In the aftermath of the Tohoku Earthquake, following the urging of our very own Kyle Mizokami, I sat down and read through Prof. Sabine Frühstück’s ‘Uneasy Warriors: Gender, Memory, and Popular Culture in the Japanese Army’ (2007). The book provided me with the only English-language ethnographic study on Japan’s Self-Defense Forces I had ever read, and Frühstück’s conclusions supported my own research and second-hand information gathering.

The chapter detailing Frühstück’s first-hand research is the highlight of the book, in which Frühstück fought hard to open doors to allow access and build trust with (particularly Ground) Self-Defense Force personnel, but the whole work elucidated the identity crises within the SDF particularly in the context of the masculinities and feminine identities involved (if you’ve never come across Gender Studies, you are missing out on a truly fascinating area of post-modern academia).

I was struck most by the correlation between what I was seeing in Tohoku as the SDF fought their own battle for survival in their attempts to recover the missing, the stories being told particularly by the Ministry of Defense-tied media, and the use of women in counseling civilians, seemingly showing them to be uniquely capable of dealing with some parts of the disaster relief mission.

I contacted Prof. Frühstück regarding her work in light of the March 11th disaster, and she kindly responded – making her the first in an new series of JSW posts: “JSW Talks”.

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style="text-align: left;">Sabine Frühstück is Professor of Modern Japanese Cultural Studies and Chair of the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultural Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara. She holds a PhD from the University of Vienna. You can read more about her work at the UCSB’s East Asian Language and Cultural Studies site, title="Sabine Fruhstuck" href="http://www.eastasian.ucsb.edu/faculty/fruhstuck.htm" >here.

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FRÜHSTÜCK: Thank you for your interest in my perspective from afar. Please note that I have no more intimate insights into the actual activities of the SDF in Tohoku, post-earthquake than anybody who follows Japanese, and international media. So, my response is very much based on what I know about the SDF and particularly the Ground Self-Defense Forces.

id="attachment_7512" class="wp-caption alignright" style="width: 310px"> href="http://jiji-bibouroku.blog.so-net.ne.jp/2008-06-24-1"> class="size-medium wp-image-7512" title=""Everyone in the SDF: Thank you!"" src="http://newpacificinstitute.org/jsw/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/arigatou2-3e249-300x226.jpg" alt=""Everyone in the SDF: Thank you!"" width="300" height="226" /> class="wp-caption-text">"Everyone in the SDF: Thank you!" (Source: Jiji-bibouroku)