Japan Ground Self-Defense Force

The Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (陸上自衛隊, Rikujō Jieitai), JGSDF, also referred to as the Japanese Army,[2] is the land warfare branch of the Japan Self-Defense Forces. Created on July 1, 1954, it is the largest of the three services branches.

Japan Ground Self-Defense Force
Flag of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force
Founded1 July 1954 (1954-07-01)[1]
Country Japan
RoleLand warfare
Size150,000 active personnel
Part of Japan Self-Defense Forces
Garrison/HQIchigaya, Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan
ColoursRed, White and Gold
MarchReview March (分列行進曲) Play 
Prime Minister of JapanShinzō Abe
Minister of DefenseTarō Kōno
Chief of Staff, Joint StaffGeneral Kōji Yamazaki
Chief of the Ground StaffGeneral Gorō Yuasa

New military guidelines, announced in December 2010, direct the Japan Self-Defense Forces away from their Cold War focus on the Soviet Union to a new focus on China, especially in respect of the dispute over the Senkaku Islands.

The JGSDF operates under the command of the chief of the ground staff, based in the city of Ichigaya, Shinjuku, Tokyo. The present chief of staff is General Gorō Yuasa (湯浅悟郎). The JGSDF numbered around 150,000 soldiers in 2008.[3]


20th Century

Japan accepted the Potsdam Declaration in 1945, and, in compliance with Article 9, the Imperial Japanese Army and Imperial Japanese Navy were dismantled. Both were replaced by the United States Armed Forces occupation force, which assumed responsibility for the external defense of Japan.

Despite MacArthur and the SCAP's strict insistence on Japan having no military or self defence by constitution, Japanese prime minister Hitoshi Ashida amended article 9 of the constitution to allow the creation of military forces in Japan which would operate under the name of self-defence forces. The ground, naval and air self-defence forces all originate from this amendment, rendering the occupation's desire for a demilitarised Japan rather moot.[4]

Under the terms of the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan, United States forces stationed in Japan were to deal with external aggression against Japan while Japanese forces, both ground and maritime, would deal with internal threats and natural disasters. Accordingly, in mid-1952, the National Police Reserve (formed in 1950) was expanded to 110,000 men and named the National Safety Forces.[5] In 1952 the National Police Reserve was renamed as the National Safety Force.

Japan continued to improve its defensive capabilities. On July 1, 1954, the National Security Board was reorganized as the Defense Agency, and the National Security Force was reorganized afterwards as the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (Army), the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (Navy) and the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (Air force), with General Keizō Hayashi appointed as the first Chairman of Joint Staff Council—professional head of the three branches. The enabling legislation for this was the 1954 Self-Defense Forces Act [Act No. 165 of 1954].[1]

For a long period, the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force possessed a dubious ability to hold off a Soviet invasion of Hokkaido. Zbigniew Brzezinski observed in 1972 that it seemed optimized to fight "a Soviet invasion conducted on American patterns of a quarter of a century ago."[6] While the force is now an efficient army of around 150,000,[7] its apparent importance had, until recently, seemingly declined with the end of the Cold War, and attempts to reorient the forces as a whole to new post Cold War missions have been tangled in a series of internal political disputes.

21st Century

On March 27, 2004, the Japan Defense Agency activated the Special Operations Group with the mandate under the JGSDF as its Counter-terrorist unit.[8]

In 2015, the Japanese Diet passes a law that allowed for the reinterpretation of Article 9 of the constitution. JSDF personnel train with the American forces in amphibious assault units designed to take outlying islands.[9]

Japan activated its first marine unit since World War II on April 7, 2018. The marines of the Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade are trained to counter invaders from occupying Japanese islands along the edge of the East China Sea.[10]

British troops of the Honourable Artillery Company (HAC) exercised together for the first time with Japanese GSDF soldiers in Oyama, Shizuoka prefecture on 2 October, 2018. This also marked the first time in history that foreign soldiers other than Americans exercised on Japanese soil. The purpose was to improve their strategic partnership and security cooperation. Lieutenant General Patrick Sanders said that Japan won't have to fight alone.[11]

The JGSDF and the Indian Army conducted their first joint military exercise in the Indian state of Mizoram from 27 October to 18 November 2018. It's primarily anti-terror drills and improving bilateral cooperation with 60 Japanese and Indian officers.[12]

In March 2019, the Ministry of Defense will establish its first regional cyber protection unit in the Western Army of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) to safeguard defense communications from cyber attacks. Such as for personnel deployed on remote islands with no established secure lines.[13]

The Japanese government approved the first ever JSDF dispatch to a peacekeeping operation that's not led by the United Nations. Two JGSDF officers will monitor a cease-fire between Israel and Egypt at the Multinational Force and Observers command in the Sinai peninsula from 19 April until 30 November 2019.[14]

Current deployment


In 1989, basic training for lower-secondary and upper-secondary academy graduates began in the training brigade and lasted approximately three months. Specialized enlisted and non-commissioned officer (NCO) candidate courses were available in branch schools and qualified NCOs could enter an eight-to-twelve-week officer candidate program. Senior NCOs and graduates of an eighty-week NCO pilot course were eligible to enter officer candidate schools, as were graduates of the National Defense Academy at Yokosuka and graduates of all four-year universities. Advanced technical, flight, medical and command and staff officer courses were also run by the JGSDF. Like the maritime and air forces, the JGSDF ran a youth cadet program offering technical training to lower-secondary school graduates below military age in return for a promise of enlistment.

Because of population density and urbanization on the Japanese islands, only limited areas are available for large-scale training, and, even in these areas, noise restrictions are extensive. The JGSDF has adapted to these conditions by conducting command post exercises, map manoeuvres, investing in simulators and other training programs, as well as conducting live fire exercises overseas at locations such as the Yakima Training Center in the United States.

The JGSDF has two reserve components: the rapid-reaction reserve component (即応予備自衛官制度) and the main reserve component (一般予備自衛官制度). Members of the rapid-reaction component train 30 days a year. Members of the main reserve train five days a year. As of December 2007, there were 8,425 members of the rapid-reaction reserve component and 22,404 members of the main reserve component.[15]



Major Command

  • Ground Component Command (陸上総隊(Rikujō-Sōtai)) is headquartered in Asaka, Saitama Prefecture. It was reorganized from the Central Readiness Force on March 27, 2018. In wartime, it would take command of two to five armies.



JGSDF currently has 9 active duty divisions (1 armored, 8 infantry)


the JGSDF currently has 8 combat brigades:

JGSDF divisions and brigades are combined arms units with infantry, armored, and artillery units, combat support units and logistical support units. They are regionally independent and permanent entities. The divisions strength varies from 6,000 to 9,000 personnel. The brigades are smaller with 3,000 to 4,000 personnel.

The JGSDF currently has 9 combat support brigades:

Other units

  • Other Units and Organizations
    • Material Control Command
    • Ground Research & Development Command
    • Signal Brigade
    • Military Police
    • Military Intelligence Command
    • Intelligence Security Command
    • Ground Staff College
    • Ground Officer Candidate School
    • Special Forces Group
    • Others



NATO codeOF-9OF-8OF-7OF-5OF-4OF-3OF-2OF-1
陸将陸将補 1等陸佐2等陸佐3等陸佐 1等陸尉2等陸尉3等陸尉
English translationGeneralLieutenant generalMajor general ColonelLieutenant colonelMajor CaptainFirst lieutenantSecond lieutenant
Insignia Type A
Insignia Type B
Insignia Miniature Type

Warrant Officer & Enlisted(准尉および曹士)

Rank准陸尉陸曹長1等陸曹2等陸曹3等陸曹 陸士長1等陸士2等陸士自衛官候補生
English translationWarrant officerSergeant majorMaster sergeantSergeant first classsergeantLeading privatePrivate first classPrivateSelf defense official cadet
Insignia Type A
Insignia Type B
Insignia Miniature Type
No insignia

See also


  1. "Japan Self-Defense Force | Defending Japan". Defendingjapan.wordpress.com. Archived from the original on 2015-02-16. Retrieved 2014-08-03.
  2. https://japan-forward.com/how-to-secure-japan-put-premium-on-jsdf-personnel-more-than-hardware/
  3. IISS Military Balance 2008, Routledge, London, 2008. p.384
  4. Fumiko Sasaki (26 July 2012). Nationalism, Political Realism and Democracy in Japan: The thought of Masao Maruyama. Routledge. p. 136. ISBN 978-1-136-31378-3. Retrieved 24 May 2013.
  5. Frank Kowalski, An Inoffensive Rearmament: The Making of the Postwar Japanese Army Archived 2016-01-13 at the Wayback Machine, Naval Institute Press, 2014, p.72
  6. Zbigniew Brzezinski, The Fragile Blossom (Harper, 1972) p.95, in James H. Buck, ‘The Japanese Military in the 1980s, in James H. Buck (ed.), The Modern Japanese Military System, Sage Publications, Beverly Hills/London, 1975, p.220
  7. IISS 2010, pp. 408–411
  8. Archived December 1, 2005, at the Wayback Machine
  9. "An article in The Economist dated Nov 20, 2017". Archived from the original on November 21, 2017. Retrieved November 21, 2017.
  10. Kubo, Nobuhiro Japan activates first marines since WW2 to bolster defenses against China Archived 2018-08-02 at the Wayback Machine. April 7, 2018. Reuters. Retrieved August 2, 2018
  11. "British troops join forces with Japanese for first time on their soil amid North Korea tensions". The Telegraph. 2 October 2018. Archived from the original on 2018-10-12. Retrieved 18 October 2018.
  12. "India-Japan military exercise begins in Mizoram". Moneycontrol.com. 1 November 2018. Archived from the original on 2018-11-02. Retrieved 6 November 2018.
  13. "Japan to create first regional counter-cyberattack unit in GSDF's Western Army". The Mainichi. 20 August 2018. Retrieved 26 August 2018.
  14. "Japan approves plan to send JSDF officers to Sinai, on first non-U.N. peacekeeping mission". The Mainichi. 2 April 2019. Archived from the original on 2 April 2019. Retrieved 3 April 2019.
  15. Archived March 9, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
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