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Japan's Sexy Sailor Contest Boosts Popularity of Military

Something different is happening in Japan. The military is sexy again. Amid a tense atmosphere of territorial conflict with most of its neighbors, and at a time when seemingly every Asian country is beefing up its armed forces, Japan’s military is enjoying a noticeable increase in popularity.

Take, for example, “Mr. and Ms. JMSDF.” It’s an online contest, a search for the sexiest and most popular male and female members of the JMSDF (Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force). Check out the video above. The officer-contestants are filmed heroically scouting for pirates, protecting Japanese islands, working out, and on rescue operations to earthquake hit areas. Japanese citizens vote for their favorite; more than 123,000 already have. The whole thing seems to be a very successful public relations campaign by the JMSDF. “We’re hoping [young people] will look at this and think, ‘That’s something I’d like to do’,” a spokesman told Time.

Or notice the huge number of people who applied to be spectators at a recent live-fire exercise by Japan’s ground forces. According to Rocket News, a blog that seems to report mostly on Asian pop culture, 110,000 civilians applied to watch the exercise, held on August 25 at the foot of Mt. Fuji. Rocket News attributes some of the increased attention to “Girls und Panzer,” an anime show where five ordinary-seeming schoolgirls participate in “the way of the tank,” depicted in the show as a traditional modern art, and compete in tank competitions with other schools. It’s all very traditional Japanese anime, except for the military aspect. Since its release last year the show has climbed to the top of Japan’s media charts. Tank figurines base on the show are apparently extremely popular.

It seems that old taboos are ending in Japan. The military is becoming popular? China probably doesn’t think any of Japan’s sailors are particularly cute.

But in Japan, very militaristic, muscular young men are exercising below the banner of the Rising Sun, attractive helicopter pilots are scanning the seas for intruding ships, schoolgirls are driving tanks in an anime show popular among young people… Mishima would approve.

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  • reaalistx

    It looks as if somebody has concluded that the United States can’t be relied upon to protect them.

    • xbox361

      and they will take care of themselves. Vietnam, S Korea, Russia, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and the Uighers and Tibetans in China give the Red Chinese headaches even as the US becomes a paper tiger.

  • David Ferguson

    In ten years it will be Israel and Japan defending what’s left of the free world.

  • JMcMahon

    Nice Yukio Mishima shout out. Banzai!

  • Roy_Mustang2

    Ha. 35 years of Japanese Gundam worship contradicts your thesis. Girls Und Panzer does not represent Japanese militarization. It is much more about the girls than the panzers.

  • submandave

    The greatest positive effect on the public image of the Jieitai is not some new revived nationalism, but was the JSDF response in the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011. The Ministry of Defense and Jieitai acted promptly and correctly and saved lives and bolstered public confidence while the rest of the government dithered, sputtered, and looked to play the blame game.

    As for the not-so-veiled intimations of renewed potentially dangerous Japanese nationalism, I think the author is far from the mark. Twenty or thirty years ago concerns from PRC or ROK about the Japanese past were often more genuine and based in memory, but today they are primarily used as political fodder. The Japan of 2013 is not the Japan of 1933, nor are the Japanese people the same. Then you had several generations that had seen Japan grow and prosper as a modern world power after the Meiji restoration by following the Western colonial model or expansion and militarism. Today you have several generations that have seen a regrowth of Japan in prosperity and world power following the peaceful dictum of Article 9. The Japanese today believe just as sure in the non-aggression and anti-war philosophy in their Constitution as the generations in the past believed in colonialism and the “Co-Prosperity Sphere.”

    What you are seeing recently, though, is a Japan that is starting to ask “how much is enough?” Many Japanese feel that if their neighbors will forever insist upon judging Japan based upon its actions seventy years ago, especially when its politically expedient to do so, then its a fool’s game to even try and appease them. Many Japanese feel that Japan, by its actions and demonstrated commitment to peaceful resolution, has earned back its right to govern its own affairs, including its defense, on a par with every other nation. Many Japanese feel that a sincere commitment to non-aggression does not mean they have to be resigned to acquiesce to the desires of those neighbors who are not so circumspect in the use of force to achieve their national goals. As another poster commented, many Japanese look to the historical examples of Vietnam and, more recently, Iraq and Afghanistan as view with concern overt US outreach to PRC, including technology sharing and military cooperation, and wonder if it is in their national interests to place all their security eggs, especially in dealing with PRC, in the one basket of the US-Japan Alliance.

    These are not the rumblings of a resurgent Japanese militarism, but the careful deliberations of a government that takes seriously both its commitment to Article 9 and its responsibilities to protect its people’s national interests.

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