SOAS University of London

Japan Research Centre

Rising to the Challenge: Inside the Japanese Military Experience in the Great East Japan Earthquake

Alessio Patalano
Dr Alessio Patalano (Lecturer in East Asian Warfare and Security, Department of War Studies, King’s College London)

Date: 11 December 2013Time: 5:00 PM

Finishes: 11 December 2013Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings Room: G50

Type of Event: Seminar


This paper presents the first in-depth critical examination of the Japanese military experience in the natural disaster and nuclear incident that affected Japan in March 2011. This was the largest and most complex disaster in the history of modern Japan and the Japan Self-Defence Forces (JSDF) played a crucial role in meeting the challenge it presented. Drawing upon interviews with very senior Japanese uniformed officials directly involved in the relief and assistance operations and on data on the lessons learned from it, this paper offers unique insights on the wider significance of the largest Japanese military mobilisation of the post-war era. It examines the conduct of the operations, the relationship among civilian, military and local actors, to assess how these activities have affected defence policy and the wider role of the JSDF in Japanese society. In light of growing international attention to Japan as a military actor, this paper offers important considerations on how the Japanese military is evolving and why this change matters to East Asian security.

Speaker Biography

Dr Patalano specialises in Japanese naval history and strategy and East Asian maritime security. In Japan, Dr Patalano has been a Visiting Professor at the National Defence Academy (Yokosuka), and a Visiting Scholar at Aoyama Gakuin University and at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS). Currently he is Adjunct Fellow at the Institute of Contemporary Asian Studies, Temple University Japan. Dr Patalano’s publications appeared in academic journals in English, Japanese and Italian language. He has two books forthcoming: Security, Disaster Relief and the Great East Japan Earthquake: Inside the Japanese Military Experience (Palgrave 2014); and Japanese Seapower: Imperial Legacy, Wartime Experience and the Making of the Post-war Navy (Bloomsbury 2014).

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