13: Image Makeover: The Military Evolution of Japan’s Self-Defense Forces


Although Article 9 of Japan’s constitution states that “land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be sustained”, yet, Tokyo maintains one of the most capable military forces in the Asia-Pacific. The chapter evaluates the enhanced visible profile that the late Abe Shinzo’s administration sought in deploying the JSDF overseas on defence diplomacy and HADR missions to persuade and in the process, (re-)acclimatize the public to its important existence. The chapter also examines publicity campaigns that attempted to justify and endear the JSDF to the public. The focus on ‘endearing’ the JSDF to the public through popular anime cartoon characters for instance appears somewhat unique in the region, contrasting with concern about the authoritarian nature of military control over past Japanese politics or its role in developmental societies. At the same time, this more light-hearted focus on cartoon characters co-exists with a serious underlying message that the JSDF is increasingly necessary as the regional security environment deteriorates rapidly.

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