This essay discusses the significance of the military establishment in modern Japanese history. In the first six plus decades which followed the Meiji Restoration in 1868, the military played a key role in the rapid modernization of Japan and the expansion of its power as a nation state. Between 1930 and 1945, the Japanese military became the supreme arbiters of the nation's destiny, the architects of a militarized police state and the planners and implementers of Japanese dreams of imperial conquest in East Asia.

Following Japan's catastrophic defeat in the Pacific War of 1941-1945, the influence of a discredited military sunk to a low ebb during the American occupation. After 1945 Japan relied primarily on American military power to safeguard its national security interests and maintained only relatively minor non-nuclear military forces. The remarkable Japanese economic recovery of the past half century has been achieved without recourse to military force. However, in the 90s a number of geopolitical and international economic factors have led to an on-going reassessment by the Japanese of the role of their military in protecting their national interests. This has led to substantial rearmament, especially the buildup of naval and air forces, the deployment of troops abroad on some peacekeeping missions, and the emergence of potentially divisive political issues --i.e. whether Japan should: (i) assume a greater share of the bu



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