Japan Contemplates Lifting Tattoo Ban in Military to Enhance Recruitment Numbers

Japanese media reported that the Japanese defence ministry was considering lifting a tattoo ban to increase recruitment in its Self-Defence Force.

Candidates are turned away if they have tattoos.

Asahi Shimbun reported that this is due to a directive from the ministry based upon Article 58 in the Self-Defence Forces Law.

The tattoo ban was implemented when the Self-Defence Force (SDF) was founded in 1954.

Kazuhito Mahida, the head of the Personnel and Education Bureau in the ministry, says that the government should consider revising the rule due to the declining birthrate.

A senior ministry official said revisions were needed to make them more inclusive. Tattoos are part of the tradition of Japan’s indigenous Ainu population.

In 2022, Japan had fewer than 800 000 births, a record low.

This concern is also reflected in labour shortages in the military, significantly when Japan is increasing its military expenditures in response to concerns about regional security.

Masahisa Sato, a member of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), raised the issue of tattoos at the Upper House Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence on the 9th of May.

“I believe it’s problematic to turn away those who are willing to enlist simply because they have tiny tattoos,” Mr Sato said, a high-ranking former Defence Force member.

Fumio Kishida is the Japanese Prime Minister who has made halting Japan’s sagging birth rate his top priority.

His government will spend 3.5 trillion yen ($33.7 billion) per year on child care and other measures that support parents.

Tattoos are becoming more popular as fashion accessories in many parts of the globe. In Japan, however, they are still associated with “anti-social” elements and yakuza gangsters.

Many scholars believe tattoos were common among Japanese cultures before the Europeans arrived in the 1800s.

Professor Yoshimi Yamamoto, an anthropologist from Tsuru University and a cultural expert, claimed that the Europeans considered the Japanese full-body tattoos “backwards”. In an online lecture, Prof Yamamoto stated that this led to the Japanese covering up their tattoos, except for religious festivals.

In the 1970s, and 1980s, tattoos became associated with criminality after films about the yakuza were popularized.

Tattoos, such as the beach and public baths, are also banned from public places.

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