As Japan sheds its postwar pacifism and gears up to take a higher military profile in the world, it is enlisting cadres of cute characters and adorable mascots to put a gentle, harmless sheen to its Self-Defense Forces deployments.
"Prince Pickles is our image character because he's very endearing, which is what Japan's military stands for," said Defense Ministry official Shotaro Yanagi. "He's our mascot and appears in our pamphlets and stationery."
Foreign Minister Taro Aso argues warm feelings for Japanese animation can translate into warm feelings for Japanese foreign policy. "The more positive images pop into a person's mind, the easier it becomes for Japan to get its views across".
The Defense Agency was upgraded to a full ministry in January, and the government is busy implementing education guidelines to instill a sense of patriotism in the classroom. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wants to rewrite the Constitution and expand military operations with Japan's top ally, the United States.
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SDF deploys perky mascot to boast cuddly image