The Ground Self Defense Force Nerima Garrison (10 minutes walk from Tobu Nerima Station on the Tobu Tojo Line) is a place I used to regularly cycle past about eight years ago on the way to one of my workplaces and, as someone with a military interest, I one day circled the place in search of some kind entrance for the public to enter. There wasn’t one though. Little did I know that a further six kilometres up the road was the Japan Ground Defense Force (JGSDF) PR Center which does have a museum open to the public for free.
I only found out about this place earlier in the Summer and so decided to cycle the 10 kilometres or so from the Tokyo Fox Global Operations Centre on what was a ridiculously hot day (around 35 or 36 degrees celsius) back in mid-July. Cycling in such conditions isn’t as bad as some may think as you do still get a bit of wind but I really struggled on one uphill part and suffered for a short time before continuing on.
I didn’t really know what to expect beforehand and it was bigger than expected but incomparable in size to the one I visited in Seoul a few years ago. You have to enter the building first and then you can go out the back where there’s a bunker and a selection of military vehicles (below) to check out.
It really was too hot to be outside though so I didn’t linger too long and headed back in to the air-conditioned building. I was quite surprised to see so many others in attendance as I really thought this place would be fairly empty! The video below shows what it’s like just after you’ve entered the building from the car park outside.
There were a few simulator machines around what is a very hands-on place. The army bento-box style meal sets offered an interesting insight to military life.
Army uniform cosplay of sorts is available as you can borrow a shirt or jacket for the duration of your stay or just for a photo opportunity. Having tried on my mates US Army uniform (as well as having a couple of green army shirts) in El Paso (Texas) many years back I wasn’t too fussed by such an opportunity. Besides, I was dripping with sweat and didn’t want to get an outfit too wet. Having said that though I couldn’t resist trying on (in a different part of the museum) a couple of 15 kg backpacks and a bullet-proof vest. Wearing it for a minute wasn’t really a problem but the idea of having it on for hours and hours is not one I’d like to endure!
The upstairs section is the learning zone and portrays the activity of the JGSDF regarding disaster relief mission and international contribution which to my surprise included a fair bit of Olympic stuff. Photos, flags and even the trumpet (below) that was used at the opening ceremony of the 1956 Tokyo Olympics can all be seen.
As ever there was the ubiquitous souvenir shop (below) and this one had many goods exclusive to this place. Of course you’d expect to be able to buy military-style clothing at such a place but I really didn’t expect to see special army biscuits on sale in box-style packaging similar to what is seen at every service station and gift shop around the country.
The people in the place were mostly Japanese families so, as is often the case in Japan, I stuck out a bit but I left there very satisfied with my experience at the centre and rode home with the Status Quo classic ‘In The Army‘ (1986) going round my head. Watch it here.
Click here to read ‘The War Memorial Of Korea’
Click here to read ‘Top 10 Saitama Sights’