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A USS Patriot crewmember throws a heaving line to the pier in Otaru, Japan, on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016. The Avenger-class mine-countermeasures ship from Sasebo, Japan, is making its first visit to the city.
A USS Patriot crewmember throws a heaving line to the pier in Otaru, Japan, on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016. The Avenger-class mine-countermeasures ship from Sasebo, Japan, is making its first visit to the city. (James Kimber/Stars and Stripes)
A USS Patriot crewmember throws a heaving line to the pier in Otaru, Japan, on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016. The Avenger-class mine-countermeasures ship from Sasebo, Japan, is making its first visit to the city.
A USS Patriot crewmember throws a heaving line to the pier in Otaru, Japan, on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016. The Avenger-class mine-countermeasures ship from Sasebo, Japan, is making its first visit to the city. (James Kimber/Stars and Stripes)
USS Patriot is moored in Otaru, Japan, on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016.
USS Patriot is moored in Otaru, Japan, on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016. (James Kimber/Stars and Stripes)
Crewmembers from the USS Patriot oversee line handling and mooring operations from the deck of the mine-countermeasures ship in Otaru, Japan, on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016. The ship has planned a three-day rest-and-recuperation visit.
Crewmembers from the USS Patriot oversee line handling and mooring operations from the deck of the mine-countermeasures ship in Otaru, Japan, on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016. The ship has planned a three-day rest-and-recuperation visit. (James Kimber/Stars and Stripes)
Crewmembers place rat guards on the mooring lines tying USS Patriot to the pier in Otaru, Japan, on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016.
Crewmembers place rat guards on the mooring lines tying USS Patriot to the pier in Otaru, Japan, on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016. (James Kimber/Stars and Stripes)
A crewmember from USS Patriot stows a heaving line in a locker aboard the mine-countermeasures ship in Otaru, Japan, on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016. The Avenger-class mine-countermeasures ship from Sasebo, Japan is making its third visit to Hokkaido in the 20 years.
A crewmember from USS Patriot stows a heaving line in a locker aboard the mine-countermeasures ship in Otaru, Japan, on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016. The Avenger-class mine-countermeasures ship from Sasebo, Japan is making its third visit to Hokkaido in the 20 years. (James Kimber/Stars and Stripes)

OTARU, Japan — The USS Patriot pulled into port on this northern Japanese island on Thursday for a rest-and-recuperation visit.

The mine-countermeasure’s 90-member crew, who arrived a day later than scheduled because of the weather, also plans to visit local schools during the three-day stopover. A second Navy ship, the guided-missile destroyer USS Benfold, is scheduled to arrive Friday with another 200 sailors on board.

It is the Patriot’s third visit to Hokkaido in the last 20 years, but its first port stop in Otaru.

“My crew and I look forward to spending time in Otaru and the surrounding areas,” the Patriot’s commander, Lt. Cmdr. Emily Royse, said. “Many are looking forward to the beautiful Snow Light Path Festival here as well as the snow festival in Sapporo and, of course, enjoying the fantastic cuisine.”

The visit isn’t without a bit of controversy: City officials said they had received multiple faxes from concerned residents protesting the visit and saying they were worried about an uptick in crime.

A press release published on the city’s website stated the ships cleared their checklist for visitation, but reiterated that Otaru is a commercial port and that military vessels are “undesirable.”

“I think the protesters are just a very, very small fraction of Japan and their attitude to our arrival here,” Royse said. “But based on the warm welcome we have received here as well as other Japanese ports in the past, we’re very confident that we can continue to maintain our strong relationship.”

Stars and Stripes reporter Hana Kusumoto contributed to this report.

kimber.james@stripes.com

Twitter: @james_kimber

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