Building 4304, a temporary lodging facilty at Yokota Air Base, Japan, seen here Jan. 18, 2024, is closing in February.

Building 4304, a temporary lodging facilty at Yokota Air Base, Japan, seen here Jan. 18, 2024, is closing in February. (Kelly Agee/Stars and Stripes)

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan – The Air Force plans to close a 50-year-old apartment tower that has provided temporary homes to newly arrived military families at this airlift hub in western Tokyo.

The Kanto Lodge, the Air Force Inn at Yokota, will close its temporary lodging facility in building 4304 on the east side of the base on Feb. 15, according to a recent announcement by the 374th Force Support Squadron.

The facility is in one of three multistory apartment buildings at Yokota built in 1974, according to Staff Sgt. Wren Fiontar, a spokesman for Yokota’s 374th Airlift Wing.

Air Force Inns will convert some units at the Kanto Lodge to adjoining temporary lodging and pet-friendly rooms, according to wing spokesman 1st Lt. Danny Rangel.

Closing the east side tower will reduce the total number of temporary lodging units on Yokota from 150 to 124, he said in a Dec. 28 email.

“This amount will accommodate our PCSing (permanent change of station) families, regardless of size and pets,” he said. “Members PCSing to and from Yokota can expect minimal impact; our Lodging operation will still have plenty of room to support large families and pets.”

The next four oldest of Yokota’s 21 apartment towers were built in 1977, Fiontar said in a Jan. 11 email.

“Typical lifespan for a concrete facility is 50 years but can be extended with consistent maintenance and repairs,” he said.

The facility provided temporary lodging in three-bedroom units that could accommodate up to six people, he said.

Lydia Christy, an Army spouse and mother of three, said she stayed in the facility when her family and their two pets arrived at the base five years ago.

“Having the space for our family of five was absolutely amazing and way better than trying to force ourselves into a one bedroom one pullout couch hotel room,” she said in a Facebook post Wednesday. “It felt like being in a home before our home was ready.”

The Air Force should convert one of its other towers, closer to other facilities, into a temporary lodging facility, she said.

“It is so important to have and was a huge part of our introduction to this base,” she said.

Building 4304 was last renovated in 2010; all five east-side apartment towers have had new doors, windows installed and their exteriors painted, Fiontar said.

“Additionally, the 1970s towers were all fully renovated between 2004-2012, which extended the useful service life by 20 years,” he said.

One of Yokota’s oldest apartment towers is scheduled for demolition in 2034. Four others will be renovated between 2031 and 2035, he said.

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Seth Robson is a Tokyo-based reporter who has been with Stars and Stripes since 2003. He has been stationed in Japan, South Korea and Germany, with frequent assignments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Australia and the Philippines.

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