Like 2021, the year 1951 was one of typhoons, heavy rain, flooding and landslides. But a big difference was the ability of the Self-Defense Forces, Japan’s postwar military, to respond to the emergencies.

“Ability” here does not refer to willingness, or capability, but to the legal framework and political support for relief operations to be undertaken in the first place. Today, it is almost a given that the SDF will be called upon to assist local communities and prefectures after a disaster. Indeed, it has become a burden of sorts for the SDF as they are now the “go-to guys” for all sorts of missions. But, 70 years ago, it was basically taboo for them to be involved.

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