On Aug 25, the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) will be running its big annual firing practice called the Fuji Sogo Kaiyoku Enshu, which is the country’s largest military test using live ammunition. Anyone who wishes to come and observe the strategic simulation must apply for the opportunity, but after receiving a record number of applicants, it’s estimated that only about 5% of the people who applied will be allowed to enter.
So what caused this explosion of interest in military maneuvers? Many people are crediting the anime "Girls und Panzer" as one of the main contributors. This lighthearted anime focuses on a group of high school girls studying “the way of the tank” as though it is a traditional martial art. The anime’s popularity has encouraged thousands of civilians to pursue knowledge of Japan’s current military capabilities and to see the tanks in action!
The JGSDF has been performing its firing test at the East Fuji Maneuvering Grounds in Shizuoka Prefecture every year since 1961. Last year, 5,875 civilians were allowed to observe the practice, which required about 2,400 trained personnel, 80 military ground vehicles, 30 aircraft, and a P3C patrol plane and unmanned F2 fighter supplied by the Maritime Self-Defense Force. The practice simulated the suppression and recovery tactics to be used in an isolated island invasion scenario. This year a record high of 110,000 people applied to attend as observers thanks to the increased popularity of tanks as inspired by anime.
But you know, large-scale live ammo tests aren’t the only things that "Girls und Panzer" has had an extended effect over. Informational DVDs, tourism, and defense contractors have also seen an awesome revival thanks to 2-D tanks.
In May, the JGSDF released an educational DVD about their Hitomaru Shiki tanks. The video was called “I know this! The Ground Self-Defense Forces ～Kong of Worth! The Tank’s History of Protecting Japan～,” and it sold more than 15,000 copies in just one week, making it the first DVD from the culture and education genre to top the country’s Oricon weekly charts since the rankings began in 1999. The JGSDF hopes to continue raising awareness about Japan’s national defense systems through educational videos like the one demonstrating various battle strategies, posted to the division’s official website on July 2.
For Oarai-machi, the city in Ibaraki Prefecture that "Girls und Panzer" uses as its setting, the popularity of this daring high school drama has had a huge effect on their tourism. Ever since disaster befell the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, tourism to the region has taken a huge hit, but becoming the “Holy Land of Girls und Panzer” has completely revitalized it! From July 13 to 15, a special event was held in town, featuring the mobilization of Hitomaru Shiki tanks. This year approximately 32,000 people came to watch the event. That high a turnout is more than five times what the city saw last year.
A similar situation was realized at the event, Niconico Chokagi 2 in the city of Chiba in early April. The JGSDF attended with a tank exhibition, accompanied by representatives of the increasingly active defense industry. In a talk show at the event, PR personnel for the Ground Staff Office addressed the audience to explain that “The JGSDF and defense industries are two halves of one whole. Everything you can see, feel, and touch here is in essence for the sake of protecting Japan.”
It’s strange to think that leggy, young girls in short skirts could have such a profound effect on people’s support of the military. Then again, it seemed to work so well for the economy.
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