The Esperantes Discover an American Oasis in Tokyo, Japan
The Esperantes visit The Great Buddha statue at the Kōtoku in Temple in Kamakura, Japan. Photo courtesy of the Esperantes.
The Army’s Hardy Barracks is one of two U.S. military compounds in midtown Tokyo. The other is the U.S. Navy’s New Sanno Hotel, an upper class hotel. After an exhausting 18-hour travel time from LAX with a 3-hour stopover in Beijing, China, a comfortable mode of transportation to a hotel is well-deserved.
A taxi ride cost approximately 7,600 Yen which is equivalent to $76 from Haneda Airport, the airport closest to Tokyo. Narita Airport is about $200 more because of its distance from Tokyo. For the budget minded, public transportation is an available option. The airport information desk on the second floor of the airport can give the latest information on public transportation. If you have large suitcases, public transportation may be a bit inconvenient.
If you live in California, you may ask why Los Angeles’s LAX was the travel origin. The short answer: it is approximately $300 less per person than originating from San Francisco’s SFO. Also our time was limited also because my wife is due back to work in two weeks, so a military hop was not an option.
Dale Esperante in front of the Hardy Barracks in downtown Tokyo, Japan. Photo courtesy of the Esperantes.
To gain access into Hardy Barracks, one member of your party, the sponsor, must have a military or DOD ID card. It must be checked by the gate security staff. Accompanying family members may show their dependent ID cards or American passports. For $55 per night in a large two-room suite, this security procedure is worth the trouble. A large single room at the New Sanno starts at around $80. Civilian hotels in Tokyo will cost more just for a compact room. Upper class hotels like the New Sanno will cost approximately $150 and above. Those with relatives who can qualify as a sponsor should look into vacationing in Tokyo and staying at Hardy Barracks. Only 24 rooms are available, so make your reservation as early as possible.
The Hardy’s Japanese office staff is friendly and helpful. They will be more than happy to answer any of your question about the culture, language, and getting around town by public transportation. Continental breakfast is complimentary every morning. They can also lend you a hair dryer, and a cable for your laptop so you can access the internet. There is no WiFi.
Also on the compound (Camp Zama) is a small Navy Shoppette and a Post Office where you can purchase stamps. Due to an agreement with the Japanese government, visitors will not be allowed to mail anything larger than a letter. Parcels must be mailed via Japanese postal service. Hardy Barracks is conveniently located near three subway stations. Metro stations nearby are Nogizaka, Hiro, and Roppongi Hills. From any of these three stations, you can reach all the interesting Tokyo destinations that you may desire to visit. Nogizaka Station is just a 5-minute walk around the corner from the gate of the American compound. Hiro Station is about a 15-minute walk in the direction of the New Sanno Hotel. Roppongi Hills Station is an enjoyable 20-minute stroll past towering Roppongi Hills building where you’ll find Starbucks and a McDonalds, and further down you’ll find a mixture of everything from a pastry shop to a luxury car dealership. You can register for free WiFi at Starbucks.
The New Sannot Hotel Street view. Photo courtesy of the Esperantes.
If you wish to join a guided tour, you may contact Army Camp Zama ITT (ZAMATT) via their website. Once you’ve been scheduled for a guided tour, you may be picked up by the tour bus at Roppongi Hills Grand Hyatt Hotel. This hotel is just a 15-minute stroll from Hardys. From personal experience, I can recommend joining the following tours: Mt. Fuji, Nikko and Kamakura while in Tokyo. If you decide to visit Kyoto, ZAMATT can also arrange this for you. They’ll arrange your bullet train, hotel, and tour excursion reservations.
The Sanno Hotel Lobby. Photo courtesy of the Esperantes.
We opted to tour Kyoto on our own via the city’s convenient bus and subway system. To be scheduled for a free Imperial Palace tour, you must visit the Palace Household Agency Office early to show your passport and complete a security form. I highly recommend this free tour. For a Nara excursion outside Kyoto, we asked ZAMATT to schedule us. Nara is a half day excursion and worth the guided tour. It is wise to have a free day to wander on your own without joining an organized tour. Use this day to get used to the subway system, to shop, to sample the local food culture, and to catch up on your rest. It is highly recommended that you master simple Japanese phrases, such as, excuse me (sumimasen); where is the toilet (toire wa doku desu ka), or where is (doku desu ka) (fill in the blanksation with a fellow tourist about this led to two theories. One, the city doesn’t want your personal rubbish, and, two, for security reason because anyone can casually drop a weapon of mass destruction in a public trash container.
Active duty military and retired military veterans should take advantage of this Tokyo military-connection while it is still available. Anyone with a military connection (friends included) may also benefit from this. If you desire to visit a country with modern conveniences and still culturally exotic, check out Japan. It will be one of the most impressive destinations because it is the safest and hospitable foreign vacation you’ll ever experience.
Dale Esperante, USAF, (Ret.) Elk Grove, CA firstname.lastname@example.org
Reprint from Sep–Oct 2014 • Volume 44, No. 5