Japanese College Students on the Role of the Self-Defense Forces by Michael Olesberg

by mdillard
Sep 15

We had the pleasure to visit a political science class at Keio University, the oldest private university in Japan. There we did a panel discussion between the JRP and Keio students. While much of the information we got out of the meeting was anecdotal, it was still fascinating.

First, the students from Keio told us that the U.S.-Japan alliance plays a much larger role in their feelings of security than Article 9. They also confirmed what we had already heard: as voters, they did not feel like there was any credible alternative to the LDP, so there is no one to vote for even if they disagree with the LDP’s stance on security policy.

Later in the meeting, the professor decided to do an informal poll of his students. The students from Keio took blind votes on several different topics with only the professor and American students seeing the results. For the SDF operations of disaster relief, international peace keeping, Japanese self-defense, and collective self-defense, the professor asked the students if they wanted to increase, maintain the current level, or decrease the SDF’s role (and funding).

Most of the students thought the SDF should do more disaster relief and international peacekeeping, with the remainder voting for “remain the same”. A few students thought the SDF should prepare more for Japanese self-defense operations, with the majority believing the SDF should not change its role. However, all but three of the twenty-one students thought the SDF should not change its role in collective self-defense. One student thought the SDF should do less, and two students (one of whom had just returned from a year studying abroad in America) thought that Japan should take a more advanced role in collective self-defense.

As one student summarized, “We Japanese really don’t want anything to do with other people’s troubles. We’d like to stay out of it.”

In a final interesting statement, at the end of our meeting the professor told us that he does not think even his political science students pay enough attention to world affairs or security issues. Awareness of world affairs is considered fairly high among the young and college educated in Japan, so this comment surprised us.