Japanese road tax is being enforced
Stars and Stripes June 5, 2003
KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — The road tax has been all the rage here since Sunday.
At each gate Kadena police officers have stopped every vehicle lacking the 2003 Japan road tax decals.
Saturday was the deadline for all motorists in Japan to have the decals properly affixed to their windshields.
Master Sgt. Leah Gonzalez, spokeswoman for U.S. Forces Japan, said all motorists had to pay the Japanese road tax by May 31. As of June 1, military police at all U.S. bases in Japan had the jurisdiction to stop, ticket and impound any vehicle belonging to SOFA personnel lacking 2003 stickers.
The decals are issued by U.S. bases in Japan; vehicles with Japanese plates don’t have them. Japanese vehicle owners who don’t pay the road tax are fined when they pay their insurance.
At Kadena’s Gate 1, the line stretched along the side of the entrance road late into the evening.
“I got stopped at Kadena yesterday,” Cpl. Brian Shelton said Monday at Camp Foster’s motor vehicle registration office, just before he put on his new decal. “They told me they were going to ticket me, but I told them I didn’t think it was fair.”
Shelton is attached to a Futenma Marine Corps Air Station detachment that recently returned from Afghanistan. He said he’d just bought the vehicle he was driving and couldn’t pay the mandatory fee by the deadline because he hadn’t received its final paperwork — which must be presented when paying the tax.
The Marine said he had to argue his case aggressively before Air Force police let him go with a warning.
Air Force Staff Sgt. Patricia Audy said gate guards stopped her Sunday afternoon and told her she was “lucky” she didn’t try to enter the base in the morning. If she had, she would have been ticketed and her car impounded for not having paid the tax, she said.
Base officials ordered a two-week grace period that afternoon for anybody who recently had been deployed, Kadena spokesman Charles Steitz said.
Audy, attached to Kadena’s 353rd Maintenance Squadron, qualified because she returned Saturday from the annual Cobra Gold exercise in Thailand.
The airman said the crackdown didn’t bother her. “This is just the base watching out for its own,” she said. “It’s better to get caught on base rather than off base, where you’d have to pay a lot more to Okinawa police.”
As of Monday afternoon, at least 20 motorists had been ordered to park and leave their vehicles in a lot until they paid their road tax, Steitz said.
Kadena security forces also issued tickets to individuals that lacked a decal or receipt proving they paid this year’s road tax, said Steitz. If motorists had the decals but hadn’t affixed them to windshields, security forces helped them do so, the spokesman added.
Marine Corps security officials on Okinawa gave a two-week grace period at their bases before impounding cars or issuing citations, said Capt. Christopher Perrine, a spokesman for the Marine Corps on Okianwa. “We have many people returning from deployments who maybe didn’t have the opportunity to pay their taxes,” he explained.
After the grace period, Perrine noted, security personnel at Marine Corps bases will begin impounding cars and giving traffic citations to those who haven’t paid the tax or gotten the decals.
Anyone who fails to scrape off an old sticker or put on the new one correctly may also get a “defective equipment violation citation.”
Those who receive citations for not complying with regulations will be put on a police blotter that will go to their commands, Perrine said.
Freddie Hatch said he was grateful for the grace period. He paid the tax Friday, but the line to get the decal at Foster was so long, he said he had to return Monday.
Hatch, attached to Futenma’s Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 36, said Futenma gate guards warned him twice over the weekend. “It would not have been nice at all” had he gotten a citation and had his chain of command “address” him for being put on the blotter, he said.