About 1,000 people are expected to march along the fence line of Sagami Depot in Sagamihara City outside Tokyo on Sunday to protest an interim realignment agreement Japan and the United States reached last year, organizers said.

The protesters are to meet for a 1:30 p.m. rally at the park in front of the Sagamihara JR station, then walk to Sagami Depot, a satellite of nearby Camp Zama.

“It’s a peaceful demonstration,” said Edward Roper, a U.S. Army Garrison Japan spokesman.

Roper said there will be no changes to gate access as a result of the protest but suggested people on base avoid the area if possible.

“Don’t provoke protesters,” he said. “Avoid the area and be vigilant.”

The protest is expected to pass along the fence near the outdoor storage area, Roper said.

The Sagamihara Residents Association, the protest organizer, is opposed to the U.S. Army’s plan to locate a new unit headquarters at nearby Camp Zama.

U.S. Forces Japan Commander Gen. Bruce Wright has said the headquarters will be from the Army’s I Corps, now based in Fort Lewis, Wash.

The group also is protesting plans to place a Japan Ground Self-Defense Force regiment to Sagami Depot and is asking that the base be returned to the city.

The protest is aimed specifically at Japan’s national government, which joined with the United States to announce a transformation plan in October.

Since then, Japanese officials have characterized the plan as “interim” while U.S. officials have indicated they consider it more final.

The agreement “was too one-sided and I must say it was an outrage that they ignored the residents’ wishes,” the group’s leader stated in a letter calling for residents’ participation.

author picture
Hana Kusumoto is a reporter/translator who has been covering local authorities in Japan since 2002. She was born in Nagoya, Japan, and lived in Australia and Illinois growing up. She holds a journalism degree from Boston University and previously worked for the Christian Science Monitor’s Tokyo bureau.

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