The government will consider allowing tattooed youths to join the Japan Self-Defense Forces if they are otherwise qualified, as the SDF faces a chronic personnel shortage amid a low birthrate.

A senior Defense Ministry official recently admitted the need at a parliamentary session reviewing the current guideline banning people from applying to be an SDF cadet if they have tattoos, which are generally considered taboo in Japan.

The official's response came after an Upper House lawmaker of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party pointed to the need to study removing such a ban to secure much-needed personnel.

"Rejecting applicants just because they have tattoos poses a problem in terms of enhancing the human resources base," said Masahisa Sato, noting the serious shortage of SDF cadets.

"There are various kinds, including fashion tattoos like a small flower or one's own name," the former senior Ground Self-Defense Force officer said.

Although small tattoos have gradually become popular among Japanese youth, many often associate them, especially those covering the entire body, with yakuza crime syndicates or other anti-social groups.

Kazuhito Machida, head of the ministry's Personnel and Education Bureau, said the government needs to consider reviewing the rule, given the nation's declining birthrate, which fell below 800,000 last year.

With Japan facing an increasingly severe security environment amid issues such as China's rapid military buildup and North Korea's missile and nuclear threats, the government has repeatedly emphasized securing enough SDF members.

The ministry recruits mainly high school graduates as cadets, but the number of applicants has been on a declining trend due to the falling birthrate and more people seeking higher education.