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Home > Media Reviews > News Review Last Updated: 14:54 03/09/2007
News Review #349: June 1, 2006

Boot Camp for Women Battles Image of Japan's Army

Reviewed by Hitoshi URABE

Boot Camp for Women Battles Image of Japan's Army
(Isabel Reynolds) Reuters


The article is an interesting report on an event arranged by Japan's Self Defense Force (SDF) aimed at women in their 20s to experience on what it is like to be a member of the SDF, with some background explanation as well as quotes from the participants.

Many in Japan, especially the younger generation feel Japan has enjoyed peace, which served as the basis in realizing the prosperous state after the devastating war, because of the war-denouncing Constitution. Many more matured feel this notion might be a little too naive.

For instance, would we, the Japanese people, have started war if it were not for that the Constitution prohibits it? Significantly more than 99 percent of the people would answer without hesitation would say "No!" But when it gets to the more tricky question of whether the war-prohibiting Constitution is the reason no country has attacked Japan during these 60 years, opinions seemed to be split. Some emphatically say "Yes" for they think because of Japan's self-binding rule other countries need not be anxious and initiate a pre-emptive war. Others feel there could have been no relevance between what is stipulated in Japan's domestic rules and actions of foreign countries, both in terms of logic and reality.

The war-denouncing Constitution, as it is often described, was actually drafted by the then occupation forces, specifically, the U.S., shortly after WWII. Japan, at the time, deprived of the governing powers, had no choice but to adopt the proposed text as the new Constitution, which became effective in 1948.

Occupation by the allied forced ended with the signing of the peace treaty in 1952, but the text of the Constitution was untouched, and to this day, not a word has been changed. There are those who claim that the Constitution was imposed by the U.S. and has never been ratified by the Japanese people, many counter that the fact it has been unaltered for more than half a century after Japan regained independence is sufficient in indicating the Japanese are satisfied with the current wording.

During the while, however, in 1950, upon the outbreak of the Korean War, the U.S. issued a decree in the name of the occupation forces to form the National Police Reserve. NPR was not intended to be engaged in combat but was to provide logistic support from Japan, a major dispatch station for the troops sent to Korea to fight. NPR was converted to SDF upon signing of the peace treaty in 1952, to carry out pretty much the same functions as NPR, but with a scent of independence from the U.S. forces added. Such was an irony that the U.S. imposing a war-denouncing rules then turning around in just a few years to order setting up such a "military" function in Japan.

Since then, what SDF really is has been a subject neglected by shrewd politicians. To the general public, its functions were more of rescue squad than military troops. SDF in fact built its reputation during the years through disaster relief activities, including earthquakes, floods, landslides, heavy snow, and what have you.

Such practice blurred the image of SDF even further. Many youngsters, asked about SDF might reply that they support it, or denounce it. But in either case, it is likely that they are not able to provide legitimate reasons, other then emotional instincts of likes or dislikes.

It is constructive, therefore, for SDF to provide opportunities especially for young women to catch a glimpse of what SDF is, for the participants to begin to become interested in subjects such as peace and security. Even if a participant eventually becomes anti-SDF, obviously against the intentions of the public relations at SDF, it would still mean that the person has had given more thought than before in these important affairs.

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