Military recruiting efforts

Curzon over at Cominganarchy just posted his impressions of his visit to a new Japanese Self Defense Force recruiting center in hip Shibuya (verdict: fail). Just the other day I happened to run into another rather sad attempt at recruiting in Osaka’s Hankyu Umeda Station.

SDF Recruiters in Umeda Station, Osaka
SDF Recruiters in Umeda Station, Osaka

Instead of the ordinary but silly strategy of letting visitors play dress-up, the attraction here was something a little on the bizarre side – a block of ice from Antarctica.

A block of ice from Antactica
A block of ice from Antactica

Indeed, it was very cold. The message seemed to be something about how joining the Navy lets you travel to faraway and exotic places, but I’m not sure that a block of ice was the best way to convey that, even with the helpful diagrams explaining how striation in Antarctic ice is different from that which you grow in your own freezer.

Smiling SDF recruiter
Smiling SDF recruiter

I’m not actually quite sure who does join the SDF in Japan. Back in the US I had quite a few friends from high school who either joined the military proper or the reserves, or had simply been ROTC members before graduation, and in college I again knew plenty of people who were either paying for school through the reserves or were getting scholarships from previous military service, but I can’t say I actually know a single person in Japan who is either a current or past member of the postwar military.

In fact, practicaly the only Japanese person I’ve ever met who wanted to join the SDF here was a guy I met briefly in a youth hostel in Beijin when I visited back in 2004 with my then-girlfriend. 20 years old, buzzcut dressed entirely in camo, giant thick glasses, scrawny, and big black combat boots, he was the perfect incarnation of the stereotypical military nerd who wants to be Rambo but would be lucky to even pass the basic training and get a desk job. The military was quite literally the only thing he could discuss, and even the briefest attempts at smalltalk were immediately sidelined into military talk.

One real exchange I remember:

Me: I’m from New Jersey.

Him: East coast right?

Me: Yeah, right by New York City.

Him: New York… That’s where West Point is. And it’s only a few hours drive from the big naval bases in Virginia.

Me: Uhh, yeah… that’s right. We’re gonna go check out that famous Beijing duck restaurant now – see you later.

And speaking of military otaku, the government sponsored Taiwan Journal has a rather interesting look at the niche publiching market of military themed magazines in that country, which look to me rather similar to the same type of periodical in Japan. Of course, in a country where all adult males are drafted (until they complete the ongoing transition to an all volunteer force sometime in the future) you would expect that the average level of knowledge and interest in the subject might be a lot higher.

8 thoughts on “Military recruiting efforts”

  1. Up here in Aomori, a lot of the SDFs are just kids who didn’t go to college and can’t find any other job up in these rural parts.

    Actually, the best place to find them is at the Hip-Hop clothing shops. They have money and time to share. That must be an interesting life, soldier by day, hip-hop dancer/DJ by night.

  2. Aomori has considerable local military presence… I stumbled across the naval base at Mutsu while hitchhiking with Curzon, and there are a few land and airbases around there too (including the big USAF base at Misawa).

    So I guess that, along with growing apples, it’s one of the most obvious job options if you want to live in Aomori.

  3. Concentration of military facilities in Aomori has another clear reason.Tsugaru strait.
    Back in the days of cold war,Japan was tasked to blockade three international channels to keep Soviet Pacific fleet and their SLBMs with in Sea of Japan.They were Soya,Tsushima and Tsugaru.F-16s in Misawa airbase were supposed to strike naval bases in Vladivostok in case of emergency.

  4. Generally, for your average 15-year-old dropout in Japan, there are only two choices: the mafia or the military, the reasoning being, those are the only two organizations that are able to provide the structure an outcast needs to survive or even prosper.

    Plenty of 15 year olds who *graduate* middle school but go on to high school probably enter the military or the mafia as well, but these graduates will also have the opportunity of construction.

  5. When I first came to Japan I worked at a little school (from ’95-’97) in Hamamatsu in Shizuoka Pref., that happened to land a contract at the nearby JASDF base teaching English to the trainee pilots (all the trainees on the fighter track did their T-4 training at Hamamatsu before moving on to T-2s elsewhere). Inevitably, I’d spend some of the lesson getting them to talk about why they signed up. Since these were all pilots with at least three years’ experience, I was probably seeing a very different cross-section of ambition and aptitude than if I’d been teaching fresh GSDF recruits.

    There was always one ‘elite’ group who’d gone through the government-run military academy. Very often they had fathers who were also officers and/or pilots, and were following in their footsteps.

    Among the others, very few had gone to college, and a few had dropped out after middle school and done a high school-equivalence training in the GSDF before transferring to the ASDF. Among them, a few had fathers who were pilots, but mostly it was an even split between those who’d always dreamed of becoming pilots and wanted someday to fly commercially, and those who’d always dreamed of becoming fighter pilots because they’d seen Top Gun (at least that’s what they told me).

  6. Military, Mafia, or this.

    Can you join the SDF with only a middle school education? The only country’s rules I know are the US, in which you are required to have a high school diploma or equivalence exam before beginning your service (although reportedly the requirements have been stretched a bit due to recruiting difficulties).

  7. RB: jesus. Talk ’bout REAL sufferin’… Either join the military, the Yakuza or that worst alternative. Are things really THAT bad in Nippon – go?

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