Sasebo: More Than The Naval Base It's Known For

Japan is made up of different islands, regions, and prefectures. It is an archipelago, brimming with similar cultures, yet these cultures possess shades of different variables. The experiences that each area offers travelers are diverse, and your perception of Japan can vary, depending on which area you visit. There’s the lush greenery of rural Japan, the quaint towns found in semi-urbanized areas, and then there are technologically advanced cities that represent the epitome of modern civilization.

While Tokyo is usually the number one metropolis people refer to when they think of the industrial mecca of Japan, each prefecture has at least one core city (known as chukaku-shi, written as “中核市”) that runs as that prefecture’s center of business, entertainment, administration, and industrial development. To be considered a core city, the city must have a population of 300,000 people – but not all core cities follow this rule. Some core cities are exempted from this rule; being called a core city with a population of more than 200,000, but less than 300,000. One of these exceptions is the core city of Sasebo.

Facts About Sasebo

Sasebo is one of two core cities of the prefecture of Nagasaki; the other being Nagasaki city itself. It is found in the Kyushu Region. A census was conducted last October 2016, and Sasebo was found to be populated by 251,417 people. The size of Sasebo city measures up to 426.47 square kilometers. Its current mayor is Norio Tomonaga. As for the city’s symbols (each city uses a symbol to nationally represent itself), it uses Flowering Dogwood for its tree, the Leomire for its bird, and the Lilium speciosum for its flower.

The History of Sasebo

For the most of its existence before the Meiji restoration, Sasebo fell under the Hirado domain. Before Japan’s areas were segregated by the government during the Meiji period, they used to be divided by provinces and domains. It was primarily a village focused on fishing. As Nagasaki is known for its ports, part of Sasebo was eventually turned into a navy base by Lt. Commander Togo Heihachiro beginning the year 1883. His reasons for choosing this harbor was because it was geographically nearest to countries like Korea and China, and had deep waters. 

The Imprints of the Second World War

During the first of April in 1902, the city of Sasebo was founded. The city quickly became known for its naval bases that would serve in all of Japan’s coming wars. Sasebo inflated to a population of 206,000 people by 1945, though the second world war devastated this amount. It began when the allies wanted the Imperial Japanese armed forces to surrender unconditionally, or they would face “prompt and utter destruction”.

The Imperial Japanese armed forces ignored this threat, and consequently, faced a series of bombings from the allied forces that would annihilate its people and destroy its lands. Sasebo was a part of their trail of destruction, as a bomb was dropped on the city during the 29th of June 1945. Almost half (48%) of the population Sasebo were killed because of that bomb, however, they were spared the fate of receiving the bigger weapon of mass destruction: atomic bomb, which it was later revealed to be a candidate to receive.

Post War Recovery: Sasebo’s Modern Economy, Town Mergers

World War II was a grueling time for much of Nagasaki, as well as the rest of Japan. Fortunately, Sasebo has since risen from the ashes. Its population has regrown, and it has progressed to merge with many towns. These towns are Yoshii and Sechibaru on April 1, 2005, Uku and Kosaza on March 31, 2006, and Emukae and Shikamachi, on March 31, 2010, all of which originated from the Kitamatsuura District.

Because Sasebo is near a body of water and is known for holding fleets due to its navy base, its economy relies mainly on fishing, as well as industries related to building ships – one of them being the shipyard company, Sasebo Heavy Industries Co., Ltd. 

There are also islands off the coast of Sasebo called the Kujuku Islands. They classify as being a part of both cities Sasebo and Hirado. Overall, there are 208 islands that are part of the Kujuku Islands. On these islands are arrays of pearl farms, as well as oyster farms that make up a lot of Sasebo’s trade.

The Story Behind the Navy Base of Sasebo

By 1886, the Sasebo Naval District was officially founded. The three wars that made use of the base were the Sino-Japanese war, Russo-Japanese war, and the second world war used this navy as a base, turning it into an important port to dock their ships. Constructed alongside the base to aid in housing ships and repairing them was the Sasebo Naval Arsenal. 

In its busiest period during the second world war, around 60,000 people were employed to work at this port. Not only was it used for ships, but for planes and submarines as well. Once the war was over, the American occupation took place, the United States Navy took over parts of Sasebo’s naval base resources, and later, the Japan Self-Defense Forces (the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force) and the Japan Ground Self Defense force’s Western Army Infantry Regiment. The U.S. Fleet Activities Sasebo was officially set up by June of 1946.

Post-War Usage

The American base would later prove useful to the United Nations, U.S., and French troops during the Korean war. It was the gateway of equipment and arsenal for their soldiers to use for war. The constant influx of infantry resulted in a surge in the American population (among others) in this area of Japan. The Japan Self-Defense Forces formed only during the post-Korean War era. 

Ships that were used for those wars from the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force were made to be docked at U.S. Fleet Activities Sasebo as a home port. Until today, the United States Navy and United States Pacific Fleet still use the port, and currently known as the U.S. Fleet Activities Sasebo.

How to Find A Map to Help Get You to Naval Base in Sasebo, Japan

Do you need to head to the naval base in Sasebo, but don’t have the directions to get there? With the help of current technology, you may plug in the address using google maps, and you will be given a guide on how to get there from wherever you are. Directions are tailored, depending if you’ll be using a private car, walking, or public transportation. The address of the United States Fleet Activities is “Japan, 〒857-0056 Nagasaki Prefecture, Sasebo, 平瀬町”.

If you prefer doing it the traditional way and relying on a map, the different kanji on the map may be hard to understand and may end up confusing you. There are several maps online that show Sasebo City, though they are difficult to read.

Base Housing in Sasebo, Japan 

To support the families of the fleet that live in Sasebo, the U.S. segregated an area just for housing for that community. Both civilian personnel and service members and close family can rent this, but need to undergo a process with the HSC, or Housing Services Center first. So far, there are 749 units, comprising of 2-bedroom to 4-bedroom choices. Some of these units are town homes, others have gardens, and the rest are apartments of both the mid-rise and high-rise nature, 

These units are spread across three locations: Fiddler’s Green, Hario Village, and Dragon Vale. Two of these locations, which are Fiddler’s Green and Dragon Vale, are found near Sasebo City itself. Hario Village, however, is found elsewhere; in Hario Island, next to an amusement park called “Huis Ten Bosch”. 

You may choose depending on your preferences; Dragon Vale and Fiddler’s Green have 217 units. These homes are nearer the city and have access to each public facility of the main base such as the pool, restaurants, and gyms. They are also much nearer schools, such as Sasebo Elementary School, and others. Hario Village is much quieter and secluded, as, from the Main Base, it is a drive worth 25 minutes away. It also has the same rewards that the Dragon Vale and Fiddler’s Green units have. Out of the 749 units, 532 belong here. 

What’s The Weather Like in Sasebo, Japan?

Because it’s located towards the bottom of Japan, Sasebo’s weather is hotter and more humid than the other regions located up north. Its coordinates are 33°9'N, 129°43'E, 6 m (18 ft), which makes it a humid subtropical climate. There is no dry season, and rainfall happens all year round. As for summer, temperatures soar and humidity increases, making it feel muggy. 

It rarely goes below freezing point during winter, as its average minimum temperature for January and February are 2 and 3 degrees Celsius, respectively. July and August are Sasebo’s hottest months, with temperature readings coming in at 30 and 31 degrees Celsius respectively, for average maximum temperature.

Japan Standard Time; Followed by Sasebo

Although Sasebo is in the southwesternmost part of Japan, it still follows JST; which is Japan Standard Time (日本標準時 Nihon Hyōjunji). Coordinated Universal Time, which is represented as UTC, is nine hours ahead of Japan Standard Time, thus being represented universally as UTC+9. 

While Japan is the only country that adheres to JST, other time zones are like it (UTC+9) are AWDT (Australian Western Daylight Time), I (India Time Zone), KST (Korean Standard Time), and WIT (Eastern Indonesian Time), just to name a few. 

More About the Airport that is nearest Sasebo, Japan

Sasebo itself does is not accessible by air, and is only accessible by land; cars and trains. There is a local airport found 45 kilometers from Sasebo. It is the Omura airport. However, this airport does not seem like it is used for commercial domestic flights at the moment, and is only used by private planes.

If you are coming from a far place and need to use a plane to cut travel time short, purchase a ticket that leads you to Nagasaki Airport (NGS/RJFU). This airport caters to both domestic and international flights, and is 63 kilometers away from Sasebo, making it the nearest in proximity. Other international airports you may want to consider flying to include Saga Airport, which is 72 kilometers away, Fukuoka Airport, which is 124 kilometers away, and lastly, Aso Kumamoto Airport, 151 kilometers far from Sasebo.

All the previously mentioned airports are also open to domestic flights. There are two airports that cater to domestic flights; one is 106 kilometers away from Sasebo named Iki airport, and Fukue Airport, which is 129 kilometers away. 

Sights to See when Visiting Sasebo

Though Sasebo is known for its naval base, it is not open to public touring. With that said, Sasebo has many other attractions that are fun to head to. Many visit its famous amusement park, the Huis Ten Bosch, a theme park with a Dutch motif. The fantastical architecture it boasts of is often compared to that of the likes of Disney. The park has pools and rides and lights up at night to reveal a wondrous, technicolored, remarkable sight that would truly make for a great memory for kids and adults alike. 

For a more educational tour, tourists flock to Sasebo to experience islands of Kujuku. There are boats that take you to see 208 islands (though they say you’ll see 99, the number is really 208). It is reviewed to be a relaxing cruise, with a pleasant hike that leads you to the observatory for a grand view of the scattered islets. Out of the 248 reviews on TripAdvisor regarding this activity, it has received 4.5 stars.

Great Hotels For Your Stay at Sasebo, Japan

Eager to visit Sasebo yet? Hotels you should consider are the Watermark Hotel Nagasaki Huis Ten Bosch and Sasebo Washington Hotel. The Watermark Hotel Nagasaki Huis Ten Bosch is a big hit, costing you about 20,151 yen a night for 2 adults. It’s a 5-star hotel that has spacious and luxurious rooms, as well as overall atmosphere. For a cheaper alternative with good value, Sasebo Washington Hotel goes for less at 8965 yen a night for two people. It’s close to the Sasebo Train Station (Just a 3 minute walk away) and is clean, and gives you everything you need for a comfortable stay at Sasebo.