26 September 2023

JAPAN: Ministry may allow tattooed troops

Start the conversation

The Japanese Ministry of Defence is to consider dropping a long-standing ban on tattoos in the country’s Self-Defence Forces (SDF) if applicants are otherwise qualified.

It comes as the SDF faces a chronic personnel shortage amid a falling birth-rate.

A senior Ministry official admitted the need at a Parliamentary session reviewing the current guideline banning people from applying to be an SDF cadet if they had tattoos, which are generally considered taboo in Japan.

The official’s response came after an Upper House lawmaker from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, Masahisa Sato pointed to the need to study removing such a ban to secure much-needed personnel.

“Rejecting applicants just because they have tattoos poses a problem in terms of enhancing the human resources base,” Mr Sato said.

Although small tattoos have gradually become popular among Japanese youth, many often associate those covering the entire body with Yakuza crime syndicates or other anti-social groups.

Head of the Ministry’s Personnel and Education Bureau, Kazuhito Machida said the Ministry needed to consider reviewing the rule, given the nation’s declining birth-rate, which fell below 800,000 last year.

With Japan facing an increasingly severe security environment amid issues such as China’s rapid military build-up and North Korea’s missile and nuclear threats, the Government has repeatedly emphasised securing enough SDF members.

The Ministry recruits mainly high school graduates as cadets, but the number of applicants has been declining, partly because of the falling birth-rate, but also because more young people are going on to higher education.

Tokyo, 6 June 2023

Start the conversation

Be among the first to get all the Public Sector and Defence news and views that matter.

Subscribe now and receive the latest news, delivered free to your inbox.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.