Japan’s Self Defense Force and Its Propagandistic Recruitment Video

Screenshot of Japan's recruitment video.

Screenshot of Japan’s recruitment video.

Al Jazeera America analyzes Japan’s remilitarization and Shinzō Abe’s (Japan’s Prime Minister) propagandistic recruitment video with criticism and skepticism.

Dexter Thomas writes at Al Jazeera America:

In the past, Japan’s military has been reserved strictly for defence – hence its official title, the Self Defence Force (SDF). But thanks to this new reinterpretation of the constitution, the only thing that is necessary for military mobilisation is for one of Japan’s allies to be “attacked”. This is a scary prospect if we consider that Japan’s biggest ally is the US (and when we consider how many enemies the US has made over the past few years).

Perhaps the pros and cons of re-militarisation is a topic worth discussing. Unfortunately for the people of Japan, and of the East Asian region, this discussion has never occurred, as Abe’s administration is making the decision for them.

In response, there has been an unprecedented amount of opposition. Protests are happening every other day, and seem to only be growing in size and intensity.

Some Euro-American press outlets have grazed the surface of this phenomenon, but they seem to be missing the gravity of the situation. Perhaps because reporters are unable to see the Japanese as anything but docile and passive, or because they are attempting to portray the protesters in a “respectable” light, they have overlooked the anger and confusion that is beginning to grip Japan.

That is, protesters aren’t stopping at writing letters, or rousing chants of “save our Constitution”. Many of the protesters are much less polite. They are out in the streets, calling for Abe’s head: shouting “Die, Abe”, or “Fascists, go to hell!” and holding up posters with Abe’s face in crosshairs.

Abe strikes back

While they have clearly underestimated the magnitude of the opposition, the Abe administration seems to have anticipated some resistance. The same day the government made the announcement, they also released an SDF recruitment commercial (Youtube link). [DISINFO EDITOR’S NOTE: The video Thomas linked has been removed. I found another, but it is in Japanese with no subtitles.] This 15-second clip stars Haruka Shimazaki of AKB 48, Japan’s most famous idol girl group.

We might wonder if a male spokesperson might be a better choice: for example, a member of Exile, a J-pop supergroup of 19 men. They are one of the most successful and recognisable pop groups in Japan, with their own magazine, TV show, and over a dozen chart-topping albums. They regularly appear half-clothed on advertisements and billboards, and represent the pinnacle of mass-market masculinity. Also, Abe clearly has access to them: He invited them to perform at an ASEAN banquet only a few months ago. Wouldn’t an Exile member in fatigues be a great encouragement to get young men to rush to the nearest recruitment centre?

In short: no, because it would be too realistic. If one of these popular young men appeared in a military advertisement, it would be too easy to imagine that young man being killed in a war – and, by extension, for a young man watching the commercial to imagine themselves dying. Or, for anyone with a son or brother to imagine that person dying.

Instead, the aim behind using AKB 48 seems to be an attempt to appeal to a specific male desire to protect “their” women, all while cleverly sidestepping the possibility of danger.

Read more here.

28 Comments on "Japan’s Self Defense Force and Its Propagandistic Recruitment Video"

  1. Someday we’re going to miss the old Japan. Sure, we’d like to think that their new military will field anthropomorphic battle mechs, or at least paint “Hello Kitty” on their ordnance, but we all know it’s not gonna be like that…

    • I was hoping for Totoro-style cat-bus troop carriers. :-/

    • I’m sayin! I know times are tough right now…but I think we all get along much better with ‘panty vending hentai otaku’ Japan…than we did with ‘kill inferior peoples and claim ownership of asia’ Japan.

      • Agreed. I’ve grown quite fond of ‘We Love Katamari/Rez/Okami’ Japan, and indeed ‘Studio Ghibli/Takeshi Kitano’ Japan, and it would be a shame to lose that.

        • Was Beat Takeshi’s 2001 Zatoichi homage not the absolute fuckin bomb? That alone would be would worth making sure we have their back for another 50 yrs.

          • InfvoCuernos | Jul 15, 2014 at 1:55 am |

            I’m not a huge anime fan, but Shigurui was a shockingly violent( and I mean that in all admiration) piece of work. I would not want to have to fight kids raised on that, American or not.

          • I wasn’t much of an anime fan either…until my ex…who was half Japanese…tuned me into some of the better stuff as well. Totally changed my opinion overnight. I was the archetypal ‘F*ckin Weaboos!’ ‘F*ck japornimation’ guy…until I saw Cowboy Bebop and suddenly sat down and shut my hole long enough to go “wow…that was really good.” Even old dogs can learn new tricks I guess!

          • Hell yeah! Blew. Me. Away. Best version of the story ever, bar none.

            On the basis of that and a handful of other (including the gloriously surreal Takeshis’) I’d be up for declaring him his own country and just defending that, if it came to it.

          • I was gonna throw in Kurosawa…his gravesite should be cultural monument…screw Mt Fuji! Seven Samurai…unspeakably excellent!

  2. Honestly and seriously…despite the propaganda vid…which isn’t that much different from ANY recruitment vid anywhere (they are ALL propaganda)…Japan has to face some hard questions.

    America is failing…fast…and our presence has kept a lid on Asian conflict for generations. We aren’t making good fiscal calls, we’re burning thru cash like it was dry tinder in summer buying contracts for worthless hangar queen aircraft, our internal infrastructure is slowly reaching its maximum lifespan and we won’t upgrade it appropriately, our Congress and citizenry are divided by an apathetic and opportunistic media.

    Frankly…the Japanese are starting to grasp that soon…they may be on their own…with China and North Korea on their ass, looking to gain new ground at every turn…not to mention Russia…which may talk nice at any given moment…but is basically an anarcho capitalist gangster state with a dictator propped up to look like they elected someone.

    I’m sure Japan would feel more confident about our alliance if they were half an hour off the coast of Cali, and our help was only minutes away…but committing a LARGE amount of resources to proxy fighting an Asian conflict just to preserve their sovereignty…may not be possible for the America that is soon to come.

    • InfvoCuernos | Jul 15, 2014 at 1:45 am |

      This is all depressingly true. You can bet that those Asian countries are holding a grudge for WW2, just waiting for the US to remove their aegis over Japan. All this just in time for the world’s resources to start getting scarce again.

      • lol…japan can probably thank their lucky stars they aren’t as oil rich as the Iraqis…or their “American buddies” would have chainsaw-raped every living thing on the island to death by now.

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  3. Anarchy Pony | Jul 14, 2014 at 8:49 pm |

    Propagandistic? Or propagantastic?

  4. BuzzCoastin | Jul 14, 2014 at 8:59 pm |

    it’s a great way for the Carlyle Group to make killing
    I’ll bet they even buy an F-35
    to just show how compliant their geisha grubermentcan be

  5. jesus christ censor the news or WHAT

  6. Rhoid Rager | Jul 14, 2014 at 9:45 pm |

    My provisional translation of the commercial:

    “Jobs in the Self-Defense Force: They are like boundless dreams on the land, the sea, and in the sky. [caption: Now, it’s time to find your potential] You’re not alone, everyone’s here. They have jobs that no one else can do. [caption: You and Peace!]”

    The ad is appealing to Japanese looking for a stable income in a foundering economy. As the stagnating growth of Europe and the US drives the dagger into the Japanese export-driven economy all the way up to the hilt, the higher-ups have no choice but to diversify income streams. So now there is a campaign to turn Japan into a massive tourist destination. The designating of Mt. Fuji as a World Cultural Heritage Site last year, and the ‘winning’ of the 2020 Olympic bid earlier this year are attempts to attract foreigners to Japan to spend their money here.

    I’ve noticed a steady increase in the amount of tourist industry translation jobs I’ve been getting lately, and I expect it to continue to rise. Although, doing jobs like that also gives me a perspective on how this conversion to a tourist’s paradise is occurring–for example, I learned recently that the government is expanding tax exempt status to a whole plethora of goods for tourists. So tourists will hardly have to pay any tax at all when they are vacationing in Japan….

    But that reminds me, just don’t decide to stay here, because the right-wing groups will call for your death. I’m also translating a report at the moment for the Korean Residents Union in Japan about hate speech and racism rallies in Tokyo and Osaka. The right-wing nutjobs are now calling for the massacre of all Koreans living in Japan. This shift to death threats in open-air, broad daylight right-wing rhetoric only began last year, and is scaling up significantly. The Korean Residents Union is now appealing to curb this hate speech with legislation; I doubt they’ll get their wish, as the right-wing are the darlings of the fascists in the Diet.

    But, I can’t see the Japanese government lasting long if they do anything stupid, like try to start a war. The protests will gain in fervour, since many people have lost their jobs and are more savvy as to the horrors of war than they were in the 1930s. Most cities in Japan were obliterated by Allied bombing and this is in living memory; people are very averse to a repeat of this. Also, there is so much economic integration in East Asia, that I can’t foresee a major war occurring. I think the bankers are going to have to use another tactic to keep the people in check if they want to survive; because the political means of their survival–the governments–are rapidly waning in influence among the people they assume to govern. I like the idea of a chaotic ‘reset’—brings people back to the reality that they have always been the ones at the helm.

    • Adam's Shadow | Jul 14, 2014 at 10:02 pm |

      I think you mentioned before that you live in Japan, so you must have an excellent perspective on this… Japan has always had an ambivalent relationship with “outsiders” and the I know the extremely conservative elements there (like right-wingers and nationalists everywhere) are dedicated to a return to Imperial Japan. What I find really fascinating is how the military of Japan will deal and interact with China as America naturally becomes more isolationist as the years go by and our economic power dwindles; there is some serious history between those two nations and cultures, and they are both such world and regional players that it looks inevitable that some dramatic confrontation will occur over the next half-century.

      • Rhoid Rager | Jul 14, 2014 at 10:12 pm |

        I’m more convinced of a confrontation happening domestically in Japan than with another party like China or Korea. There is a lot of rhetoric about revisionist history, territorial disputes etc., but these are used by the right-wing and governments against each other. The Chinese government is legitimized by its opposition to Japan, but China is far less prone to imperial aspirations than Japan. The ruling class in Japan suffered from delusions of grandeur during the 1930s, as they consolidated their power through the ‘democratic’ process imported from the West. Nothing emboldens the ruling class like the illusion of a ‘democratic mandate’.

        Japanese history is full of domestic uprisings and revolts. It was a fractured and politically partitioned island for a 1000 years before it was loosely unified under the Edo Shogunate–even then it was only through the coerced ‘loyalty’ of regional warlords by holding their families hostage in Edo. That fractured history is still present in the strong regional cultures that exist here. It’s only a matter of time until the regions start asserting their autonomy, I believe.

        • BuzzCoastin | Jul 14, 2014 at 11:02 pm |

          like Okinawa, for example

          the only staged Chinese invasion of Japan
          was the idea of Kublai Khan of the Yuan Dynasty
          and he was a Mongol

          • Rhoid Rager | Jul 15, 2014 at 2:44 am |

            Hence the ‘kamikaze’ (Divine Winds) of the Typhoon that blew both of Khan’s invasions off course.

    • BuzzCoastin | Jul 14, 2014 at 10:08 pm |

      the colonial government will do as it’s told

      the no tax tourist is primarily Chinese
      who can overlook any atrocity in light of a good deal
      and a good deal more

      they’re still in shock from the technological devistation of 2ww

      • Rhoid Rager | Jul 14, 2014 at 10:14 pm |

        The government may do as it’s told, but the people may not. That’s the crux of it. See my reply below to Adam’s Shadow about the fractured history of japan.

  7. Fukushima seems to be taking care of things in Japan.

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