Does Japan Have an Army?

Many people are surprised to learn that Japan does have an army, despite the country’s pacifist Constitution. In this blog post, we’ll explore the history of the Japanese military and its current role in society.

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The Japanese Constitution

After WWII, Japan was not allowed to have an army under the Constitution. The only military force they were allowed was the Japan Self-Defense Force, which is not technically an army. However, things have changed and Japan now has a military that is very capable.

Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution

Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution renounces war and bans the maintenance of an army, navy or air force. The article has been interpreted to mean that Japan cannot use military force to resolve international conflicts. However, Japan maintains a large Self-Defense Force for the purpose of self-defense. The Self-Defense Force is not considered to be part of the military, and its members are not subject to the same rules as members of the armed forces of other countries.

The Three Non-Nuclear Principles

The Three Non-Nuclear Principles were passed by the Japanese Diet in 1971, stating that Japan would not produce, possess, or allow the introduction of nuclear weapons into its territory. In 1976, these principles were codified into law.

In recent years, there has been debate about whether or not Japan should revise the Three Non-Nuclear Principles in light of the changing security environment in East Asia. However, public opinion remains strongly in favor of maintaining the principles, and successive governments have reaffirmed their commitment to them.

As a result of the Three Non-Nuclear Principles, Japan does not have a nuclear arsenal and is not a member of any nuclear alliances. The Japanese Self-Defense Forces (SDF) are also restricted in their capabilities and are not equipped with offensive weapons such as long-range missiles.

The Japanese Self-Defense Forces

The Japanese Self-Defense Forces (JSDF), also referred to as the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) or the Armed Forces of Japan, are the land, sea, and air forces of Japan. They were established in 1954, following the passage of the National Self-Defense Forces Act. The JSDF are under the command of the Ministry of Defense and are responsible for the defense of Japan.

The Ground Self-Defense Force

The Ground Self-Defense Force (地球防衛軍, Chikyū Bōeigun, often abbreviated to GSDF), also known as the Army of Japan or simply the Japanese Army, is the land warfare branch of Japan’s military and one of the eight uniformed services of the Ministry of Defense.

As of 2020, it had approximately 150,000 personnel on active duty and is under the command of the Chief of Staff, Ground Self-Defense Force (CSGSDF). Its primary mission is to maintain internal security in Japan.

The Ground SDF is organized into four regional armies (北部地方防衛軍 North defence force, 中部地方防衛軍 Central defence force, 関東地方防衛軍 Kanto defence force and 四国地方防衛軍 Shikoku defence force), each responsible for a different geographical area; Hokkaido, North and Central Honshu, Kantō and Shikoku respectively. The four regional armies are in turn divided into preceptory Guard Commands (親衛隊 Guntai), garrison units responsible for defending major metropolitan areas such as Tokyo and Osaka.

The Maritime Self-Defense Force

The Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) is one of the three branches of the Japan Self-Defense Forces, alongside the Ground Self-Defense Force and the Air Self-Defense Force. The JMSDF is responsible for the defense of Japan’s maritime territory and its interests, and for providing naval support to the other branches of the SDF.

The JMSDF has a strength of around 54,000 personnel, making it one of the largest navies in Asia. It is also one of the most technologically advanced, with a strong focus on anti-submarine warfare and mine warfare. The JMSDF operates a wide range of ships, from small patrol boats to large destroyers, as well as submarines and aircraft. Its main bases are located in Tokyo, Yokosuka, Sasebo, and Okinawa.

The Air Self-Defense Force

The Air Self-Defense Force (ASDF) is one of the three branches of the Japan Self-Defense Forces and is responsible for the country’s air defense. The ASDF has a strength of approximately 45,000 personnel and operates more than 600 aircraft, making it one of the largest air forces in Asia. The ASDF’s primary mission is to defend Japanese airspace against incursions by enemy aircraft, although it also provides support to ground forces and performs humanitarian and disaster relief operations.

Japan’s Military Expenditure

Since the end of the Second World War, Japan has maintained a military force for the purpose of self-defense and maintaining regional stability. This has been evident in its military expenditure which is the fourth largest in the world.

Japan’s Military Expenditure as a Percentage of GDP

Japan’s military expenditure for 2019 was 1.015% of its GDP, making it the 124th largest spender in the world. Data from 2018 shows that Japan spent $48.6 billion on its military, which is an increase from $43.9 billion in 2009. As a percentage of GDP, military spending has decreased since 2009, when it was 1.119%.

Japan’s Military Expenditure per Capita

Japan has the 8th largest military expenditure in the world, at $48.61 billion USD in 2018. However, when factoring in its population of 127 million people, its military expenditure per capita is $381.92 USD. This is much lower than many other countries, including the United States ($2,032 USD per capita) and China ($168 USD per capita).

There are a number of reasons for Japan’s low military expenditure per capita. One reason is that its constitution limits its military to defensive purposes only. Additionally, Japan relies heavily on the United States for its defense, spending $5 billion USD on hosting United States troops in 2018 alone.

Despite its low level of military expenditure per capita, Japan still has one of the most technologically advanced militaries in the world. It is a leading manufacturer of military equipment, and its soldiers are highly trained and well-equipped.

The Japanese Military in Comparative Perspective

The Japanese military, like that of any other country, has certain strengths and weaknesses when compared to other militaries around the world. In this essay, we will take a look at the Japanese military in comparative perspective, discussing its strengths and weaknesses in relation to other militaries.

The United States

The United States has the largest and most technologically advanced military in the world, with more than 1.3 million men and women on active duty and over 800,000 reservists. The U.S. military is also one of the most sophisticated, with a vast array of sophisticated equipment and weapons, including over 5,000 tanks, 12,000 aircraft, and 3,700 combat ships.

The United States spends more on its military than any other country in the world, with a budget of over $600 billion per year. This is more than the next seven countries combined. The U.S. military also has a large number of bases around the world, including over 700 overseas bases in more than 70 countries.


In comparative perspective, the Japanese military stands out for a number of reasons. First, it is important to recognize that Japan does have an army. This is not always obvious to outside observers, given the fact that the country has not engaged in large-scale military conflict since World War II. However, the Japanese Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) are a well-equipped and highly trained fighting force. In recent years, they have even been involved in overseas missions, such as peacekeeping operations in South Sudan.

Second, the JSDF is a very professional force. It is often said that the Japanese military is “a milked cow.” This means that it is very well-funded, and its members are very well-trained. For example, all JSDF personnel must undergo a rigorous physical fitness program. They also receive a great deal of education and training on both technical and interpersonal skills.

Third, the JSDF is very technologically advanced. This is perhaps best illustrated by the fact that Japan is one of only a handful of countries in the world with its own military satellite system. The JSDF also makes use of cutting-edge drones and other robotic technologies.

Finally, it should be noted that the JSDF operates within strict legal constraints. For example, Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution prohibits the use of force for offensive purposes. As a result, the JSDF can only be used for defensive purposes; it cannot be used to launch an attack on another country.

Given all of these factors, it is clear that the Japanese military is a unique and powerful institution within East Asia.


After the Meiji Restoration of 1868, the military became a national institution, playing a central role in Japanese society and politics. Today, the Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) are one of the most technologically advanced and professional militaries in the world.

In comparative perspective, however, Japan’s military is relatively small. The JSDF has roughly 247,000 personnel, less than one percent of the population. This is on par with other small militaries such as Denmark and Switzerland, but significantly smaller than major powers like Russia (1 million personnel) and China (2.3 million).

Despite its small size, the JSDF is well-funded. In 2015, Japan’s defense budget was $41.6 billion, making it the seventh largest in the world. This is approximately one percent of Japan’s GDP, which is also on par with other small militaries.

In terms of capabilities, the JSDF is a formidable fighting force. It is equipped with state-of-the-art weaponry and has a highly trained and disciplined workforce. The JSDF also benefits from close ties with the United States military, which provides significant support in terms of technology and intelligence sharing.

Overall, the JSDF is a capable military force that punch well above its weight in comparative perspective.


Although Japan does not have a traditional army, it does maintain a strong and modern self-defense force that is capable of defending the country from external threats. This force is made up of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force, the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force, and the Japan Air Self-Defense Force. Together, these three branches form a well-trained and well-equipped military that is capable of handling any threat to Japan’s security.

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