The Japanese public, taught by history and consequence of the Second World War that armed forces are necessarily bad, are now learning to appreciate their military in the form of the Japan Self Defense Forces (SDF). And to push more awareness of the military to the public, the SDF is rolling out a public relations campaign to soften its image, including fun-related activities like online popularity contests, hyping singing talents of soldiers, and dating events.
The image change comes as Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is set to give the SDF more money and the freedom to act as a normal military organization. The SDF has not fired a shot in anger since the end of WWII, and the Pacifist post-war Constitution has stripped the country of the right to wage war. In other words, the SDF is really what it claims to be: an excellent well-drilled and highly-professional organization that has only one purpose – the defense of Japan and its people.
The PR campaign the SDF is rolling out now includes hyping the singing talents of a 27-year-old petty officer third class dubbed the “sole vocalist” of the 230,000-strong SDF – Yukari Miyake. A concert in the nation’s capital last year brought her to the attention of the Japanese public. “There is great significance in the fact that I sing in uniform. Whenever I sing on stage for the audience, I feel dearly that I’m giving them inspiration and that they’re more open about their feelings with someone in uniform,” she said in an interview after the concert. Aside from the concert, the Japanese public was also invited last year to vote online for their favorite personnel – complete with clips of a muscular serviceman stripped to the waist and doing pull-ups.
With the Abe administration very close to changing the pacifist interpretation of the right to collective self-defense, the focus in the next few years will be on the SDF. In this sense, Japan’s military officials find it necessary that the Japanese public has a positive image of the SDF in their minds. “The people’s mindset is now changing. We are undoubtedly in a new stage,” says Yoshinori Saeki, secretary-general of the Tokyo-based Research Institute for Peace and Stability. The PR campaign maybe tacky at times, but it has produced the desired result – creating the idea that people in the SDF are normal, and not some group of killers.
[via Yahoo News]