A servicemember reaches for a pack of bottled beer at Yokota Air Base, Japan.

A servicemember reaches for a pack of bottled beer at Yokota Air Base, Japan. (Stars and Stripes)

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan – U.S. Forces Japan has loosened alcohol restrictions imposed after a fatal Nov. 19 vehicle accident involving a 21-year-old Marine on Okinawa.

The revised rules, which took effect at 4:30 p.m. Thursday local time, allow servicemembers to purchase alcoholic beverages on base and drink them in their on- or off-base homes, Maj. George Tobias, a 5th Air Force spokesman, told Stars and Stripes.

“The purchase or consumption of alcohol off-base is still not permitted with the exception of one's own off-base residence,” he said.

Alcohol sales are still prohibited at some U.S. facilities in Japan, such as at the New Sanno Hotel and Hardy Barracks in Tokyo and Kadena Marina on Okinawa, Tobias said.

A midnight to 5 a.m. curfew for Japan-based servicemembers of all ranks is still in force, he added. Under normal circumstances, USFJ’s Japan-wide curfew applies only to lower enlisted servicemembers and runs from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m.

Lt. Gen. Jerry Martinez, who commands USFJ and 5th Air Force, banned his troops for purchasing alcohol and drinking it on or off base after police on the southern island prefecture arrested Lance Cpl. Nicholas James-McLean on suspicion of negligent driving resulting in death and driving under the influence of alcohol.

James-McLean, who was off duty at the time, was driving a government-owned vehicle at about 5:30 a.m. when it collided with a minitruck driven by Japanese national Hidemasa Taira, 61, at an intersection, officials said.

Taira was killed in the crash, which is still under investigation.

A breath test indicated that James-McLean had a blood-alcohol level that was three times Japan’s legal limit of 0.03 percent, a Naha police spokesman said.

All 50 U.S. states have set 0.08 as the legal limit for driving under the influence or driving while impaired. Twitter: @SethRobson1

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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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