Curfew eased by two hours on Okinawa
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — While a tough new curfew was imposed at Yokosuka Naval Base on Wednesday, the curfew for servicemembers on Okinawa was loosened a bit.
However, the ban on off-base consumption of alcohol will remain in effect for all active-duty personnel on the island.
Lt. Gen. Richard C. Zilmer, acting as the senior U.S. officer on Okinawa, announced Wednesday night that the new curfew hours starting Friday will be midnight to 5 a.m.
That gives servicemembers an extra two hours to engage in activities outside the base or their off-base homes. The curfew had been 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. Zilmer made the decision to adjust the curfew hours after meeting with senior officers and enlisted leaders from all services on Tuesday, according to a Marine Corps release.
The curfew and alcohol ban for servicemembers was imposed March 3 following a two-week “period of reflection” that Zilmer ordered for all Americans connected with the military on Okinawa and Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni and Camp Fuji in mainland Japan.
That order was the result of a series of highly publicized allegations of crimes committed by Americans, including two alleged rapes and two alcohol-related incidents in the Okinawa community. That order restricted all personnel — active duty, civilians and their families — to the bases or their off-base homes.
Zilmer said the curfew has been effective in reigning in off-base misbehavior.
“The Period of Reflection and the associated limitations on liberty have resulted in a reduction in off-base misconduct and will ultimately serve our interest in reaffirming the trust, confidence and rapport with our local community,” Zilmer said, according to a Marine Corps news release.
“The curfew and alcohol restrictions will be periodically reassessed by senior service leaders,” the release said.
During the curfew hours, servicemembers are restricted to the bases or the off-base residences of Status of Forces Agreement personnel.
However, they are allowed to travel between the bases or to the off-base homes of other SOFA-status personnel in privately owned vehicles, military-supported transportation or commercial taxis.
There is no alcohol restriction or curfew for civilians or family members, the release said.
OKINAWA CITY — As shop and bar owners waited outside their storefronts here for customers Wednesday night, most were lucky if they had one or two patrons drop in.
The streets were practically empty, except for a few Japanese teenagers riding bikes and a handful of window-shoppers.
The few servicemembers spotted on Gate 2 Street outside Kadena Air Base said an easing of an ongoing curfew by two hours beginning Friday won’t be much different than before — it’s still a restriction. They declined to give their names, fearing reprimands from their superiors.
“It doesn’t matter. I still can’t go out to a restaurant, sit down and enjoy myself and have a drink,” one of the servicemembers said of the curfew, which includes a ban on drinking alcohol.
Others, informed of the change, were happy to hear they will have a couple extra hours to roam city streets. Starting Friday, the new curfew hours will be midnight to 5 a.m.
Some business owners welcomed the change, hoping it would lead to future leniency.
“It is a big step forward,” said Ryojin Kuwae, director of the Nakanomachi Business Owners Association. “It is like the door we have been knocking [on] for a long time was finally opened.”
Kuwae, a member of the Okinawa Cooperative Working Team, has encouraged local business groups to come up with proposals to prevent incidents involving servicemembers. He said one proposal is to post signs at drinking establishments, letting patrons know that the business will be visited by Marine courtesy patrols. Kuwae also said establishments would refuse to serve liquor to a intoxicated patrons.
“We are serious and ready to take action to achieve our common goal of creating safe and problem-free environment,” he said.
A 59-year-old bar owner on Gate 2 Street remained disheartened.
“If they cannot drink alcohol, nothing will be changed,” said the owner, who asked not to be named.
“It’s been over a month,” he said with a sigh.
Inside his bar, about five hostesses gathered in one corner, sitting idly while loud music filled the empty room.
He said he has been in the business of catering to Americans on the island for 35 years.
“I have never gone through this much hardship before,” he said.