- Registration time
- Last login
- Online time
- 2718 Hour
- Reading permission
Pilot Sho Yoshida, also known as "kickass".
The Japanese Self-Defence Forces have been precisely that – remaining vigilant to outside threats but constitutionally restrained from striking the first blow.
Now, with an assertive China throwing its weight around in North Asia, there is a developing inclination among Japan's leadership to take its tactical lead from another playbook: that the best form of defence is attack.
In July Japan's cabinet approved plans to redraft the country's constitutionto allow the armed forces to fight overseas in support of friendly countries.
Air force top guns on new frontlineThe new frontline with China is the Japanese air force base at Naha in Okinawa, at the southern tail of the Japanese archipelago.
The jet fighter pilots based at Naha are just 20 minutes away from the Senkaku islands - the region's biggest flashpoint, which has brought Japan and China close to war.
China lays historical claim to the islands it calls Diaoyu, but Japan administers them and is not backing down.
Tension at the base is increasing. The pilots based here have seen more close calls and scrambles against Chinese jet fighters in the last year, at 810 incidents, than in the past decade.
On the morning Foreign Correspondent visited the base, the order to scramble was given twice.
Pilot Sho Yoshida says he is always tense these days, as he does not "know the purpose and the intention of an aircraft that is approaching our air domain".
He acknowledges his job "is a heavy responsibility" but says he is prepared to sacrifice his life for his country.
"My job is very important - to protect the peace and security of our country," he said.
Destroyer houses quick-reaction war roomConstitutionally, Japan is only allowed to have a self-defence force.
But the reality is that it has one of the biggest and most sophisticated militaries in the world.
This is clearly evident on the guided missile destroyer Myōkō, where Foreign Correspondent was given rare access to the Combat Information Centre (CIC).
Full of computer screens, maps, and secret launch codes, it is the very heart of Japan's defence system.
The CIC can track and destroy anything across North Asia.
If China or North Korea launches a missile or deploys a jet fighter, Japan will see it here first, and an order to strike back will be issued from the CIC.
The destroyer's executive officer, Captain Tsuyoshi Sato, says a special vertical launching system has been developed to launch 90 missiles within minutes.
Captain Sato says they simply wait for the order to push to the button.
"When our country is attacked the prime minister will make a defence order. We'll find the target, and attack it," he said.
Defence spending up, patriotism on the riseJapan's prime minister Shinzo Abe has increased his country's defence budget for the second year in a row, and Japan's defence spending is now ranked seventh in the world.
A decade ago, one in 10 young Japanese said they wanted to be a soldier for love of country. Now that figure is close to one in three.
Michio Onji, a fourth-year cadet at Japan's elite military academy, says enrolments are bigger than ever.
"In the old days the Self-Defence Forces were seen as tax money robbers who did nothing. Through disaster relief like the 2011 tsunami, the prestige of the SDF has increased," he said