Following the alleged rape of a 19-year-old Japanese girl by four US Marines, all members of the US military now have a strict midnight curfew for the base at Iwakuni pending an investigation; the four charged with the crime will be held on base until further notice. This alleged rape occurred at approximately 3:30 AM on October 14th... the first night of the Sake Matsuri in Higashi Hiroshima (東広島).
It wouldn't surprise me in the least if these charges were true, but naturally, I have no right to pass judgment over a case I know nothing about. Let's just say... the military presence in Iwakuni is not valued by the residents of Iwakuni or Hiroshima. Every chance most of those leathernecks get, they run into town, get drunk at El Barco, and find the first Japanese or eastern European girl who's willing to let them touch her. I hate generalizations like that, but anyone who lives in Hiroshima knows it to be true; go down to El Barco any Friday or Saturday and watch.
Just like in Okinawa, there are many Japanese protesting an "unnecessary" military presence in Honshu. With an incident like this in the news, true or not, we may start to see some concessions from the US; in 1995, two Marines and a Navy medic abducted and raped a 12-year-old Japanese girl on Okinawa. Following that incident, the US was pressured to return some of the seized land to Japanese control. Although increasing military ties are forming in response to the North Korean threat, will we see a relocation of the forces at Iwakuni?
4 U.S. Marines suspected in gang rape of Hiroshima woman
Saturday, October 20, 2007 at 07:11 EDT
HIROSHIMA — Japanese police have started investigating four U.S. Marines from the Iwakuni base in Yamaguchi Prefecture on suspicion of gang raping a 19-year-old Japanese woman in Hiroshima earlier this month, police said Friday.
The four are suspected of assaulting the woman in a parked car early Sunday in the city's Naka Ward after they met her at an event hall in the same ward and took her out by the car, the Hiroshima prefectural police said.
The four had taken part in a dancing event at the hall late Saturday that had attracted about 300 to 400 people, according to the hall.
Hiroshima police are planning to request that the four men be transferred into their custody from the U.S. military, based on the provisions of a bilateral agreement that governs matters related to the U.S. military including its personnel.
Iwakuni Mayor Katsusuke Ihara said, "It is very regrettable if it is true. We will protest after confirming the facts."
The incident is likely to stiffen the opposition of Iwakuni residents to the Iwakuni base, although Ihara, who had been opposed to a relocation plan for U.S. carrier-based aircraft to Iwakuni air station, proposed to the government on Tuesday starting discussions on an agreement.
Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba told a news conference Friday, "Investigations are under way, but if it is true it is extremely regrettable."
The Iwakuni base released a statement saying it is aware of the allegations, is conducting its own investigation, and will fully cooperate with the relevant local authorities.
The U.S. Embassy in Japan issued a statement saying, "The U.S. Embassy and the U.S. forces in Japan are cooperating fully with Japanese authorities on this case."
"The U.S. forces in Japan and the U.S. government are committed to maintaining the highest standards of discipline for U.S. military personnel in Japan. We take reports of this nature very seriously," the statement said.