When it comes to national security, the Japanese live by the “two plus one” rule.
As cadets we had no idea what that meant coming into Japan with little background knowledge on the Japanese military operations. However, it only took a trip to Camp Asaka in the middle of Tokyo to understand the grave importance of this rule. The Japanese have three eminent threats, with the first two being countries. As most people would suspect the two biggest threats in the Pacific Theater are China and North Korea.
However, the Japanese face an even larger threat that has been there since the formation of the country itself. In the “plus one” rule, the fall out from a shift in the Nankai Trough, the formation of five tectonic plates in the Pacific ocean near Japan, is the one event that could potentially threaten hundreds of thousands of people along the coast.
As seen only a few years ago, the Great Eastern Earthquake that hit Japan destroyed many cities and villages while also taking the lives of thousands of people. The damage from this earthquake was a rude awakening to the power that the Nankai Trough holds.
Japan is still recovering from the aftermath of the earthquake only to be threatened by the Nankai Trough again. Scientists estimate that a 9.2 magnitude earthquake will hit Japan in the next ten years. Although scientists are unsure of when the earthquake will exactly hit, the Japanese Ground Self Defense Forces are in full swing to prepare for the worst.
During our time at Camp Asaka, we observed the Joint Exercise Rescue that is conducted every year to prepare for this event. All self defense forces from all regional armies participate in the JXR every year. This year they ran practice medical evacuations and helicopter landings with members from U.S. Army Japan. Since this is a national military event, General Iwata, chief of staff of the Ground Self Defense Forces in Japan observed the JXR while on his tour of the five regional armies. He stressed the importance of making this event a bilateral event, and advocated for an increased participation of U.S. forces in Japan.
With this being an annual event, U.S. Army Japan plans to increase its participation in next years JXR along with the other branches in Japan to create a stronger partnership in preparation for this eminent disaster.