One of the more fascinating ones refer to a place called “Bar Row” in Fussa City, which is where the Yokota Air Base is located. The PSA goes something like this:
Remember that service personnel are not allowed to be within a one block radius of Akasen-dori in Fussa city, otherwise known as “Bar Row”, between the hours of 1 am and 6 am.
This has intrigued me for the last few months, because there was never any explanation (figures, being a military radio station) and I can’t recall reading or hearing about it anywhere else. So, I decided to use good old GOOGLE to find out for myself why this restriction was in place. Oh, did I ever find some interesting stuff!
FIrst of all; this is the official announcement made by the US Embassy in June 2005 about it:
Yokota Base Command has issued an order prohibiting servicemembers from being within a one block radius of Akasen-dori in Fussa city (near the base), otherwise known as “Bar Row”, between the hours of 1 am and 6 am. The order comes after a series of crimes, altercations and assaults at Bar Row involving base personnel, including one last weekend that left two airmen seriously wounded. Civilians are advised to exercise caution should they choose to enter the area.
Wow! Reading that, it sounds like the poor American soldiers are being assaulted by some bad people when they are innocently partying outside the gates. It really sounds like the Americans are the victims here. I decided to do some more digging, and I came up with some slightly more elaborate and different accounts of why the ban had come in place.
Alex at Rainbow Trite writes:
Yokota Air Force Base is INFAMOUS for the number of DUI’s that take place on a weekly basis. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday Nightly, select uniformed men and women are out carousing and rejoicing, heeing and hawing, and, against their better judgment, drinking and driving.
The base doesn’t publicize these “happenings”. No one hears about them or even has an inkling until Colonel Schissler is on the TV, making a plea that we not drink and drive. This, I blame on higher command. People should be made aware of the problem.
This I found in the base’s own newsletter, making it blatantly obvious who is to blame for the restrictions:
Since the restriction came into place, the number of incidents has dropped to almost zero. Fussa City officials have also noticed a
sharp decline in the amount of noise complaints they receive from citizens living between Bar Row and Yokota.
Yes, I know that the area around the base is not generally the nicest neigborhood in Japan, and that there are rumours of some yakuza presence etc., but still, drunken, loud, cocky American soldiers rumbling around at night causing all sorts of ruckus and provoking fights with the locals does seem like a reasonable explanation to me. Way to show your appreciation for your Japanese hosts.
Oh, and while I’m on this American-bashing high (sorry, it wasn’t meant to be this harsh…), GW Bush – what is with the SLICED PIG!??