Yokosuka Peace Walk and Bay Cruise
On Sunday, October 20th there was a very pleasant and informative tour of the area surrounding Yokosuka Naval Base, "America's most important naval facility in the Western Pacific," to quote the base's homepage. The international group was led by Professor Hideo Fujita of Risshyo University, who is also Vice-President of the Peace Association of The 5th Lucky Dragon, named in honor of the Japanese fishing boat that was contaminated by nuclear fallout from a US atomic test in the sea.
The Peace Walkers met at Yokosuka Chuo Station and walked to the nearby Mikasa Koen, site of the 17th Annual Peace Festival. After a short lunch in the park, we boarded the cruise boat that took us along the Yokosuka Base pier; the close view of so many huge gray battleships waiting to go into action was a sobering site and strong reminder that no matter how peaceful Japan may feel to us, it is a crucial gear in the American military machine.
Back on shore the many questions of the group were answered by Mr. Shimizu, a chair of the citizens' group NEPA. Some ten years ago the NEPA filed a lawsuit against the US government for not issuing a report on the environmental impact of the US fleet on the bay and environs. Though eventually defeated, the legal process brought to light the Catch 22 aspect of the situation: the US judge ruled that American environmental laws did not apply to other territories (though they have been invoked in Antarctic and elsewhere) and the Japanese government refused responsibility on the grounds that the American military bases in Japan are not under their jurisdiction either.
Even more ominous than this lack of accountability is the secretive nature of the safety inspections of the tons of explosive ordnance, including suspected nuclear warheads, that are stockpiled around the base. The inspection system is wholly under joint military control and an official copy is not provided to the Japanese Diet. This lack of civilian oversight is made all the more dangerous as there are five active earthquake faults that run through the Miura Peninsula, where the base complex is located. As the surrounding area has the high population density typical of the Kanto Plain, any major disaster, be it of natural or man-made origins, would surely impact at least hundreds of thousands of people.