Japan’s secret weapon: cuteness

Meet Prince Pickles, the new face of Japan’s increasingly active military, known as the Self-Defense Forces for constitutional reasons. The cute, manga-like cartoon character is intended to construct a non-threatening image of Japan’s military. For the past few years, the Japanese military has been seeking a more assertive global role, and will be the platform from ...

603872_022107_manga_05.jpg
603872_022107_manga_05.jpg

Meet Prince Pickles, the new face of Japan's increasingly active military, known as the Self-Defense Forces for constitutional reasons.

The cute, manga-like cartoon character is intended to construct a non-threatening image of Japan's military. For the past few years, the Japanese military has been seeking a more assertive global role, and will be the platform from which Japan can become a "normal" country in the wake of its strict postwar pacifism.

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."

Meet Prince Pickles, the new face of Japan’s increasingly active military, known as the Self-Defense Forces for constitutional reasons.

The cute, manga-like cartoon character is intended to construct a non-threatening image of Japan’s military. For the past few years, the Japanese military has been seeking a more assertive global role, and will be the platform from which Japan can become a “normal” country in the wake of its strict postwar pacifism.

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.”

Not surprisingly, the military’s efforts to adopt innocuous-looking symbols has raised suspicions that Japan is cloaking darker ambitions, but the government insists that such imaging serves to create cultural understanding and help Japan’s efforts in the military theater. In Japan’s Iraq mission (where it deployed 600 noncombatant troops in its first military mission since the Second World War), water trucks were decorated with Japan’s globally popular cartoon characters, and “everybody loved it,” according to Foreign Ministry official Aki Tsuda. Not a single truck was attacked in the two and half year mission, which Japanese officials attribute to the cartoons rather than the fact that the deployment area was largely free of violence.

Prerna Mankad is a researcher at Foreign Policy.

More from Foreign Policy

A Panzerhaubitze 2000 tank howitzer fires during a mission in Ukraine’s Donetsk region.
A Panzerhaubitze 2000 tank howitzer fires during a mission in Ukraine’s Donetsk region.

Lessons for the Next War

Twelve experts weigh in on how to prevent, deter, and—if necessary—fight the next conflict.

An illustration showing a torn Russian flag and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
An illustration showing a torn Russian flag and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

It’s High Time to Prepare for Russia’s Collapse

Not planning for the possibility of disintegration betrays a dangerous lack of imagination.

An unexploded tail section of a cluster bomb is seen in Ukraine.
An unexploded tail section of a cluster bomb is seen in Ukraine.

Turkey Is Sending Cold War-Era Cluster Bombs to Ukraine

The artillery-fired cluster munitions could be lethal to Russian troops—and Ukrainian civilians.

A joint session of Congress meets to count the Electoral College vote from the 2008 presidential election the House Chamber in the U.S. Capitol  January 8, 2009 in Washington.
A joint session of Congress meets to count the Electoral College vote from the 2008 presidential election the House Chamber in the U.S. Capitol January 8, 2009 in Washington.

Congrats, You’re a Member of Congress. Now Listen Up.

Some brief foreign-policy advice for the newest members of the U.S. legislature.