Japanese troops moving in with US soldiers at Camp Zama
CAMP ZAMA, Japan — Troops from the Japan Ground Self Defense Force’s Central Readiness Force marched Tuesday through Camp Zama to their new headquarters inside the U.S. Army’s main base in Tokyo.
The 300-strong CRF, relocated from Camp Asaka, a Japanese base on the other side of town, joins 270 other Japanese servicemembers already working at Zama – home to U.S. Army Japan and I Corps Forward.
Maj. Gen. Michael Harrison Sr., commander of U.S. Army Japan and I Corps Forward, welcomed the Japanese troops, who marched past rows of blooming cherry blossom trees, flag-waving Japanese dignitaries and cheering U.S. soldiers on a fine spring day.
“The collocation of the Central Readiness Force with the U.S. Army Japan here on Camp Zama marks another milestone in the Japan-U.S. security arrangement,” Harrison told the U.S. and Japanese personnel.
CRF commander Lt. Gen. Masahiro Hidaka told the troops he expects the move will foster enhanced cooperation between the two armies.
“I am certain that this will be the basis of solid Japan-U.S. alliance and stronger relationship between the Ground Self-Defense Force and U.S. Army,” he said.
Hidaka said he hopes his men will get to know their new American neighbors and become “true tomodachi” (friends).
According to the Japanese Defense Ministry, the CRF trains personnel for overseas peacekeeping missions and includes specialized units such as helicopter and chemical detachments that can respond to attacks by guerrillas or enemy special forces.
A small group of peace activists met the Japanese troops at the main gate of the camp, which was once the Imperial Japanese Army Academy.
To accommodate the Japanese personnel, Camp Zama has added new barracks, offices and a gymnasium.
Harrison predicted the cooperation fostered by the move would play an integral role in addressing difficult security challenges ahead.
“This move and collocation will contribute to improved bilateral coordination as well as allow for the strengthening of cooperation between the Central Readiness Force and U.S. Army,” he said. “In turn, this transition will increase the security of Japan and the peace and stability of the entire Asia-Pacific Region.”
The move to Zama follows the 2011 movement of 800 Japanese airmen to Yokota Air Base, home to the U.S. 5th Air Force, U.S. Forces Japan and the 374th Airlift Wing.
Japanese forces also are based at several other U.S. facilities in the country, including Okinawa, and some U.S. troops are assigned to Japanese bases, such as Hyakuri Air Base.
Stars and Stripes staffer Hana Kusumoto contributed to this report.