Need a part-time job? Ever considered the Self-Defense Forces? Spending holidays in boot camp could earn you 7,900 yen a day.

Bills to amend SDF-related laws that recently cleared the House of Councilors allow the Defense Agency, for the first time in the SDF’s 50-year history, to recruit reservists without previous military experience.

The reserve candidate system is open to citizens between the ages of 18 and 34, including college students. Candidates are hired, if so desired, as regular reservists after completing a 50-day basic training regimen over a span of three years.

Reservists, who would be called in an emergency, are now limited to veterans. The reservists engage in training for five days per year and receive 4,000 yen a month plus 8,100 yen per day of training. In addition to logistic support for SDF troops in emergencies, disaster relief activities have been added to their duty by the latest law revisions.

Reserve training would include the standard boot camp fare, said Col. Akihiko Tabara of the Ground Self-Defense Force Operations Division. He said the agency plans to recruit a few hundred candidates for fiscal 2002, adding that he hopes the number of recruits will increase in the future.

Defense Agency Director General Gen Nakatani told a recent news conference that the new system is “epoch making.”

“I believe the new system will serve as a bridge between civilians and the Defense Agency and SDF,” he said.

The agency has set aside special quotas for citizen reservists with special skills, including doctors, language experts and lawyers.

The purpose of the reserve system is to widen the supply of personnel amid an aging population, senior GSDF officers said, noting the system will offer more people opportunities to understand the SDF’s activities.

The latest figures put the number of GSDF troops at 146,000, far below the maximum 172,000 allowed under the current defense program. The officers said tapping the expertise of the private sector, especially in such fields as information technology and legal affairs, will become more important for the SDF in the future.

A few decades ago, when the public was less supportive of the SDF’s existence under the pacifist Constitution, the reserve system would have been a difficult notion for citizens to accept.

Seiken Akamine, a House of Representatives member of the Japanese Communist Party, voiced his opposition to the reserve system when it was being debated by the Lower House Security Affairs Committee in April, especially the fact that university students could be recruited.

But when he pointed out that many Japanese university students were drafted and sent to die in battlefields during the war, his statement drew laughter from some of his committee colleagues. With little media mention, the SDF-related bills were approved with only the JCP and Social Democratic Party putting up resistance, which was in vain.

Whereas reservists outnumber standing forces in many other industrialized nations, SDF reservist ranks are very limited, currently numbering about 46,000, according to the Defense Agency. Tetsuo Maeda, professor at Tokyo International University, reckoned governments are always interested in employing or recruiting skilled personnel.

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