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July 5, 2013
Tanks but No Tanks in Japan
 
The uses to which PR (or, in this instance, marketing) techniques can be turned include, of course, military ones. An example of that seems to be occurring in Japan, where The Ashai Shimbun is carrying a story, "Self-Defense Forces winning PR battle with softer approach." It's a fascinating exercise that could also be a somewhat ominous one in the ultra self-conscious context of Japan's military. 

Japan has been officially demilitarized since its defeat in World War II. Yet it has maintained a national self-defense force which, advises Ashai Shimbun, one of Japan's oldest national newspapers, is now offering (via the Defense Ministry) a hit DVD titled "Yoku Wakaru! Rikujo Jieitai" (Plain to see! The Japan Ground Self-Defense Force with the subtitle, "Riku no Oja! Nihon wo Mamoru Sensha no Rekishi" (King of the Land! A history of tanks that defend Japan). "It sold more than 15,000 copies during the first week of release," the paper reports.

And last month, "the Ueshima Coffee Co. began offering assembly-type miniature models of tanks and other military paraphernalia as giveaway items that come with one of its canned coffee products." The offers aren't likely so well thought of in South Korea or China where Japan has been involved in long-standing disputes over rocky islands in the Sea of Japan and the South China Sea. Japan, says the story, has been getting franker about the existence and maintenance of its military forces and gaining a receptive response from the Japanese public in the process. 

The Ashai Shimbun story concludes by quoting Atsushi Koketsu, a political scientist and a vice president at Yamaguchi University, who "voiced concerns about a lack of sufficient discussion on the merits of the recent friendliness of the SDF toward the media. 'The SDF, quick to catch on to the rising public expectations toward itself amid the standoffs over the Senkakus and Takeshima, is tying up with various media to bolster its public profile,' Koketsu said. 'While the SDF is facing the general public with a soft approach, it also appears that the SDF is hoping to materialize its long-cherished desires, such as a constitutional amendment and an upgrade to national defense forces, while the Abe administration, with its high public approval ratings, stays in office. I am concerned about the lack of serious debate at a time a trend like that is being formed.'"

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Doug Bedell has a background in journalism and PR and is the owner of Resource Relations LLC in Central PA, focusing on organizational and crisis communication. He’s the community manager of SimplyFair.net, a social network on fairness. On the Web, Doug’s at www.ResourceRelations.com. On Twitter, he’s @DougBeetle.
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