Every year, the Japanese Self Defense Force (called the roundabout way since the constitution’s chapter 9 doesn’t allow an army) holds a very impressive firepower demonstration at the ground forces’ base near Fuji. That means that if you’re “lucky” to have clear weather (as clear weather means scorching August sun), then you get to see the various tanks thunder and choppers zoom up and down with the backdrop of the famous mountain. And obviously the purpose of the whole show is to charm youngsters into joining the surprisingly unpopular service of the SDF, so the scenery’s extra memorability just adds to the effect.
While they say that working for the SDF is not popular, their firepower demonstrations definitely are. You either have to get your tickets through lottery or connections and if you rely on the former, then you have to be really lucky just to get your ticket, let alone make demands about the weather. I heard there was less demand this year than usual, but it was still 27 times full house. How did I (a foreigner) get there then? The second option. The SDF cooperated with the movies I’m working on and so they asked if we wanted to go. We did.
It’s a morning show and unless you want to have no sitting spot at all, it’s basically required to be there 2 hours early. Which meant a departure at 5:30am for us from Tokyo, and I had the pleasure to drive. The rented car was a 7-seat minivan (SUV?) and while I’ve driven vans before, this was my first time on the hilarious highways of Japan. Hilarious because people seem to have absolutely no concern for others, something you can see on other roads too, just at 100kmph it’s a bit more apparent. The way there was easy, but the way back was hell. Sunday evening jams all the way, so it took two if not three times as long to return than to go.
The weather was cloudy, but it didn’t rain, in exchange I got sunburnt really bad.
The show itself was nothing short of impressive. It’s a case of when you just don’t know what the numbers mean and then you get overwhelmed by then. In KanColle you’d see 12cm cannons and they’d count as weak – but when you get a Type 10 tank shoot a target at distance and you can feel the blast of the “muzzle flash” on your face and the ground shaking, from hundreds of meters, and see the shockwave of the explosion before the flames, that makes you realize that 12cm is a lot too. I can only wonder what a Yamato-class 46cm must’ve been like.
On the other hand, it made me wonder. A nation that isn’t allowed by its constitution to wage war (and the recent years’ changes didn’t change that) having such overwhelming power to kill in their hands, and all for what? I understand what defense is, but it still can’t not feel paranoid to me.