Misa Sakurabayashi at ZakZak has been devoted to covering the SDF’s response to the recent triple disaster in Tohoku, and her latest article is just one example of the respect she holds for Japan’s servicemen and women:

For Others: Forgoing Basic Necessities, SDF are ‘Self-Sufficient’

Equipment such as this field cooking trailer, powered by a generator, is one example of self-sufficiency, but the SDF have it in among each other too

Equipment such as this field cooking trailer, powered by a generator, is one example of self-sufficiency, but the SDF have it in among each other too

Among the people who have been to the disaster area, you often hear: “There was plenty of accommodation for relief works, but there were no SDF members staying there.”

While it sounds unfortunate, for the SDF it is completely natural.

The SDF is an organization with the ability to be self-sufficient, i.e. they can handle anything by themselves. Even on deployment for their disaster relief mission, they have no need for accommodation: they just put up their tents and make their own food. Within the organization, they characteristically respond immediately to the members’ needs by supplying necessary equipment.

During the current disaster, the all-terrain Type-96 Wheeled Armored Personnel Carrier (WAPC) was dispatched for use as emergency transportation, with hand-rails and steps installed to make it easier for victims of the disaster to get on and off. Furthermore, such demands are requested ‘as soon as possible’.

First, after assembling the necessary parts and materials, the GSDF Kanto Logistics Depot quickly gets to work. After much thought, the vehicles are given fresh life as easy-to-board, safe transportation.

“We went without sleep for 3 days…” One staff member recalled.

In response to the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear accident, the MSDF received barges from the US for towing ships: one large tugboat (multi-purpose support vessel) and three yard tugboats (for use inside docks).

To protect these boats from the radiation, the Construction Department of the Yokosuka Logistics and Repair Depot made the inside of the boats air-tight and used tungsten sheets to protect the pilothouse.

The decision to implement these measures came on the evening of March 24th: with towing operations scheduled to begin the next morning, the staff begin their ‘hellish work’.

Furthermore, as the boats were to be sent to Onahama (in Iwaki, Fukushima), construction work continued on the ground.

Such struggles at the ‘rear’, apart from the spectacle of the disaster relief mission, failed to be noticed by the public. Yet without these men, the SDF’s operations would not have been possible. The SDF’s ‘self-sufficiency’ does not mean that it does not need the power of its people. Rather it is about ‘Only the power of the people”. It is the same in their families.

This is what one SDF member felt at his home during rest and recuperation, the day before they return to the disaster zone. His wife and daughter were waiting patiently.

“Here, take this.”

They handed over a string of 1000 origami cranes. It took only three days to make, they said. “Thank you…” They shared as they welled up with emotion.

Self-sufficient – but the SDF is made up of people standing arm in arm.

Please feel free to look at the Japanese article and offer some translation suggestions – there were quite a few things I struggled with in there – but hopefully most of the meaning is on the nose.

I am considering looking at some of Miss Sakurabayashi’s other articles at ZakZak, she is certainly covering an interesting human-interest angle.

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A former contributor to World Intelligence (Japan Military Review), James Simpson joined Japan Security Watch in 2011, migrating with his blog Defending Japan. He has a Masters in Security Studies from Aberystwyth University and is currently living in Kawasaki, Japan. His primary interests include the so-called 'normalization' of Japanese security (i.e. militarization), and the political impact of the abduction issue with North Korea.
James Simpson has 254 post(s) on Japan Security Watch