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Defense Force

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Defense Force

Japan Ground Self-Defense Force
Founded July 1, 1954 – present
Country  Japan
Type Army
Size 170,000 active personnel
Part of Japan Self-Defense Forces
Garrison/HQ Ichigaya, Tokyo, Japan
Nickname GSDF
Commander-in-Chief PM Shinzō Abe
Chief of the ground staff General Eiji Kimizuka

The Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF; Japanese: 陸上自衛隊; Rikujō Jieitai), is the main branch of the Japan Self-Defense Forces responsible for land-based military operations. It is the de facto army of Japan. The JGSDF was created on July 1, 1954. Up until the end of the Cold War, its primary concern was maintaining internal security in Japan and countering a possible Soviet invasion of Hokkaido. The largest of the three services of the Japan Self-Defense Forces, the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force is tasked with maintaining internal security in Japan and operates under the command of the chief of the ground staff, based in the city of Ichigaya, Tokyo. The present chief of the ground staff is General Eiji Kimizuka (Japanese: 君塚 栄治).

The JGSDF numbered around 170,000 soldiers in 2014.[1]


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 defense of Japan.

On the outbreak of the Korean War, many U.S. units were transferred to Korea, and Japan was perceived as lacking defenses. Encouraged by the American occupation authorities, in July 1950 the Japanese government authorized the establishment of a National Police Reserve, consisting of 75,000 men equipped with light infantry weapons. Under the terms of Japan's various peace treaties and the Mutual Security Assistance Pact (ratified in 1952), American forces stationed in Japan were responsible for confronting 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 was expanded to 110,000 men and renamed the National Safety Forces.

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, the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force and the Japan Air Self-Defense Force. The enabling legislation for this was the 1954 Self-Defense Forces Act [Act No. 165 of 1954].

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.’[2] While the force is now an efficient army of around 148,000,[3] 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.



JGSDF soldiers from the 22nd Infantry Regiment train with U.S. Army soldiers in a bilateral exercise at Fort Lewis' Leschi Town in October 2008.

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 maneuvers, 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.[4]

Modern equipment


Operational Structure of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force 2011. Click to enlarge.


Disposition of JGSDF combat units

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
    • Others
JGSDF Chief of Staff Eiji Kimizuka, speaks with a U.S. Marine officer aboard the USS Essex (LHD-2), in March 2011.
JGSDF Middle Army headquarters in Itami, Japan

Regionally the JGSDF is organised into five armies, the Northern Army, North Eastern Army, Eastern Army, Central Army, and Western Army.

Tactical organization

The GSDF consists of the following tactical units:

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.

Special Forces

Special Purpose units consist of the following:


Japan Ground Self-Defense Force
陸上自衛隊 (Rikujō Jieitai)

Ground Staff Office
Northern Army
North Eastern Army
Eastern Army
Central Army
Western Army
Central Readiness Force
JGSDF Reserve
JGSDF Reserve Candidate


Officer & Warrant Officer
Insignia General


Type A
Type B


Insignia Sergeant
Type A
Type B

See also


  1. ^ IISS Military Balance 2008, Routledge, London, 2008, p.384
  2. ^ 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
  3. ^ IISS 2010, pp. 408–411
  4. ^ [1]

External links

  • Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (Japanese)
  • Japan
  • JGSDF section
  • Number of Tanks and Major Artillery and Performance Specifications
  • Number of Major Aircraft and Performance Specifications
  • Guided Missile Specifications
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