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Starting Wednesday, some SOFA personnel who live off base will have to prove they have parking, and pay parking certificate fees, U.S. officials said at a meeting Wednesday between U.S. and Okinawan officials.

The new rule will apply to new island residents, or people who buy vehicles after Wednesday, and who live more than 2 kilometers (about 1.25 miles) off base. Most of those with SOFA status now living off base will not be required to obtain the paperwork, said Capt. Bernie Hess, Marine deputy provost marshal.

It also applies to individuals who move off base outside the radius or who already live outside the radius and buy a vehicle.

The Wednesday meeting was to arrange how the paperwork involved would be handled; the officials and housing agency representatives agreed the agencies should perform that function.

Still unresolved, however, is a larger disagreement about whether SOFA personnel living near or on a base must prove they’ve got parking and pay the fees. That issue remains under discussion between U.S. Forces Japan and the government of Japan, said Fil Jimenez, 18th Mission Support Group deputy commander.

Military officials met with Okinawa Prefectural Police and various housing agencies to determine how best to implement a new requirement for some off-base residents to prove they have assigned parking.

The Okinawan officials initially contended all with SOFA status, and living off base, must buy a parking certificate and parking permit sticker — both requirements for most Japanese citizens — which can’t be obtained without a parking space. The certificate is approximately 2,200 yen (about $20); the permit sticker is 550 yen (about $5).

But Jiminez said USFJ and the government of Japan have “agreed that only military members who live more than 2 kilometers from an installation” have to purchase the certification and sticker.

In most areas, Hess said, motorcycles and light/mini-cars are exempt from the fees. Hess suggested checking with local police or a housing agency, as different areas’ requirements vary. Not all towns, villages and cities on Okinawa require the parking documents.

At Wednesday’s meeting, military officials also discussed with the housing agencies and police representatives how the process would be handled.

Jimenez said the housing agencies agreed they would pick up the forms and help SOFA personnel fill them out. Renters then would pay their housing agencies the fees and the agencies would turn in the forms and fees to the appropriate government agencies.

“We’re trying to make this one-stop shopping,” Jimenez said. “We’re trying to be proactive and take care of the SOFA members. The housing agencies are very much on board.”

One representative of the Japan-U.S. Housing Association who attended the meeting said he thinks SOFA members having to show proof of parking is unnecessary. “The reality is that every house and apartment that a SOFA member lives in must be equipped with an adequate parking space,” he said, saying military housing offices require rentals have at least one auto parking space.

Kantoku Teruya, a Social Democratic Party member of Japan’s House of Representatives, filed a complaint with the Okinawa Prefectural Police in May against SOFA members on Okinawa who own vehicles with Y-plates. He argued that owning vehicles without obtaining certificates proving the owner has adequate parking violates Japan’s Traffic Control Law. The police later rejected Teruya’s claim.

Jimenez said USFJ and the Japanese government now are discussing whether SOFA personnel living within 2 kilometers of a base, and those living on base, also must buy the parking certificate and sticker. He said it’s unclear when, or if, that decision will be made. U.S. military officials have argued that living on a base should, in itself, serve as proof a vehicle owner has adequate parking.

—Chiyomi Sumida contributed to this report.


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