By Shinji Abe / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff WriterYOKOSUKA, Kanagawa — Standing on the eastern edge of the Miura Peninsula in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, the National Defense Academy (see below) has trained about 26,000 graduates to serve at the forefront of Japan’s defense.
The academy was founded 65 years ago in 1953, with Tomoo Maki (1891-1968) as its first president.
Maki and others who were deeply involved in the establishment of the academy had an image of an ideal leader that is still being passed on to this day.
“Worldwide, schools that educate future leaders of the air, naval and ground forces in an integrated manner are rare,” said Ryosei Kokubun, the academy’s current and ninth president.
In 1952, when then Prime Minster Shigeru Yoshida established the National Safety Academy, which would later change its name to the National Defense Academy, he wanted to avoid the interservice conflicts that had embroiled the defunct Imperial Japanese Army and Navy.
Yoshida is said to have thought that instead of training officer candidates for the three branches of the Self-Defense Forces separately, they should be educated together to deepen their sense of solidarity.
After deciding that a civilian would hold the post of academy president, Yoshida initially wanted Shinzo Koizumi, one of his close associates and a former president of Keio University, to be the academy’s first leader.
Koizumi, however, was involved in educating the crown prince — the current Emperor— so he recommended Maki in his stead.
When Koizumi was president of Keio, Maki had “served as his right-hand man, as something like a vice president,” according to Kokubun.
When Maki was 25 years old, he studied political thought and philosophy at the University of Oxford in Britain. After returning to Japan, he served as a professor in Keio’s law department, teaching political science, the history of British constitutional law and other subjects.
When Maki became academy president, Japan had only recently been defeated in World War II. He described his vision for what leaders involved in national defense should look like in an age of democracy.
At the entrance ceremony for the academy’s first generation of cadets, he emphasized their individuality, telling them they would be the “foundation of a modern civilization,” while demanding that they follow the rules.
Before the war, Maki had headed the construction of Keio’s Hiyoshi Campus.
The campus was severely damaged during air raids on Tokyo, and after the war Maki left Keio, saying he would “set out on my own and help the nation become independent.”
According to Kokubun, Maki found inspiration in Yukichi Fukuzawa, the founder of Keio University.
“Koizumi and Maki injected into the academy Fukuzawa’s teaching that establishing independent individuals helps create an independent nation,” Kokubun said.
In his later years, Maki is said to have told those around him, “At the National Defense Academy, I was able to accomplish what I couldn’t do [at Keio],” according to the book “Maki Tomoo Sensei no Tsuioku”(Maki Tomoo’s reminiscence) by Washichi Konno.
Maritime Self-Defense Force Rear Admiral Tateki Tawara, head of the department that coordinates cadet training, entered the academy in 1985.
Inspired by the movie “Top Gun,” he once wanted to become an Air Self-Defense Force pilot. This dream was not to be, however, and as a second-year student he was assigned to the MSDF. His career included stints as captain of the submarine Takashio.
Although his mission on submarines was often unglamorous, “I really felt like I was working on the front lines of defense,” he said.
In 2013, the MSDF jointed a multinational task force to fight piracy off the coast of Somalia in Africa.
Tawara participated in this effort, not on the site but at the Maritime Staff Office in the Ichigaya district in Tokyo, where he coordinated with other departments and organizations to support the MSDF units.
Tawara said his work was aided by the fact that the GSDF official who headed the main department he coordinated with was a classmate from the academy.
The SDF is expected to increase integration in operations dealing with North Korea, the situation around the Senkaku Islands and other issues.
“There’s no question that the integrated education the academy provides is going to grow in importance,” Tawara said.
Cadet march the highlight for visitors
The National Defense Academy began offering tours for civilians in 2006. About 3,000 people take a tour every year.
The highlight is watching cadets march to class in unison, chanting “one, one, one two.” A statue of the academy’s fist president, Tomoo Maki, watches over the marching cadets.
The tours also stop at the memorial hall where graduation ceremonies are held. Prime ministers give the commencement address.
These ceremonies famously end with the graduates throwing their caps into the air. Junior cadets collect the caps afterward and return them to the academy.
The Maki Kinen Shitsu, which opened in 2008, has information on Maki’s background and the history of the academy.
Reservations are required to take a tour, which are free of charge. For details, contact the academy at (046) 841-3810.
■ National Defense Academy
The academy is a Defense Ministry educational institution that trains future senior SDF officers. Its campus is about 650,000 square meters, which is equivalent to the size of 14 Tokyo Domes. Its about 2,000 first- through fourth-year cadets — about 210 of whom are women and about 90 of whom are from overseas — live together in dormitories.
The cadets are specially appointed national civil servants. They do not pay tuition and receive a monthly allowance of about ¥110,000.
Upon graduation, they attend officer candidate schools of the ground, air or maritime forces for specialized training. The percentage of graduates who do not receive SDF postings is affected by the employment environment. In recent years, slightly less than 10 percent have not received postings, a higher number than average year.Speech