Shocking Photos Reveal Ground Self-Defense Force’s Unbelievably Dirty Training Accommodations: Crumbling Walls, Itchy Beds | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Shocking Photos Reveal Ground Self-Defense Force’s Unbelievably Dirty Training Accommodations: Crumbling Walls, Itchy Beds

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There are holes in the plywood and water is leaking from below. The old blankets were issued in 1976, and there are also stains on the pillows. The team members cover these with cloth and use them.

The Ground Self-Defense Force, where the main battlefield is considered an emergency situation, conducts regular outdoor training to overcome any harsh environment, as revealed by former members.

“Units whose main task is outdoor activities during emergencies frequently conduct outdoor training. They engage in various forms of camping, such as using tents or makeshift sleeping arrangements, or staying in barracks. It is believed that the disaster relief teams dispatched to the Noto Peninsula earthquake are sleeping in tents.”

The schedule and frequency of outdoor training vary depending on the unit’s mission and readiness level. Some units start with a 2-night, 3-day training, while others include a half-month of camping every month

Although Self-Defense Force members are accustomed to tough conditions, did you know that some training facilities have become problematic due to being unacceptably dirty?

The photo above shows the interior of a facility in the Chubu region. It has been in use since the mid-Showa era, and rainwater leaks from the bottom of walls made of plywood. It’s said that some of the blankets on the beds were issued in 1976. Members who have trained in this accommodation hang their heads in disappointment.

“The bed mats are covered in mold. The pillows are also dirty, and sleeping becomes unbearable due to itching. The dust is so intense that it makes my throat sore. The bunk beds are too old, so even a slight movement by the person sleeping on the top bunk causes creaking, waking me up multiple times during the night. I couldn’t rest at all.”

“The toilets are extremely unsanitary as well,” continues the member..

“The smell from the pit latrines is unbearable, and even with deodorizers, it’s like putting a band-aid on a bullet wound. Cleaning is such a hassle that some superiors even say, ‘Don’t use the toilets.'”

While one might strive to boost their immunity for self-defense, the meals are also subpar. Most of the time, they rely on retort pouch meals. However, as shown in the photo below, they often end up pouring main dishes like yakitori or bonito flakes over rice and eating them like cat food.

According to the Enlistment and Retirement Status of Self-Defense Force Personnel released by the Ministry of Defense last year, in the fiscal year 2021, the number of retirees exceeded the number of enlistees. Of particular note is that the number of mid-term retirees (5,742 people) surpassed both those retiring at the statutory age and those completing their term. Representative Hitoshi Kawakawa, who attended the “Meeting to Consider Improvements in the Treatment of Self-Defense Force Members” held in November last year, revealed this information.

“In December of the year before last, the Kishida administration decided in a cabinet meeting to increase defense spending to 2% of GDP by five years later. However, I believe that we must not only focus on strengthening our military capabilities such as ships and weapons but also ensure proper treatment for Self-Defense Force members. Reflecting on the lessons learned from past wars, it is overwhelmingly evident that more people died from starvation and similar causes than in combat. I believe that unless people are valued, the capabilities of the Self-Defense Force cannot be fully realized.”


The defense budget, totaling 43 trillion yen, is planned to be used for the purchase of long-range cruise missiles like the Tomahawk with 400 units and stealth fighter jets. However, it lacks a micro-level perspective that directly impacts the lives of service members, such as outdated radios worse than smartphones and bulletproof vests with too few varieties.


It’s been reported that in past outdoor training, men and women sometimes had to share sleeping quarters. While the ability to endure harsh conditions is undoubtedly necessary, there’s no need to subject service members to unsanitary environments that could harm their health. The reality of the increasing number of mid-term retirees should be a wake-up call for the Ministry of Defense. There has been an outpouring of gratitude from disaster-stricken areas to the Ground Self-Defense Force members working earnestly on the Noto Peninsula. Improving workplace conditions is urgently needed not only to boost the morale of these unsung heroes but also for their well-being.

The corrugated iron wave panels, popular during the high-growth period, remain rusted on the exterior walls. Recently constructed new facilities include accommodations and toilets for women.
The kitchen ceiling and floor are covered with mold, and the tiles on the sink are cracked in several places.
Retort food. Yakitori (front) and bonito (back left) served over rice. The two on the right are rice cakes. If there are members in the unit who have learned cooking, they will cook rice.

From the March 1-8, 2024 issue of FRIDAY

  • Reporting and writing Rie Ogasawara (Journalist)

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