YOKOHAMA, Japan (NNS) -- Sailors living and working at Commander Fleet Activities Yokosuka's Yokohama Detachment, their family members and Japanese citizens got a rare look inside one of Yokohama's historic landmarks located outside the Negishi housing base Aug. 26.
The City of Yokohama opened the gates to an old horse racetrack grandstand, the only remnant of the racetrack which was built more than 140 years ago.
According to Negishi Housing Base's Web site, the grandstand originally opened in 1867 and was initially open only to foreign jockeys but soon came to include Japanese jockeys. After World War II, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers occupied the area and between 1945 and 1953. The Corps of Engineers built a housing area and golf course on the old racetrack site and converted the grandstand into administrative offices. On July 1, 1959, the Army turned the housing areas over to the U.S. Navy, making Negishi the Navy's first overseas housing activity.
The Corps of Engineers also built three other housing areas in Yokohama which reached their peak usage during the Korean War. Following the practice of returning lands seized by the occupational forces back to the government of Japan, the housing areas were returned in 1983, leaving Negishi Heights as the military's sole housing area of Yokohama. The grandstand is one of the only visible sites linking Negishi housing base with its past.
"I get a view of the grandstand from [the] office every day," said Lt. Cmdr. Rome Delasalas, officer-in-charge of Commander, Fleet Activities Yokosuka's Yokohama Detachment. "It was great to get a chance to go inside it because sometimes you look at something and you don't appreciate it as much until you actually stop and look at it more closely and that opportunity was provided today."
Many Negishi residents are not aware of the history of the grandstand.
"It was pretty interesting to see the history of how this place came about," said Culinary Specialist 1st Class (AW) Anthony Sykes, a native of Chicago. "I thought it was an old factory, but I had no idea this was an old horseracing stand. Taking a tour was kind of enlightening."
According to Negishi Housing Base's Web site, in December 1875 Emperor Meigi Tenno made the first of 13 visits to Negishi. The grandstand was one of the few structures to survive the Great Kanto Plain earthquake of 1923. The wooden structure was subsequently destroyed in the resulting conflagration that immediately engulfed Yokohama but was rebuilt in 1929. American architect J.H. Morgan designed the concrete art-deco structure that still stands today.
"You can travel all over Japan, but Japan has been around for thousands of years and they have history that is sitting right in front you, so take advantage of it," said Delasalas.
For more news from Commander Fleet Activities Yokosuka, visit www.navy.mil/local/cfay/.