Japan’s Defense Exports: “Three Years Sitting on a Stone”

Michael Hadlow and Dr. Crystal Pryor
March 26, 2018

Sasakawa USA Forum Issue No. 12

Japan’s Defense Exports: “Three Years Sitting on a Stone”

The Japanese proverb, ishi no ue san nen (石の上三年) translates literally as “three years on a stone.” It conveys a lesson in patience: three years sitting on a cold stone will eventually make it warm. It has been more than three years since the Abe government lifted restrictions on Japan’s defense exports, but sales of defense products overseas have yet to heat up. This paper focuses on the contradiction created by Japan’s overall stance as a pacifist country that does not, and likely will not, possess an offensive military force and the change in direction Tokyo recently made to allow overseas military sales. In particular, the bureaucracy in Japan has acted as gatekeeper, policing export opportunities while allocating insufficient resources to promoting the defense industry. For Japan to achieve its stated goal of increased defense exports, officials across the defense export–related ministries must contribute to warming the stone.


Read Japan’s Defense Exports: “Three Years Sitting on a Stone”


About the Authors

Michael Hadlow is an Australian former Defense Attaché (Tokyo) who retired from full-timeArmy service in 2013. He now works in the private sector in Tokyo as a consultant covering the aerospace and defense industry. He has experience in government-to-government negotiations related to logistics cross-servicing, information sharing, and cooperation on international peace operations. He is a graduate of the Japan Ground Self Defence Force Staff College. The opinions expressed in this article are his own.

Crystal Pryor, Ph.D., is program director and research fellow at Pacific Forum. Prior to her current appointment, she completed a postdoctoral fellowship in the U.S.-Japan Relations program at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard University. She received her doctorate in political science from the University of Washington, master’s degree in political science from the University of Tokyo, and bachelor’s degree in international relations with honors from Brown University. Crystal has researched U.S.-Japan outer space security cooperation, strategic trade control implementation in advanced countries, and Japan’s defense industry and arms exports.

About the Sasakawa USA Forum

This paper serves as Issue No. 12 of the Sasakawa USA Forum, a platform for research and analysis related to Japan and U.S.-Japan relations in a bilateral, regional, and global context. In order to gain a more comprehensive view of U.S.-Japan relations, the Sasakawa USA Forum publishes research from experts outside of our organization. Click here for details on how to submit research for consideration.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email