As Japan embarks on a major military build-up, it's struggling to fill its ranks with the women that its forces need and its policymakers have pledged to recruit. Following a wave of sexual harassment cases, the number of women applying to join the Self-Defense Forces decreased by 12% in the year ending March 2023, after several years of steady growth. Some victims have said an entrenched culture of harassment could deter women from signing up.

But nine months after the Defense Ministry pledged to take drastic measures, it has no plans to take action on a key recommendation issued by an independent panel of experts — implementing a national system for reviewing anti-harassment training standards — according to two ministry officials responsible for training.

The government-appointed panel had identified in a report published in August that the military's superficial harassment education — which made only limited mention of sexual harassment — and a lack of centralized oversight of such training were contributing factors to cultural problems within the institution.