Tokyo: Do you think conscription — in Japan or elsewhere — is a good thing or a bad idea?


Alice Gicqueau
Student, 16 (French)
I think conscription is a bad idea because we always say people are equal and can do what they want, and I myself am all for liberty and freedom of choice. To that end, people, whoever they are, must be able to do what they want, and if they don’t want to [join the military], that is quite alright.

Hugh Ashton
Author, 57 (English)
There are two sides to the issue. It is never a good idea to train people to kill, but arguably a professional military would do a better job and save the cost of training recruits each time a new group walks through the doors. Also, I don’t think the average Japanese would take kindly to conscription unless a distinct threat arose.

Yeo Youliang
Student, 19 (Singaporean)
Conscription is necessary, even though we may not actually want to go. I am from Singapore, and as a result of our small population we must go, but for me, as I have a slipped disc, it means I will be a clerk rather than have to do anything more physical. That said, I would be OK with the physical stuff if I was fully healthy.

Erika Itagaki
English teacher, 30 (Japanese)
In Japan, I don’t think that we need the conscription system because we are not supposed to be aggressive [under the Constitution] and should not be starting any wars. Even so, we do have a [de facto] military and should not be afraid of war. But, that said, I don’t want my own husband to have to go to war.

Dean Sopko
Educator, 45 (American)
Conscription is fundamentally immoral. Every individual is born with a natural right to self-ownership, and of all the ways governments systematically violate individuals’ rights, conscription is among the most egregious. Claiming control of a person’s life, even for a temporary period of time, is akin to slavery.

Jeremy Hyman
Financial adviser, 42 (American)
I see it as a good thing if it is used properly, and with no exceptions — especially for those with political or wealth-related connections. Of course, when looking at conscription overall, it is dangerous to the individual in that he or she could lose his or her life, but I think it has more positive overtones than negative.

Interested in gathering views in your neighborhood? E-mail community@japantimes.co.jp

  • Conscription (or selective service) is an indication that a government is in, or plans to be in unjust wars.
    If the war is just, and the country is worth defending, there will be no shortage of volunteers.
    After all, what would conscripts be fighting in the name of? Certainly not freedom, since their own has been denied to them. They’d be fighting in the name of their government’s right to enslave them, and they would exist only as tools to be used towards political-economic ends, instead of a desire to voluntarily protect the values that are important to them, within the context of national self-defense.

    That being said, some of these answers are amusing. In particular, “Erika Itagaki, English teacher, 30, said: “I don’t want my own husband to have to go to war.”.

    Well, what makes you think you also won’t have to go to war, sweetheart? You have a job, right? You’re allowed to work. You can vote. You are of able-bodied age. You have the same legal rights as every other adult, and thus the same obligations. You can’t just go enjoying all the benefits of legal equality, then bat your eyelids and play damsel-in-distress when the conscription bell starts ringing, shoving your husband out the front door like a human shield, while saying, “I’m gonna miss you, honey!”. It’s one way or the other, but not halfway. So strap on your 30kg backpack, Erika, cause you’re headed for the front-lines too.

  • Mark Garrett

    While I fundamentally agree with Dean regarding the immorality of of government imposed service, especially military in nature, I do wish there was a voluntary program that offered young people an opportunity to serve their country either domestically or abroad in return for life experience, a future college education and/or a small amount of remuneration.

    I think most 18-year-olds today, while physically more mature than 50+ years ago, are mentally far less developed, or maybe less focused is a better word. Our parents and grandparents for the most part had limited life avenue options after high school and if they did have aspirations of doing something more than working at the local factory they needed to enroll in college and get the proper education and training to do so.

    Today there a far more possibilities available and the paths to get there can take many forms. Improved transportation and the internet have shrunk the globe and kids have myriad distractions. Taking a couple of years to explore the world around you and learn about yourself; your strengths, passions, etc., can be the difference between a successful and rewarding future or a mid-life crisis.

    I think the working holiday program is a great start but it could be made into something so much better.

  • Samuraijamie

    Curious that there was no mention of sex discrimination in conscription in this article. They even interviewed a Singaporean but nowhere was it mentioned that Singapore only has male conscription while females are free to do what they want.