Despite Increased Defense Budget, Self-Defense Forces Face Shortage of Basic Supplies | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Despite Increased Defense Budget, Self-Defense Forces Face Shortage of Basic Supplies

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Posting at Nagasaka Firing Range, Takeyama Garrison, Yokosuka City, Kanagawa Prefecture (as of April 27, 2012)

Five years have passed since the toilet paper self-supply issue was resolved.

FRIDAY Digital has been reporting on the current situation of the Self-Defense Forces personnel who protect the country with their bodies, and who are forced to live in inconvenient conditions with much poorer food and clothing than most people think. Some have suggested that the recent Maritime Self-Defense Force (MSDF) accident may have been caused by the personnel shortage that has plagued the force in recent years.

One photo was sent to us by a current SDF member.

<Each unit is asked to donate the toilet paper they use. Please place it gently on the shelf.

This posting indicates that we must rely on donations to replenish our toilet paper supply. This is not a temporary shortage of supplies. The replenishment cannot be covered by the SDF’s internal expenses, so they have no choice but to ask members of each unit to donate paper.

I’ve never seen government-issued (SDF-bought at their expense) toilet paper until I retired in the first place,” he said. Every month, paper money was collected on my payday. That wasn’t a government-issued item, was it?” said one SDF alumnus.

I recently went to a base that hadn’t had paper in a while. It’s back to normal again,” said another current member.

The author continued to report that SDF members had been purchasing toilet paper at their own expense for some time. Thanks to his efforts, on November 1, ’18, at the Budget Committee of the House of Representatives on the Self-Defense Forces Day, Heinao Honda, a member of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, pointed out the problem of the Self-Defense Forces’ self-purchase of toilet paper. Then Prime Minister Shinzo Abe responded, “We would like to address it immediately. After this, there was a period when there was a shortage of toilet paper in the Self-Defense Forces.

I thought that the situation had finally improved, but I wondered if it had been only a little more than five years since then. The defense budget has increased since Fumio Kishida came to power, but it is unfortunate that the budget is no longer used to improve the lives of the SDF personnel.

Image of warning letter prohibiting unauthorized use of washing machines

‘We can’t afford the budget, so we have no choice.’

It is not only toilet paper. Self-Defense Forces personnel continue to face inconvenience in other aspects of their lives as well. The washing machine in the “unit house,” where young, single members are obliged to live together for two years unless they get married or have other special reasons, has a sign on the lid that reads, “Unauthorized use prohibited.

Please open and close the lid gently. The lid is very fragile and cannot be repaired. If it breaks or is damaged, it is not something that can be immediately renewed, so please do it in the spirit of product protection.

The SDF is inundated with such strange warning statements that it has become numb to the situation. Cars and equipment that have broken down or been in accidents have not been repaired for years, and some vehicles have failed inspections because parts are missing.

Does this situation not bother you? I wonder about that. Because the feeling is, ‘We can’t afford it, so we have no choice.'”

While the spirit of “goods protection” for washing machines and other equipment used by many people is natural, the sign on the washing machine gives a glimpse of the difficult kitchen conditions that make it impossible to repair or replace it even if it malfunctions. That is probably why they are used only by permission. One can imagine how inconvenient it must be to have to obtain permission before using a washing machine in an environment where many members live.

Furthermore, there are many shower rooms, large bathrooms, and elevators in the SDF that are damaged and cannot be used. The unusable shower rooms and toilets, as shown in the photo below, are posted with a “Do Not Use” or “Do Not Enter” sign and will not be repaired anytime soon.

The SDF is suffering from a lack of applications for members. It seems that they are trying to increase the number of applicants through publicity that conveys the attractiveness of the SDF, but shouldn’t they first improve the work environment for the members? If the current situation remains unchanged, it is highly likely that a large number of personnel will be disappointed by the actual situation and resign mid-career immediately after joining the SDF, and this will not improve the shortage of personnel.

It will be difficult to secure personnel unless we first start by improving the supplemental living environment for SDF personnel, including a minimum sanitary environment of toilet paper, toilets, shower rooms, washing machines, bedding, etc., and repairing broken equipment.

Image of warning letter prohibiting the use of shower rooms in the SDF



  • Interview, text, and photos by Rie Ogasawara

    Rie Ogasawara is a national defense journalist. After graduating from Kansai Gaidai University, she worked as a freelance writer focusing on the Self-Defense Forces and security issues, and is the author of "Self-Defense Forces Personnel Buy Toilet Paper at Bases with Their Own Money" (Fusosha Shinsho), published in 2007. He was awarded the Seishi Sanshuji Award in the 15th "True Modern History" Essay Contest sponsored by the APA Foundation for the Rebuilding of Japan. Columnist for Sankei Shimbun's "Shimbun ni Kakaku! columnist for Sankei Shimbun's "Shimbun ni Kakuro!

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