Hundreds protest Yokota’s new Ospreys in western Tokyo

Protesters gathered at Freedom Park, a playground about 300 yards from Yokota Air Base's main gate and directly across the road from its perimeter.

By SETH ROBSON | STARS AND STRIPES Published: April 6, 2018

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — About 250 Japanese demonstrators sang, passed out leaflets and held up signs Friday to protest the arrival of CV-22 Ospreys a day earlier at the home of U.S. Forces Japan.

Five of the Air Force aircraft landed at Yokota Thursday morning, marking the start of the helicopter-plane hybrid’s tenure in the Japanese capital.

Base officials warned personnel to steer clear of the demonstration on Yokota’s official Facebook page.

“While we are excited to have the CV-22 Ospreys on base, not everybody shares the same sentiment,” it said. “All members of Team Yokota are encouraged to remain safe by avoiding any protesters. Keep your eyes open, remain aware, and use good judgement to avoid situations that might escalate things.”

The Ospreys and the airmen working with them will be assigned to the 353rd Special Operations Group out of Kadena Air Base, 374th Airlift Wing spokeswoman Kaori Matsukasa said in an email.

The detachment will initially bring only about 100 people to Yokota; however, that number will grow to 450 to support 10 of the tiltrotor aircraft at the base, officials have said.

“The Ospreys are fantastic machines as are our new Airmen and teammates who came with them,” officials said in the Facebook message. “So if you happen to run into any new faces around base, be sure to give them a warm Yokota welcome.”

Friday’s protest at Freedom Park – a playground about 300 yards from the base’s main gate and directly across the road from its perimeter – appeared peaceful, though photographs of crashed and damaged Ospreys were on prominent display.

Activists have highlighted accidents involving the high-tech aircraft, which can take off like helicopters, then tilt their rotors to fly long distances as fixed-wing planes.

Last summer, an Okinawa-based MV-22 Osprey crashed off the coast of Australia during a training exercise, killing three Marines. In December 2016, a pilot ditched an MV-22 into the sea near Camp Schwab, Okinawa, after clipping the hose on a C-130 tanker during nighttime refueling.

Twitter: @SethRobson1

Japanese residents protest the presence of Air Force CV-22 Ospreys at Yokota Air Base, Japan, Friday, April 6, 2018.