Bars outside Yokota Air Base put off limits after brawl
By SETH ROBSON | STARS AND STRIPES Published: July 18, 2011
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Bars near the front gate of Yokota Air Base have been placed off limits to U.S. personnel following what police say was a 30-person brawl in downtown Fussa City early Saturday morning.
The area, known as “bar row” in Fussa city, was declared off limits by military officials until further notice because of a "a recent incident and concerns over the safety of our personnel," Yokota Air Base spokeswoman Capt. Tania Bryan said in an email Sunday.
The fight began around 3 a.m. Saturday in bar row, a garish collection of nightclubs, pubs, karaoke joints and restaurants not far from Yokota’s main gate, according to Japanese police.
“It is a dangerous area, and there are Yakuza (Japanese mafia) there,” said a police spokesman, who wished to remain anonymous, which is customary in Japan. Japanese police are investigating the incident, but no arrests have been made, the spokesman said.
U.S. personnel — including civilians — are now banned from entering all bars in Fussa City, Bryan said.
“This excludes on-base facilities and applies to all SOFA-status personnel stationed at Yokota Air Base,” she said.
The ban comes less than six months after 374th Airlift Wing commander Col. Otto Feather rescinded a list of “off limits” establishments in bar row and lifted a long-standing curfew that had prohibited airmen from visiting the area between 1 a.m. and 6 a.m. since 2005.
“The big push is personal responsibility,” Bryan said after the curfew was lifted in January. “We want our airmen to go out in the local community and experience the Japanese culture and give them the freedom to go out and make their own decisions.”
The latest ban is not intended to be punitive, she said.
“Although we cannot discuss the details of the incident due to an ongoing investigation, the commander has enacted this order to ensure the health and safety of Yokota personnel,” she said.
"Bar Row" in Fussa, Japan, is deserted about 10:30 p.m. on a Friday night several years ago. It’s been several years since Yokota Air Base imposed a 1 a.m. to 6 a.m. restriction for the nearby entertainment district that’s been a popular hangout for U.S. servicemembers and civilians for decades.
BRYCE S. DUBEE/STARS AND STRIPES