Japanese naval ship stops in Nome
The Japanese Defense Ministry Naval Training vessel JDS Kashima was offshore of Nome on September 10 and 11 as part of a training cruise.
This was the ship’s first visit to the region and the first time a Japanese training vessel has ventured into the Arctic. The ship is part of the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force fleet.
Masaru Aniya, who is head of the Consular Office of Japan in Anchorage, said that never in Japan’s 64 years of conducting annual training cruises has a ship gotten this far north in the Pacific.
According to Nome City Manager Glenn Steckman, the vessel wanted to get as close to the Arctic as the ship could manage, and Nome was as far north they could go. Aniya said he does not expect training vessels to visit Nome regularly, but added that it is important for the Japanese military to become familiar with different regions.
The purpose of a training cruise, Steckman said, is to give cadets a “taste of sea life and how a military ship works.” During the voyage, cadets conduct various training exercises to prepare them for military service overseas, including tactical defense training.
The vessel stopped in Nome to resupply, but the 310 crew members did not disembark due to the COVID-19 related health concerns, said Steckman. Port Director Joy Baker said that the main purpose of the stop was to refuel. Although the crew, who had been at sea for over two weeks, met the City of Nome’s quarantine requirements, the Japanese government mandated that they stay offshore in order to prevent cadets from bringing the virus onto the ship. Therefore, the crew got groceries and parts chartered out to them.
Aniya said he was unsure how long Japan had been planning to conduct a cruise in the Nome region, but that the preparation took a few months. Steckman explained that the Japanese consulate in Seattle reached out to the City in early June about the potential of the Kashima stopping in Nome.
The vessel left Japan on August 28 and sailed for 18 days before arriving in Nome, which was the first stop. From Nome, the Kashima is following the coast south to Anchorage, Seattle and Hawaii before returning to their home port of Kure, a journey of over 13,670 miles. This is a pretty typical length of a training cruise, Aniya said. Typically, crewmembers spend time in the ports where they stop, but will not do so this year due to the pandemic.
The Kashima captain presented Nome Interim Mayor John Handeland with a Japanese doll and the City of Nome gifted the captain a gold pan an Port of Nome beanies.
A question some Nomeites had was why the Kashima was flying the American flag. It is a maritime custom for ships to fly the colors of the country whose port they are visiting as a sign of respect.
Following World War II, the U.S. occupied Japan and helped create its modern constitution which includes Article 9, that not only forbids the use of force as a means to settling international disputes but also forbids Japan from maintaining an army, navy or airforce.
According to scholars, the capability of the Japanese Self Defense Force is inadequate to wage a modern war and Japan has relied on the U.S. for military defense because of Article 9 and its inability to engage in an offensive war.