Japan has been largely pacifist since WWII. Although it does have armed forces, I've heard that the country hasn't killed anyone in combat since WWII.

While I assume that WWII, the deadliest war in history in absolute numbers, played a role in that, I don't know what exact role it has played in that. For example, I don't know whether Japan avoids war because it feels guilty about the war, or because it suffered greatly during the war and wants to avoid being on the receiving end of further suffering. I also don't know whether Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution causes Japan's pacifism, or that its continued existence is merely the result of Japanese pacifism.

  • I assume for many of the same reason many nations are relatively pacifist. In addition, there is a history of restrictions post WWII based on policy as well as public sentiment: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…
    – user1530
    Oct 3, 2014 at 15:46
  • 1
    For what it's worth, the self-defense force of Japan has an active personnel of 250,000 and a yearly budget of US-$40 billion. And they are armed. On the other hand there are a lot of countries who haven't killed anyone in combat since WWII. This both may put the assumptions of the question somewhat into perspective. Aug 15, 2017 at 12:12

5 Answers 5


The recent changes are because of a perceived threat from China - whether that is true is up for debate.

Does it avoid war because of guilt? Well whether Japan actually feels guilty is doubtful:

  • On the one hand there were numerous official apologies, there were convictions in the International Military Tribunal for the Far East and more people believe it was a war of aggression rather than defense.
  • On the other hand there are the Yasukuni Shrine controversies, the school history books are also viewed controversial internationally, some of the war crimes are denied and this.
    I suspect those explain that 45% claim that the war had both offensive and defensive aspects.

That study also has question Qb where the answer "The damage caused to citizens" (given by 31% of all participants) tells us how much think that future generations should be aware of the war for self-preservation; That isn't too far off to your guess that the Japanese people avoid war for fear of suffering.

The Japanese people are rather fond and even proud of their Article 9 - I don't know what is cause and what is effect in this case.


According to the Japanese foreign exchange students I spoke to in 1995, the answer is that they believe the atomic bombings (of Hiroshima and Nagasaki) poisoned the land.

These foreign exchange students were college-age young men and women. The women were in secretarial schools; the men were about as bright as the women. They did not seem to be history students, so I took their answer as being typical of the culture.

I conclude that the (shocking) end of World War II forced the Japanese to consider the cultural and religious ramifications of losing a war. As a culture, the Japanese concluded that pacifism is preferable to risking further "poisoning of the land".

As Zell Faze points out, the United States imposed demilitarization upon Japan, but also set up an effective national government. Thus, Japan has not fallen into civil war. Because post-war Japan also has no land borders, and the United States set up more-or-less effective alliances to defend Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan, post-war Japan has not needed to fight foreign wars to defend itself.

It is widely assumed that Japan is capable of rapidly becoming a nuclear power. Thus, some of the logic of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) tends to prevent escalation of contretemps between the United States, China, Japan, and Russia (and its predecessor the Soviet Union). This also validates the Japanese public's fear of warmongering turning into nuclear devastation.

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    +1. The only answer so far to include the strong emotional tie the Japanese feel for their homeland. This strong sense of mono-cultural land-bound identity contributed to both the negative excess of ultra-nationalism and the later surfeit of pacifist preservationism. Oct 10, 2014 at 1:08

Japan prospered mightily after World War II, even though it lost. Until China recently overtook it, Japan was the second richest country in the world, after the United States. It is still second on a per capita basis.

Japan is also one of the G-7 global powers, alongside her World War II allies, Italy and Germany, as well as France, Britain, Canada and the United States.

Basically, Japan got everything it could have hoped for by siding with Germany, if they had won World War II.

And they achieved all this without fighting. That, according to Sun Tzu, was the acme of skill.

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    Acme of skill. Not quite. The Japanese imperialist era was not without long term consequences for Japanese foreign policy. Rightly or wrongly, neither China nor Korea have a positive opinion of Japan to this day. Imagine if Canada and Mexico loathed the US, and the US had no natural resources. They got what they wanted in spite of Emperor Showa, not because of him. The Japanese prospered due to strong fundamentals - until they didn't. Oct 10, 2014 at 1:02
  • @LateralFractal: "Basically, Japan got everything it could have hoped for by siding with Germany, if they had won World War II." That includes the emnity of China and Korea.
    – Tom Au
    Oct 10, 2014 at 20:17
  • Why would they want emnity? I'm not saying such a geopolitical objective couldn't exist; but it sounds pretty odd to hope for hostile neighbours. Oct 11, 2014 at 1:05
  • @LateralFractal: Japan wouldn't have "hoped for" the emnity of China and Korea. But that's what they would have gotten if they had won the war side-by-side with Germany. That's just a geopolitical "fact of life."
    – Tom Au
    Jun 23, 2015 at 0:51

This was a question I asked myself some time ago. While I can't give a source for this answer, I can give what I can remember.

One of the conditions of the surrender by the Japanese was that they disarm and not have a military and keep an absolute minimum defensive force. While I don't know if it is in the letter of the terms, I believe that the implication was that they were forbidden from entering anything but a defensive war.


Because US government has guarding bases, which are patroling aerial space.

After US close their impact on this region, Japan Air Forces will accept F16 and other interceptors.

According to treaties, Japan could not have bombers and some other active attacking vehicles.

But I don't feel that Japan would ever need something like bombers in our modern era of guided missiles and intercontinental rockets.

And war expenses are very uncomfortable nowadays.

Japan air force has right now 165 F-15 and overall about 700 aircrafts.

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