Sale of alcohol ceases on Yokosuka
YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — Alcohol sales at Yokosuka Naval Base halted Wednesday, with employees pulling every bottle, case and six-pack off store shelves.
Signs went up at on-base bars telling customers alcohol was not being served. A flurry of phone calls and e-mails went out telling Yokosuka-based personnel to limit their movements between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.
The restrictions came as part of period of “heightened sensitivity” to “mourn the March 19 murder” of a taxi driver in Yokosuka, mandated jointly by Commander U.S. Naval Forces Japan and 7th Fleet.
It impacts all Status of Forces Agreement personnel attached to Yokosuka Naval Base and in the associated housing areas of Ikego and Negishi, CNFJ spokesman Cmdr. David Waterman said Wednesday evening. They will be in effect from Wednesday to Monday, when they will be “reviewed,” he said.
“The goal of this action is to review plans and policies on violence prevention and to respectfully mourn the tragic loss of Mr. Takahashi,” CNFJ commanding officer Rear Adm. James Kelly was quoted as saying in a news release.
Masaaki Takahashi, a 61-year-old taxi driver, was stabbed to death March 22 in Yokosuka. A credit card bearing the name of a USS Cowpens sailor was found in the taxi, although to date, the sailor has not been charged with anything, and Japanese police have declined to say whether he is a suspect.
“As a sign of respect” for the incident, all U.S. Navy personnel — uniformed and civilian — are to refrain from public alcohol consumption, the release said. In regard to the 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. restrictions, exceptions will be made for work travel and essential errands, the release said.
Active-duty personnel additionally will have a “training stand-down” to discuss violence prevention, Waterman said.
Ship tours have been canceled for Sunday’s open-base spring festival, which will now have a more serious tenor, Waterman said.
“We want the community to come in and enjoy the cherry blossoms,” Waterman said. “But it will be more somber than planned.”
At Yokosuka’s Autoport minimart Wednesday evening, customers marveled at the large empty spaces where the alcohol used to be.
“Yes, we do sell alcohol,” said Autoport manager Thomas Givens. “But I agree with what the base is doing. We need to make a statement to the Japanese community. And this makes a strong statement.”
Others fretted about the restrictions — and what might come later, if the sailor officially becomes a suspect.
“It’s going to be just like Okinawa,” said one dependent, who asked not to be named. “Lockdown.”