I was stationed in Japan in the late 1970's. I got the opportunity to work with the Japanese Self Defense Forces and was always impressed with their professionalism. This at a time when there was still deep antipathy towards military service in the Japanese population at large. When my daughter was growing up, she heard a lot about Japan and the Japanese from me. So, she decided one day she would live there.
While she was finishing her education in Vancouver, B.C. she had a lot of Japanese friends. Japanese women, like women everywhere, love dainty things, and my daughter liked to go to Japanese gatherings, common among the expat students there. This is her back then, ready for a little get together with "the girls." I met some of her Japanese friends and liked them. They were nice young people, didn't do drugs, and the young men treated the young women with respect. My daughter has learned fluent Japanese and one day I will help her go there and live for a year or two. That's one of her dreams and I think it's a good one.
My father and my Uncle fought in World War II, in the Pacific. My Uncle was a Marine infantry Sergeant. My dad was a navy Corpsman. My father in law fought in the Pacific as well, as a Marine NCO in the infantry. Between them they were involved in the landings at Saipan, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa among other less well known places.
This is my Uncle Tom, in Brooksville, Florida. Fall of 1942.
My Uncle would never say word one about the War. He gave me a Japanese Marine's forage cap when I was just a little kid. He had a samurai sword, but late in his life he returned it to Japan, through a veterans association that knew how to do that. He stayed in the Marine Corps, fought in Korea and Viet Nam. Then retired. He died a few years back.
My father in the Pacific, 1944. He's the guy on the right.
This is a picture he sent my mom .
My father died some years back. He hated the Japanese with a passion. You couldn't talk to him about it. Even the slightest mention of the fact that the war was over, a long time ago, and maybe it was time to put that behind him would send him off in a tizzy. He was furious with my daughter when she made Japanese friends and learned the language.
I know now that sometimes, when you fight other people, you never stop remembering it and you never stop feeling the emotions of that time. For a long while, I thought my dad was just being hateful but I later learned it's much more complicated than that. It's the old saw "you had to be there." Nobody who wasn't there, will ever understand it.
A year after I was in Japan, my little brother was stationed there. Somewhere here I have pictures of him and his platoon climbing Mount Fuji, with the obligatory head bands and walking staffs. I guess it seems strange, for U.S. Marines to be wearing hachimaki (head bands emblazoned with the Rising Sun) but none of the people in that unit had even been born during World War II.
Now, the Japanese have amended their constitution to permit their troops to fight alongside their allies in certain circumstances. Since World War II ended, the Japanese have participated in humanitarian actions but have been proscribed by law from engaging in combat other than in defense of the home islands.
As you would expect from a maritime nation, Japan has an outstanding Navy. Unlike most of the countries in that part of the world, it's well balanced. They have warships, and a fleet train. That means they can project power a long way from Japan itself. Their Navy is highly professional and modern to the nth degree.
The Japanese Air Force is primarily comprised of transports, maritime patrol aircraft, air superiority fighters, and utility aircraft. No long range bombers. Limited tactical air assets. I think that may soon change, as the Red Chinese have been pushing Japan over the Sakhalin Island chain, and Japan is pushing back.
The Japanese Army is not huge, but it is well equipped, motivated, and ready to rock. As later generations get over the effects of World War II, military service has become an acceptable profession again. Droves of young Japanese are not beating down the gates to get in, but there is not the same stigma attached to military service that there was even when I was over there some 34 years ago.
All this comes at a good time. We are stretched very thin on the ground right now. And, we are short of fighting allies. We have plenty of meal delivery allies, but we need people who will kick ass and take names. Japan can be one of those allies if things work out right.