As Japan’s population shrinks, the Japan Self-Defense Force (JSDF) is turning to a new demographic to make a difference in their ranks: women. This bold act is pushing the boundaries of gender stereotypes in Japan’s traditional society.
In conservative Japan, women assumed the roles of maintaining the household or worked in administrative and office work capacities. But all that is changing as Japan’s women are breaking rank, stepping up to the plate and joining the world’s eight most-powerful military of 2018 – the Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF).
Kokoro Isomura, 23, wanted to defend the nation
Former actress Isomura is training hard to reach her goal – to work on a submarine. Now that submarine crews will be open to woman, as declared just last year, Isomura has every chance to achieve it. She joined the Japanese navy, her determination fuelled by a 2018 trip to Bosnia and Herzegovina, where she was moved by seeing the damage from the war of 1992-1995, where more than 100,000 were killed.
“I didn’t want something like that to happen to Japan,” said Isomura. “I wanted to be in a position to defend the nation.”
Akiko Hirayama, 22, was moved to action by the relief work of the JSDF
Former airport security guard Akiko Hiyarama joined the JSDF after seeing how hard they worked during relief operations on her own hometown in Okayama prefecture in western Japan, which had been ravaged by strong floods. Inspired by the JSDF’s unflagging dedication, she joined the ranks of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Forces (JMSDF).
“Japan has so many natural disasters, and our home was actually flooded in July. My dad went to help as a volunteer, it was so terrible. He told me how tirelessly the JSDF had worked to save people, I was really moved and made up my mind to join the SDF,” Hirayama relayed.
Moeka Yoshinaka, 26, pushed fear aside to protect the nation
Former nurse Moeka Yoshinaka joined the forces, motivated by a desire to protect her country and out of a sense of adventure, with a goal to get assigned aboard a ship on the Atlantic ocean called the Shirase (icebreaker).
“My friends and family warned me that protecting the nation would be tough. They asked if I was afraid of it, but I asked myself: ‘Who will do the job if everyone is afraid?’ … Who’ll protect Japan if we don’t?” said Yoshinaka.
“In the international arena, many people think that North Korea or China is the bigger threat to Japan,” said Robert Eldridge, an author and expert on US-Japan military relations. “But it’s the demographics that pose a bigger challenge.”