In 1947, following the end of WWII and the Japanese surrender to the Allied Forces, the United States Armed Forces began to maintain a presence in Japan in an effort to enforce the decommission of the Japanese Imperial Army and Navy. As a result of the demilitarization of Japan, the United States imposed the Constitution of Japan, which stated that Japan was not to construct another military, placing the American Forces in charge. In 1950, a Japanese law enforcement element, called the Reserve Police, was established by Douglas MacArthur, and then turned into the Japan Self-Defense Forces.

In 1951, The Allied Forces and Japan signed the Treaty of San Francisco, which officially ended the post-WWII American occupation; however, the U.S. and Japan also signed the Japan-America Security Alliance, which established the United States Armed Forces as the legal defense forces in Japan. The Status of Forces Agreement stated that, in reciprocation for defense forces, Japan would provide military bases, funding and other provisions required by the United States to establish these forces for the defense of Japan.

Currently, there are about 33,500 active duty U.S. troops and 5,500 American civilians working and living in about 50 U.S. military installations located throughout Japan. The Japanese government gives the United States Armed Forces over two billion dollars annually to maintain these bases. In recent years, since the 1995 kidnapping and rape of a 12-year-old Okinawan girl by three military members, there have been massive demonstrations by Japanese activists, protesting the number of U.S. troops established in Japan. Since 1952, over 200,000 incidents involving military personnel and Japanese nationals have occurred, causing the deaths of over one thousand Japanese.

In February 2008, a U.S. Marine was arrested in the rape of a 14-year-old Okinawan girl, and there was a public outcryabout the effects of U.S. militarization on the people of Okinawa and Japan.  Since the February 2008 incident, American troops have been on strict lock-down; however, protestors maintain that the United States military has overstayed its welcome. According to rape crisis counselors in Japan, over 300 rapes committed by U.S. troops have been reported since 1945.  Since many sexual assaults go unreported, the actual number is probably much higher. Japanese activists contend that the U.S. military presence has resulted in the loss of their land rights and their sovereignty. Japanese citizens have complained about the incursion of U.S. military personnel in their communities, the noise from U.S. military aircraft, and the pollution caused by military equipment and bases. Many live in fear that their daughters will become victims of violence at the hands of U.S. military personnel.


For a look at the roles of women in the U.S. Military over time, click here.