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Japan (日本) renounced its right to declare war in the aftermath of the Second World War, but nevertheless maintains a sizeable and well-trained armed force. The Japanese Self-Defense Forces (自衛隊 or Jieitai), established in 1954, consist of the Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF), Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) and Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF). Since 1992, the National Diet has permitted the JSDF to participate in international peacekeeping efforts around the world of a non-combatant nature. These efforts have included limited involvement in Iraq, Haiti, and Somalia.

Camouflage uniforms were not commonly worn by members of the JSDF until approximately 1991. Prior to this only individual units such as the Airborne Rangers were issued camouflage.

Japanese Camouflage Patterns

  • Japanese snipers serving in the Pacific often issued utilitarian camouflaged smocks, reminiscent of British ghillie suits, that were historically worn by fishermen as rain garments. The smocks were made from sheets of shaggy, reddish-brown fibres that grow at the base of coconut trees, sewn together to form a loose-fitting covering. These smocks were documented by the US Army and published in photographs by the US Army Intelligence Service as early as 1942.

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  • The first modern camouflage pattern of Japanese design was introduced in the 1980s. The design, having black, brown and medium green woodland shapes on a pale green background, was primarily issued to members of the 1st Airborne Brigade. In later years, the pattern saw sporadic issue to other units. The pattern became outdated in 1992 with the introduction of the "dots" design.


  • A camouflage design based on the original JSDF drawings was introduced in 1988 for issue to the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force Ground Defense and Airbase Security Personnel. This pattern's use has continued into the present era, but is gradually being replaced by a digital design.


  • A new camouflage design based on the German Army's flecktarn was introduced in 1991 for issue to the entire JNSDF. The pattern features black, brown and grass green dots on a khaki background, and is produced in a variety of uniform articles as well as field equipment. The pattern is often called Jietai (自衛隊) in reference to the indigenous name for the JNSDF.


  • A winter version of the Jietai dots pattern having a higher concentration of brown has been produced for a cold weather jacket and Goretex all-weather gear. The primary difference in the pattern seems to be an inverse ratio of green to brown.


  • JSDF personnel operating in mountainous, snowy regions wear a special all-white insulated winter uniform. (no photo)
  • A desert pattern was briefly entertained for use by Japanese Air Self-Defense Force Ground Defense and Airbase Security Personnel. Loosely based on the US six-color desert "chocolate chip" pattern, this design was never officially adopted. It was tested between 1992 and 1995.


  • First seen in 2008, the JSDF now issue a desert camouflage uniform based on the US tricolor desert pattern, but reduced in overall size. This was worn by JASDF personnel serving in Iraq and is likely to continue being issued to those serving with the UN abroad.


  • Ground Defense and Airbase Security Personnel of the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force are the first Japanese personnel to be issued a pixelated camouflage design, as seen here. This pattern was originally introduced in 2009. It is interesting to note that the colors chosen are actually quite similar to the original JSDF pattern introduced in the 1980s.


  • Japanese military personnel deployed to East Africa in 2012 have worn a recolored desert version of the Jietai dots pattern camouflage, having brown and khaki dots on a sandy background.


  • Selected personnel of the Japanese Maritime Self Defence Force (JMSDF) are issued with a pixelated camouflage design having a blue/purple colorway.


Comparison Photographs

  • Comparision of the Japanese Air Force desert pattern with the Japanese Air Force pattern

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  • Comparision of the Japanese Air Force pattern with the Japanese Army Airborne pattern

Japan comp2.jpg