Fussa, Japan: Home of the Yokota Air Base

There are various places that one can visit when one flies to Japan. Typically misconstrued as a small country, the Land of the Sun is actually a huge archipelago with numerous islands that tourists can visit. Its capital, the Tokyo metropolis, holds several cities, towns, and districts that all have something unique to offer to foreign guests. For people who would like to be able to go to an air base, the city to visit in Tokyo is none other than Fussa.

Facts: Map, Weather, Climate, Hotels, and Apartments for Rent

LERK [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0), CC BY-SA 2.1 jp (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.1/jp/deed.en), GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0) or CC BY 2.1 jp (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.1/jp/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons

More commonly known as Fussa-shi in Japanese, the city of Fussa is situated in the western part of the Tokyo metropolis. Located in the central portion of Kanto region, Fussa has a total area of 10.16 square kilometers, which is equivalent to 3.92 square miles. With an estimated population of 58,393 as of the 1st of February in the year 2016, the city had a population density of 5,750 persons per square kilometer, which is equivalent to 14,900 persons per square mile.

The effective population density of Fussa is 8,782 persons per square kilometers. This is taking into account the United States Air Force  Yokota Air Base, which occupies around one-third of Fussa. With the coordinates of 35°44′ North and 139°20′ East, the city is under the governance of Mayor Ikuo Kato since May of the year 2008. The symbols of the city include the Osmanthus tree, the Azalea flower, and the Japanese tit bird. The phone number of its city hall is 042-551-1511. It is located at Honcho 5-banchi, Fussa-shi, Tokyo-to 197-8501.

Geographically, the city of Fussa is located on the Musashino Terrace, which very near to the center of Tokyo. The terrace is bordered by the Tama River’s floodplains. The area along the length of the said river houses numerous parks. Also standing in this area are almost 300 cherry blossom trees. Recreational facilities, as well as bicycle paths, can also be found in this area. The municipalities surrounding Fussa include Akiruno, Tachikawa, Masashimurayama, Mizuho, Akishima, Hachioji, and Tokyo Metropolis Hamura.

The summer season in Fussa is quite short. Warm and muggy, the weather in Fussa during summer is humid. It can also be quite cloudy. On the other hand, the winter season in Fussa can be extremely cold. Usually clear, the winter season in Fussa is not for the people who get cold easily. The temperature in the city changes over the course of a year from 30 degrees Fahrenheit to 87 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperature below 24 degrees Fahrenheit or above 94 degrees Fahrenheit is rare in Fussa.

Initially, the area of what is now known as the city of Fussa used to be a part of old Musashi Province. This area was considered as tenryo property during the Edo period. Under the direct control of the Tokugawa shogunate at the time, the area was administered by several hatamoto. Mostly used for agricultural purposes, the area was well-known for producing great silkworms and sake.

On the other hand, the 26 hamlets on the area merged and turned into the villages of Kumagawa, Tama, and Fussa after the Meiji Restoration. It was situated within the bordered of the short-lived Shinagawa Prefecture. This prefecture was later on known as the Kanagawa Prefecture. Certain portions of the area played certain roles in the Chichibu Incident, which occurred in the year 1884.

On the 1st of April in the year 1893, the entire district became under the control of the Tokyo Metropolis. Following this, Fussa was joined to Tachikawa by the Ome Railway. The status of this district was elevated to town in the year 1940. This was followed by the construction of an airfield for the Imperial Japanese Army. The area went on to become the central aircraft testing facility for the Army in the year 1942.

Despite the many destructions caused by the Second World War, the area was only bombed once in the year 1945 with only four casualties. Mostly intact, the military facilities in the area were seized by the American military following the end of the war. Thanks to the construction of subsidized housing districts in the area, Fussa was able to grow and expand at a fast pace. On the 1st of April in the year 1970, Fussa was finally elevated to city status.

Together with its neighboring cities Tachikawa and Iruma, the city of Fussa has a strong military presence. A huge part of the economy of Fussa goes to the bases as well as its inhabitants. On the eastern portion of the city lies the “Bar Row” district. It consists of numerous shot bars, massage parlors, and karaoke bars. It represents the nightlife of the city that caters to US military personnel, which has been present since the 1950s. Also a regional center, the city can also be considered a bedroom community for central Tokyo.

News and Information on US Air Force Yokota Air Base

Also known as Yokota Hikojo in Japanese, the Yokota Air Base is a United States Air Force situated in Fussa City, which is among the 26 cities located in the area of Tama. The base consists of 14,000 personnel. With a total area of 7.07 square kilometers, which is equivalent to 2.73 square miles, the base contains a runway of 3,353 meters in length and 61 meters in width, which are equivalent to 11,001 feet and 200 feet, respectively. Some of its facilities include a detachment of the Band of the Pacific of Pacific Air Forces and the headquarters of United States Forces Japan and the broadcast center for the American Forces Network Tokyo radio service.

The 374th Airlift Wing serves as the unit at Yokota. At present, it is utilized for airlift missions throughout East Asia. It consists of four groups, namely, operations, medical, mission support, and maintenance. Every group handles a different number of squadrons for the purpose of fulfilling the mission of the wing. With the Tail Code of YJ, the 374th Operations Group provides fast and responsive movement of not just personnel but also operational support and equipment. This is to maintain a forward presence in the area. It serves the Asia-Pacific region.

This group is composed of the 374th Operations Support Squadron, the 36th Airlift Squadron (Lockheed C-130H1 Hercules), and the 459th Airlift Squadron (Bell UH-1N Iroquois (Huey) and C1-12J Huron). The purpose of the 374th Maintenance Group is to maintain C-12, C-130H1, and UH-1N aircraft, which, in turn, serves as a support to intratheater airlift as well as recognized visitor transport for Pacific Air Forces.

On the other hand, the purpose of the 374th Mission Support Group is to be responsible to the 374th Airlift Wing Commander when it comes to not just command but also control and direction of support activities to 374 AW as well as 32 tenant units. These include the HQ US Forces Japan and Fifth Air Force. As the name suggests, the 374th Medical Group is responsible for medical needs of the squads. Medical readiness of 374 AW, 5 AF, and US Forces personnel is ensured by this group. Furthermore, the group also maintains 64 War Reserve Materiel projects. These include the USAF’s biggest Patient Movement Item inventory.

Also part of the Air Base includes Associate or Tenant Units as well as the Yokota Cadet Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol. Associate or Tenant units include the 730th Air Mobility Squadron, the Stars and Stripes, the Air Force Band of the Pacific-Asia, the American Forces Network, the air component to USFJ known as the Fifth Air Force or 5 AF, the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) Activities Far East (FEACT) that inspects ships that are bound for US ports to ensure port control and safety, and the U.S. Forces, Japan (USFJ).

History of the Yokota Air Base in Tokyo

By Morio (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons

The facility where the Yokota Air Base is currently located used to be known as Tama Airfield, as constructed by the Imperial Japanese Army in the year 1940. Its main purpose was to serve as a flight test center. The Second World War occurred and destruction ensued. On September of the year 1945, the Japanese surrendered and the arrival of a detachment of the US Army 1st Cavalry Division took place at the base on the 4th of that same month. The place was renamed as the Fussa Army Airfield, as renamed by the 1st Cav. It was again renamed at the end of the same month as the Yokota Army Airfield.

It was again supposed to be renamed to Wilkins Army Airfield or WAAB after Raymond Wilkins who was the winner of Medal of Honor. However, this idea did not push through. Still, the facility was again renamed in the year 1947 when the USAAF became the USAF. The name of the facility was changed to Yokota Air Base. Even though the “WAAB” name did not officially push through, there are still some metal manhole covers in the facility that are stamped with “WAAB” until today.

An announcement was made by the Japanese government in the year 2005 that stated the moving of the Japan Air Self-Defense Force to Yokota. The idea of opening Yokota to civilian flights in order to alleviate traffic at both Narita Airport and Haneda Airport was advocated by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government. The joint-use proposal was raised by Governor Shintaro Ishihara during the gubernatorial election in the year 2003. Joint-use was also raised in the year 2013 by Governor Naoki Inose as a probable solution to help with visitor demand when 2020 Summer Olympics arrive in Tokyo.

The air base was attacked by leftist extremists in November of the year 2009. The attackers used improvised mortar barrages to further their cause. In April of the year 2010, screenings of the film “The Cove” was banned at the base theater by the US Air Force commander of the base Colonel Frank Eppich. This is because displaying the film in the base venue may be seen as an endorsement of the said film.

During the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami disasters in March of the year 2011, as well as the Fukushima I nuclear accidents, the base and its personnel and aircraft played a big role in assisting with Operation Tomodachi. The air base was also used as a hub for airlifted assistance.

Other Places to See in Fussa, Japan

By 八幡鏡太郎 (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

Aside from the Yokota Air Base, there are also other places that one must see when in Fussa, Japan. One of these places is the Shinmei Shrine. Located just 400 meters from Fussa Station, the small and quiet shrine complex provides a pretty view during the autumn season. The trees surround the shrine turn into hues of red and gold, providing that picturesque look. Another great temple to check out is Seigain Temple.

Located close to this shrine is the Seishu Kasen Sake Brewery. Open from 8 in the morning until 9 in the evening, visitors of the brewery can avail of a free tour. The tour offers guests lessons about the history of the brewery as well as sights of their traditional sake warehouses. Albeit not too big, the brewery provides an old Edo feel due to its architecture.

For people for a peaceful time, head on over to the north of the brewery where the Tamagawa Josui is located. The place houses woods that run along a small stream that is located close to the Tamagawa River. The place is perfect for a relaxing stroll. Visitors can also take a seat and enjoy some snacks coupled with some beers. On the other hand, the main Tamagawa River also offers a great view, especially during autumn and spring season, with its surrounding seasonal flowers like cherry blossoms.

If food is what one is looking for, check out Big Dip. The brand is most famous for its ice cream selection and quality. Another store great for some cold treats with interesting toppings and flavors is Fresh Bagels Café Hoop. For a great selection of Japanese ham, definitely try those sold by TOKYO-X.