Since the end of World War 2, pacifism has been at the heart of the national identity of Japan. Of course, this wasn’t all entirely voluntary, as the United States pushed the country to adopt an anti-war clause in it’s constitution. It’s something that has generally been very popular with the Japanese people and it’s military are even described as the ‘Self Defence Force’.
However times are changing and so slowly is the attitude of the Japanese people to this state of pacifism. The reasons are actually very varied but of course, one of them is perhaps more obvious. The aggressive nature of one of it’s neighbors North Korea is probably the single most important drivers for the push to increase it’s military strength. This feeling is being nurtured by the Prime Minister – Shinzo Abe who has long been urging the strengthening of the Japanese military capacity.
His problem is that there are constraints built into the constitution and he has had to slowly remove these before this is possible. This year though the signs are that the public are behind his reforms mainly due to the actions of the North Koreans. They have already flown several missile across Japanese airspace although none have had a military capability. It is not surprising that the Japanese feel threatened by their aggressive neighbors.
In popular culture you can see the drive too from everything to everyday entertainment to Manga comics. the military are enjoying a much higher profile too, with soldiers much in demand for potential mates. The Japanese are in general very well versed in world events and politics which would also lead to a feeling of unease. It is not unusual for educated Japanese households to stream world news stations like the BBC or CNN to their TV sets.
The feeling is that if there is any sort of war between the US, South and North Korea then Japan would have to play some sort of role whether it liked it or not. The Japanese forces are not really ready for military action although they have recently started to take part in some overseas combat training. There is also an anti missile system being discussed developed by the US called Aegis Offshore.
Change will not be without it’s own conflict though, pacifism is very entrenched in much of the population. Japan is the only country to have ever been on the receiving end of a nuclear attack, so they are obviously extremely wary of getting involved in conflicts like this again. The worry is that they won;t have a choice.