Japanese Military


How much military stuff do they have? There’s a bunch of tanks and missiles and stuff in the Godzilla movies, but I thought the Japanese had only a national police force after WWII.

They have a “Self Defense Force” which is the same as any military except they aren’t allowed to enter into a war unless they are specifically attacked or threatened. I imagine it’s as good as any developed country’s military.

Some people in Japan interpret their Constitution to mean that Japan can’t participate in any foreign conflict at all, wheras other people interpret it as saying it is permissible to lend non-combattant aid (e.g. intelligence, medical, etc) during a war.

Maritime Self Defense Force units
(or, you can check out the JMSDF Fact File)

You can check FAS.org for a breakdown on Japanese Land SDF units (though not numbers)

The International Air Force Directory shows Japanese Air SDF strengths as of 1999

The Japanese constitution prohibits the maintaintenance of military forces.

During the occupation of Japan by the Allied powers (1945-1952), however, the United States and Japanese conservatives cooperated in establishing a defence force, despite the anti-war / anti-military article. It was argued that maintaining a force only for self defence would not contradict the constitution.

The National Police Reserve was established in 1950 as a replacement for the American troops being sent to Korea. The National Police Reserve was transformed into the Self Defence Force (SDF) by the Japanese government in 1954.

The Self Defence Force is divided into three branches:

Ground Self Defence Force
Maritime Self Defence Force
Air Self Defence Force

The force is roughly 250,000 strong.

The Japanese Government is likely going to allow the SDF to help out in the current conflict against terrorism to a much greater extent than ever before.


The biggest point of contention seems to be whether or not the Japanese can deploy one of its Aegis destroyers to the Persian Gulf.

Something interesting to mention is that the U.S. is actually responsible for Japan’s current day constitution. I believe MacArthur helped to write it after WWII.

The Japanese constitution says that “the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes.” This has been interpreted to mean that defence is different from “settling disputes” and is therefore allowed, though there has always been a lot of debate about that. Last time I checked, the military spending of Japan was the 4th largest in the world, after the US, Russia and France. It’s about 1/8 of the US military spending.

Japan spends about $50 billion a year on defence, about the same as Russia or France. It has no nukes or nuke subs or aircraft carriers, and has no forces posted overseas. What the hell does it do with all that money?

Interesting aside regarding the JSDF and the United States Armed Forces:

Although members of the US Armed Forces do not salute non-military uniformed personnel of other nations (or even of the US) {such as officers of the Merchant Marine or police officers {lieutenants, captains, etc.}, they are required to salute commissioned officers of the JSDF.

“No forces posted overseas?” Are you sure? I seem to recall that the JSDF have some members attending the Naval Postgraduate School right here in Monterey County and also military attaches to their embassies (how’s that for proof that the JSDF is a military?). Oh, and that they sent some personnel to Cambodia during the UN stint there. Those personnel were not permitted, IIRC, to use weapons, but rather to assist in humanitarian efforts.

Yep. Checking http://www.nps.navy.mil/code035/Roster.html, one can see that there are three students from Japan at NPS.

Cruise on over there today if you’re interested and see how many of those three are in uniform (Tuesdays are “uniform days,” the one day of the week the students are required to wear their uniforms [except for those from Taiwan, IIRC, who are not permitted to wear theirs at all while here]).