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HOME  > Past issues  > 2023 November 22 - 28  > SDF conducts on-campus PR activities at public universities
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2023 November 22 - 28 [SOCIAL ISSUES]

SDF conducts on-campus PR activities at public universities

November 28, 2023
Akahata recently learned that the Self-Defense Forces have participated in public universities’ festivals in the past few years. On-campus PR activities to recruit potential SDF personnel are arousing controversy as these may infringe upon “academic freedom” and “university autonomy”.

At an annual festival held until November 26 at the University of Electro-Communications (Chofu City, Tokyo), there was a venue where people were able to try on SDF uniforms. At a festival in Gunma University (Gunma Pref.) which was also held until November 26, heavy-weight armored vehicles were on display. A concert performed by an Air SDF music band at a Tokushima University (Tokushima City, Tokushima Pref.) festival in late October drew much attention as an unprecedented show. The SDF Tokushima Provincial Cooperation Office participated in a Naruto University of Education (Naruto City, Tokushima Pref.) festival last year.

At the Tokushima University festival, the Western Air Defense Force Band gave a performance, exhibited panels introducing Ground SDF activities, and distributed pamphlets promoting the Ground, Maritime, and Air SDF.

The SDF at first proposed to Tokushima University events other than a concert such as an exhibition of SDF vehicles and a photo op dressed up in camouflage fatigues. The SDF participation in the festival aroused much discussion among university students, professors, and administrative staff. Many said that: universities should keep a certain distance from state power; universities should be careful about SDF presence on campus; and it could be taken as SDF propaganda.

Local peace, civic, and women’s groups voiced their opposition to the SDF participation in school events. Local daily, Tokushima Shimbun, reported the issue under the headline, “Questions raised over ASDF concert.”

In the end, the university decided to accept the SDF concert. In addition, it decided to hold a debate on the government security policy and the SDF on the sidelines of the SDF show.

At the debate, students, professors, and lawyers had discussions about the SDF mission in relation to Article 9 of the Constitution stipulating the non-possession of war potential as well as about whether Japan’s military-focused security policy is adequate. A female student in her senior year who took part in the debate session said, “I think it is problematic if our university is seen to be supportive of the increase in military budget as planned by the government.”

The Tokushima University union said that a university festival is supposed to be where students show the results of their studies and of their club/circle activities. The union criticized PR activities by specific outside organizations for deviating from the original purpose of a university festival. Tokushima University President Kawamura Yasuhiko said to the union that SDF participation will not be allowed next year.

Aiba Kazuhiko, Tokushima University professor, said, “By attempting to brand the ‘coolness’ of the SDF, the SDF expects students to be attracted to the SDF. Universities should provide opportunities for students to think about how the country’s security policy should be or what the nature of the defense forces really is.”
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