Courageously protecting Japan with the aid of garrison-exclusive convenience store meals and socks.
Normally the average civilian would find it pretty difficult to get onto military property, but not for SoraNews24; our intrepid Japanese-language reporter Mr Sato managed to infiltrate one such base, on a summer festival open day, and he took us along for the ride with him.
It was last Wednesday when we made our way up to the Japanese Self-Defence Force (JSDF) Asaka base in Saitama Prefecture, north of Tokyo, and after navigating the swarms of school children and metal detector-replete security checks reminiscent of an airport, we were in. Having our priorities straight, we had already confirmed the presence of a Family Mart convenience store within the grounds of the base and headed there immediately.
▼ The entrance to the military base summer festival welcoming(?) us in
Family Mart convenience stores can be found all over Japan, with a wide variety of drinks and snacks; what would we find in one of the most securely defended convenience stores in the country? At first glance, it seemed identical to any other, but then we looked a little closer and found some interesting differences.
First were the Milimeshi (Military meal) battlefield ration packs (or MREs as they’re known in the U.S.), the fuel that keeps the Japanese Self-Defence Force in the field. At Asaka base, the available tasty-sounding options were curry and rice, hayashi rice (stewed beef and onions in a demi-glace sauce with rice) and stamina-don (supposedly stamina-providing ingredients sat on top of rice).
▼ The ration packs come in handy camo-packaging so the enemy can’t tell what you’re eating. Just be careful not to put it down somewhere!
Family Mart also had a range of items aimed at members of the military, such as camouflage-patterned bags, neckties and somewhat worryingly, helmets. With a lack of protective equipment for troops a constant complaint across military forces for many countries, it’s to be hoped that JSDF soldiers are provided with helmets. If not, Family Mart has their back and head covered, and their toes too, with a selection of inner soles.
▼ Bags and heavy duty inner soles for when you get marched to the top of the hill and marched back down again.
It wasn’t only the Family Mart that grabbed our attention, and our money. Alongside the convenience store were a range of shops, including a chemist and a sports goods shop. We headed to Shinanoya, a shop selling goods for soldiers to use when out on exercises. As well as necessities like socks and T-shirts were exciting goods like face camouflage paint or ear plugs. We weren’t the only ones queuing up to stock up.
Not every thing on sale requires martial law or a zombie apocalypse for us civilians to put to good use; inside a bargain bucket of reclaimed goods for sale we found this stylish yet sturdy messenger bag, a steal at 1,400 yen (US$12.62) and perfect for transporting our laptop. It would also go nicely with our ghillie suit.
While we visited the Asaka base in Saitama, many Japanese Self-Defence Force bases hold summer festivals open to general members of the public. While obviously some areas are out-of-bounds, it’s possible to wander around much of the premises freely.
Now we know why they need all those expensive weapon systems – they obviously have goodies they don’t want falling into the hands of the enemy, or perhaps us civilians. Now all they need is their very own limited edition Kit-Kat.
[ Read in Japanese ]