Uneasy Warriors: Gender, Memory, and Popular Culture in the Japanese Army

Uneasy Warriors: Gender, Memory, and Popular Culture in the Japanese Army

Uneasy Warriors: Gender, Memory, and Popular Culture in the Japanese Army

Uneasy Warriors: Gender, Memory, and Popular Culture in the Japanese Army

Synopsis

Following World War II, Japan's postwar constitution forbade the country to wage war or create an army. However, with the emergence of the cold war in the 1950s, Japan was urged to establish the Self-Defense Forces as a way to bolster Western defenses against the tide of Asian communism. Although the SDF's role is supposedly limited to self-defense, Japan's armed forces are equipped with advanced weapons technology and the world's third-largest military budget. Sabine Frühstück draws on interviews, historical research, and analysis to describe the unusual case of a non-war-making military. As the first scholar permitted to participate in basic SDF training, she offers a firsthand look at an army trained for combat that nevertheless serves nontraditional military needs.

Excerpt

The moment I stepped onto the base exercise ground in the exceptionally hot summer of 2001, I realized that this part of my research would be different from anything I had done before. Clad in a Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF) uniform, I wondered what a week of basic training in the army would bring. What new insights could I expect from wearing fatigues, moving on command, saluting service members, accompanying new recruits to various field trainings, eating in the mess hall, and sleeping in an army bunk bed? How would this kind of research experience affect my perspective on the Self-Defense Forces and possibly the armed forces more generally?

A week of participant observation at the Kibita* GSDF base on Honshū constituted only a small part of my overall research effort, but it seemed particularly significant: No scholar before me—Japanese or foreign—had ever had that opportunity. After Mishima Yukio’s spectacular suicide in 1970, the military administration had become wary of a political backlash should events get out of hand and was not keen on letting outsiders take a close look at their troops’ everyday lives. Mishima had enlisted in April 1967 under his real name, Hiraoka Kimitake, and eventually trained a group of young men at the GSDF Fuji Officers’ Candidate School (Fuji Gakkō), which I had visited twice by the time of my own “basic training.” At that time, the Self-Defense Forces’ administration thought that having a famous writer among its troops was a brilliant public relations stunt (Nathan 2000 [1974]:220–223, 227; Sugihara and Sugihara 1997). That fantasy collapsed on November 25, 1970, when . . .

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