Japan’s Military and Women In Uniform

A growing number of women in Japan’s Self-Defense Forces are entering formerly male-dominated fields, with one recently becoming the country’s first-ever female fighter jet pilot.


Misa Matsushima, 1st Lt. of the Air Self-Defense Force, told reporters in late August that she wants to inspire women to join after a ceremony at a base in the southwestern Japanese prefecture of Miyazaki, marking the completion of a training course to become an F-15 fighter pilot.


The 26-year-old Matsushima, who stands just 159 centimeters tall, had dreamed of becoming a fighter pilot ever since watching the hit movie ”Top Gun” starring Tom Cruise, portraying young naval aviators, when she was in elementary school.


photo credit to: https://www.japantimes.co.jp

The ASDF lifted the gender restriction on women operating fighter jets as well as reconnaissance aircraft in November 2015. Until then, Japan’s Defense Ministry had considered the conditions too severe for women because of the extreme g-forces involved in flying fighter jets, which at times makes it difficult for pilots to even breathe.


In the Ground Self-Defense Force, women have taken on roles across a wide range of activities. For example, the regimental commander for logistics support, who leads some 700 subordinates, is female, while women have also become attack helicopter pilots and restrictions on them becoming tank drivers have been lifted.


If the plan is put into action, the only restrictions remaining for female members will be GSDF corps that handle hazardous substances and the corps dispatched to areas where dust particles are formed in the air.


These two corps are subject to placement limitations under the domestic Labor Standards Law — from the viewpoint of protecting women’s bodies from harmful substances that could affect pregnancies — according to the Defense Ministry.


While the recent trend of promoting women to the frontlines in fields of national defense reflects the government’s ”female empowerment policy” the ministry is also trying to utilize more female members to ease a human resources shortage.


Reference: Women taking on more frontline roles in Japan’s Self-Defense Forces


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