Sagamihara City, Kanagawa Prefecture–This bizarre space is located in a corner of an urban area lined with university hospitals and automobile companies. In a plaza surrounded by a 3-meter-high fence, as many as 30 huge “military vehicles” are lined up in a tight row. A Type 73 light-duty truck (a.k.a. Pajero), which the Self-Defense Forces is scheduled to provide to Ukraine in the future, was also buried under the grass. A resident of the area told us, “There is a pond and plastic greenhouses nearby.
It is a quiet place with a pond and plastic greenhouses nearby, but it seems to be well known among military enthusiasts. I heard that there are weapons geeks who come here to steal things such as gun stands and bullet casings (containers that hold the projectiles of firearms) that are left as scrap metal.
A closer look at the majestic military vehicles reveals a Type 73 heavy-duty truck, which was decommissioned in 2001. It appeared to be a retired Self-Defense Forces vehicle. There was also an “SDF High Mobility Vehicle,” which was sold on a Russian used car sales website and became a problem. Is this perhaps a waiting area for discarded vehicles to be sold to Russia? We directly interviewed the owner of the land.
He said, “My late father was a scrapper and bought scrap materials from the U.S. military camps and the Self-Defense Forces, which led him to dismantle discarded Self-Defense Forces vehicles. After dismantling, they are scrapped and only the engines are stored and sold. This is because the engines of high-mobility vehicles are Toyota diesel engines, which are resistant to cold and have great value. I swear to God, we do not resell the vehicles to Russia.”
Exterior parts such as bodies and frames of vehicles prohibited for resale are crushed and dissolved within three months from the date of delivery. Within 15 days of the work, they must be submitted to the SDF along with photographs of the work process taken, and if the vehicle is found to have been resold, a penalty fee will be incurred.
However, malicious dismantling contractors are reportedly using “underhanded tricks” to resell SDF vehicles without dismantling them. According to Mr. Motoki Terui, a former Ground Self-Defense Force officer who served as a vehicle officer in a tank unit, “If you buy four vehicles, for example, you can sell one of them to a contractor who will dismantle the other.
For example, if you buy four vehicles, you dismantle only one and leave three. We cut off only one part of the frame where the vehicle number is marked, and submit a photograph of it. We would take several different photos of the body and other exterior parts of the dismantled vehicle and use them for the paperwork for the remaining three vehicles.
If we tried to dismantle the vehicle as instructed by the SDF, it would take five people three days. This saves labor and time. In return for tacitly allowing the contractors to make money through the demolition work, some unscrupulous SDF officers are hired by the contractors as a ‘descent from heaven’ after leaving the military.
When asked about measures to prevent resale, Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada responded at a House of Councilors’ Committee on Financial Statements.
We are studying detailed procedures, such as the attendance of Ministry of Defense officials at contractors’ crushing sites, in order to establish new procedures to more reliably grasp the status of dismantling and crushing, based on the recognition that forgery and misappropriation of images (photographs) are possible.
Japan will become a laughingstock of the international community if it allows the resale of used vehicles to benefit the Russian military due to sloppy management.
From the July 7, 2023 issue of FRIDAY
PHOTO： Hiroto Kato In cooperation with： Kumiko Kato