L-R: JDS Sawayuki, JDS Yamagiri, JS Kashima. Japanese Consulate handout.

Three Maritime Self Defense Force ships, JS Kashima, JDS Yamagiri, and JDS Sawayuki arrived today in San Francisco, docking at Pier 27 just after 9am this morning.

Training Squadron tour route. China port of call is TBD. Japanese Consulate handout.

The MSDF Training Squadron is on the first part of a six month, round-the-world cruise that started in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii and ends in Busan, South Korea. On board are approximately 190 officer cadets of the Maritime Self Defense Force.

Kashima being nudged into port.

The visit, meant to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the voyage of the Kanrin Maru, as well as the 1960 U.S. – Japan security treaty, was also historic for another reason. The Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force has not visited San Francisco since 1992.  I’m not sure why. I get the impression they used to visit quite often–I visited a squadron in the late 1980s that was virtually identical in makeup to this one, but with different ships.

It was a bright, uncharacteristically sunny day in San Francisco. Kashima, the squadron flagship, docked first, gently nudged into place by two local tugboats. Yamagiri fell into place behind it, and Sawayuki fell in on the port side. A band played on board the Kashima.

Training Squadron Commander Rear Admiral Shinichi Tokumaru greeted by reception committee. JS Kashima in background.

Awaiting the squadron was a mix of press, consular officials, some Japan Society staff, a delegation from the Nichi Bei Kai, a commander from the U.S. Navy (apparently standing in for his boss, who was held up at SFO), the 2010 Northern California Cherry Blossom Queen, Arisa Hiroi, naval enthusiasts, and a lot of Japanese kids. The admiral in charge of the Training Squadron, Rear Admiral Shinichi Tokumaru, spoke, as did Consul General, and others.

JDS Yamagiri, TV-3515.

Within forty-five minutes of docking, JDS Yamagiri was taking on visitors! Everyone was very friendly and welcoming, and the crew handed out free MSDF and Japan Training Squadron hat pins.

View from Yamagiri's bridge.

Tourists were allowed to board and walk the ship from bow to stern, then up a flight of stairs into the bridge, and then up to the flying bridge.

A former fleet destroyer, Yamagiri seems to have kept most of its armament, including Harpoon missiles.

Varyag, with Bay Bridge in the background.

The tour wound down and Hoop and I went to get a cup of coffee. As we did, who but the Russian guided missile cruiser Varyag slipped by, trying to elude us. The San Francisco Comical had said it would be arriving at 2pm, but it was at least an hour and a half early.

Varyag flying the Stars and Stripes. A nice touch.

I followed Varyag down to Pier 30/32, where a small crowd had gathered to see it. Varyag will be open for public tours Thursday.

There was one more ship visiting San Francisco, the cruiser USS Bunker Hill, the first of the VLS-equipped Aegis cruisers. It looked a little worn. It was parked behind Pier 17, with a buoy cordon in the water, and small patrol ships running around like dobermans. Bunker Hill will not be open to the public.

I’ll be back on Monday to check the ships out again and chat up the crew. In the meantime, I’ve uploaded some more pictures to my Flickr account. Enjoy.

Thanks to Takemichi Nagaoka and Midori Yamamitsu from the Consulate General of Japan.

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A contributor and editor at the blog War Is Boring, Kyle Mizokami started Japan Security Watch in 2010 to further understand Japan's defenses and security policy.
Kyle Mizokami has 596 post(s) on Japan Security Watch