Mainly covers the period June 1998 to April 2001 as well as including some earlier information.

  • Population:
    – total: 126,505,000
    – under-18s: 23,371,000
  • Government armed forces:993
    – active: 236,700
    – reserves: 52,300
    – paramilitary: 12,000
  • Compulsory recruitment age: no conscription
  • Voluntary recruitment age: 18 (youth cadets from16)
  • Voting age (government elections): 20
  • Child soldiers: none indicated; 1279 under-18 cadets in 1997
  • CRC-OP-CAC: not signed
  • Other treaties ratified: GC; CRC
  • Youth cadets are admitted to the Self Defence Force from the age of16 but cannot be deployed. The government has taken an interest in the issue of child soldiers, raising the issue in a number of international fora.


National Recruitment Legislation and Practice

Under Article 9 of the 1947 Constitution, Japan is not allowed to have armed forces: "Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes. In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The rights of belligerency of the state will not be recognised."994

Japan possesses a Self Defence Force (SDF) – the Jietitai – which was established in 1954 and was publicly described as a military force by Prime Minister Suzuki in 1980.995 Today the Self Defence Forces are accepted as being constitutional.996

Re-introduction of conscription has never been considered as it is forbidden under Article 18 of the Constitution which prohibits involuntary servitude.997 On 20 January 2000, however, Japan launched a formal five-year review of its Constitution, including the controversial provision renouncing war. While the role of the military is expected to be extended, for instance in the case of emergencies, the review is not expected to address the issue of conscription.998

According to information provided by the Japanese government to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, persons of 18 years of age may be recruited as volunteers for service into the Self Defence Force.999

Child Recruitment

The government confirms, however, that "... persons between 15 and 16 years old may be recruited as youth cadets in the Self Defence Forces."1000 Youth cadets are trained to become technical specialists within the SDF.1001 According to officials: "During the first three years of the four-year training period, the youth cadets follow the equivalent curriculum as other senior high school students, in addition to learning basic matters necessary for Self-Defence Forces Personnel. Needless to say, they are not deployed operationally. Even in case of an emergency, Self Defence Force (SDF) youth cadets who have not reached the age of 18 are not allowed to engage in hostilities."1002 This information has been confirmed by UNICEF, which has stated that the cadets are not "mobilised to assume military duties," even though as pupils in military schools they are considered part of the SDF.1003 According to UNICEF, in 1997 the number of under-18s recruited was 355, which represented 2.3 per cent of the total annual intake. In total, there were 1,279 cadets under-18 in November 1997.1004

Military Training and Military Schools

The National Defence Academy (NDA) is an institution of the Japan Defence Agency. According to Japanese officials, no-one under the age of 18 can enter the NDA and NDA cadets are not members of the SDF.1005


Government Initiatives

The G8 Foreign Ministers meeting, hosted by Japan in July 2000, adopted the Miyazaki Initiatives for Conflict Prevention which included specific measures to address the problem of child soldiers. Japan also co-hosted the Tokyo Symposium on Children and Armed Conflict in November 19981006 and an international workshop on child soldiers in November 2000.

Japan has frequently raised the issue of child soldiers at UN Security Council and General Assembly debates expressing strong support for the CRC-OP-CAC, but has yet to sign.

993 Active and Reserve armed forces figure information in letter from Permanent Mission of Japan to the UN in Geneva to CSC, 9/3/01.

994 Blaustein and Flanz op. cit.

995 Horeman and Stolwijk op. cit.

996 Blaustein and Flanz op. cit.

997 Horeman and Stolwijk op. cit.

998 Hindell, J., "Fears as Japan reviews peace constitution", Daily Telegraph, 21/1/00.

999 Initial State Report of Japan submitted to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, UN Doc. CRC/C/41/Add.1, 5/8/96, para. 44.

1000 Ibid.

1001 Communication from the Permanent Mission of Japan to the QUNO, 1998.

1002 Ibid.

1003 Information provided by UNICEF, 22/6/99.

1004 Ibid.

1005 Information provided by the Permanent Mission of Japan to the UN in Geneva, 28/6/00.

1006 Report of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, 30/10/00, UN document: A/55/442.


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