Okinawan town files grievance, saying U.S. trashing local beaches
July 27, 2011
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — A Japanese town that sits beside two of the largest military bases on Okinawa filed a formal grievance this week over U.S. personnel leaving trash on the city beach and letting dogs run unleashed in local parks, according to U.S. Forces Japan and local media reports.
Chatan town Mayor Masaharu Noguni said that in June the city collected more than 100 empty bottles of American brand beer from Araha beach, a highly popular summer hang-out for servicemembers stationed at Camp Foster, Kadena Air Base and other installations in southern Okinawa.
Meanwhile, Japanese residents around the Sunabe seawall area near the front gate of Kadena are anxious over dogs that are being walked by Americans without leashes, according to town officials.
“Owners of large dogs let their dogs run loose or swim in water, which is a very dangerous behavior,” Noguni told a local newspaper.
The complaint was filed Tuesday with the Okinawa field office of USFJ, which said it would pass along the concerns to the services on the island by Wednesday or Thursday, said USFJ political liaison Patricia Sloss.
“Obviously we will have to educate our people about abiding by rules and policies that are set when using off-base parks,” Sloss said. “The town has English signs out at the beach … so people are responsible for abiding by these rules.”
She said USFJ and the services will have an internal discussion about how to impress the rules of behavior on the military population, which includes about 50,000 servicemembers, civilian workers and family members mostly located near the Chatan town coast.
The U.S. military presence on Okinawa has caused friction with the local population for decades and the island government is currently fighting to have Marine Corps Air Station Futenma moved off the island due to noise and safety concerns.
Despite the alleged bad behavior at the beach and park, some military personnel have apparently stepped up to make a difference. Noguni told USFJ that foreigners have offered to assist in policing the area and curbing any rule breaking, Sloss said.
There are no fines for littering or unleashed dogs, according to Okinawa prefecture police.
Kadena Air Base spokesman Ed Gulick said that the Air Force has constantly emphasized the need for servicemembers to be courteous and follow Japanese rules while off base.
“We tell folks to try to be good neighbors,” Gulick said. “When you are out off base, you represent everyone at Kadena and your actions have consequences.”