You could be forgiven thinking that the Japanese Ground Self-Defence Forces Public Information Center is a museum, but it's far from that. I mean you walk in and you see a lot of military exhibits like tanks, helicopters, guns and bombs so it definitely does look like a museum. Walk around a bit and then you’d notice that everything there (with the exception of one exhibit) is modern or fairly modern. There is nothing there from Japanese military history. The purpose of this facility is to act as the publicity centre for Japan’s army. People who are eligible to join Japanese Ground Self-Defence Forces can go there to get some more information about what to expect in the service. But, for anyone who isn’t eligible and has an interest in things military, it is a great place. To be honest, I enjoy it immensely.
When you get there, don’t be surprised how small it is, but, everything there is real and was used at some point in the past. Inside in the main building there is a Bell AH-1 Cobra helicopter and a Type 90 tank. You can also see a Type 91 man-portable surface-to-air missile, some machine guns and assault rifles, a motorbike, gasmasks, military rations and even a one-ton bomb from World War II. And for those into GI Joe, you can even don a uniform for the duration of your stay.
Outside are the rest of the “big” displays. Some of Japan’s modern military equipment can be seen there, including:
1) Type 10 and 74 tanks;
2) Type 89 armoured combat vehicle;
3) Type 87 self-propelled anti-aircraft gun;
4) Type 94 beach-minelayer;
5) Type 74 and 75 self-propelled guns;
6) Middle-range Multi-purpose missile system, and;
7) a Bell Huey transport helicopter.
The outdoor displays are very good and in very good condition. They even have an underground command bunker outside, which is worth a quick look.
Back inside you can find some simulators! You can drive a tank or fly a helicopter and blow up some targets. The simulators are nothing too fancy, but they give you a basic idea of what it is like to operate the real thing. They aren’t that realistic though and you could probably find better on an X-Box or Playstation.
And being a public relations center it wouldn’t be complete without movie theatre, which in 3D movie but entirely in Japanese. You just need to remember it was made to attract people into joining the JGSDF, so it is all very positive stuff. On your way out, you might want to drop in on the gift shop and have a look at the models and rations on sale (they might be a bit expensive for some though)
If there is anything lacking about the place, it’s just the size as it isn’t very big. All the displays, in my opinion, all top-notch but there is very little chance of spending the whole day there. The other thing is that is a twenty-minute walk from the station which might be far for some people. And lastly, it is in Saitama prefecture, nothing wrong with that of course, but there is nothing else to see near the Information Center.
So if you are into military stuff, the JGSDF Public Information Center could well be for you. Just keep in mind that it is not a real museum and there is absolutely nothing there that deals with World War 2 as Japan’s Self-Defence Forces were created in the 1950s.
You can see the center’s Japanese website here.
How to get to the JGSDF Public Information Center
First you need to get to Wakoshi station which is in Saitama prefecture, next to Tokyo. You can use one of the following:
1) Tobu-Tojo line;
2) Yurakucho subway line, or;
3) Fukutoshin subway line.
From the station it is about an easy twenty minute walk. It is all flat, no hills. Here is a Google map to help you:
The JGSDF Public Information Center is open from 10 am to 5 pm. It is closed every Monday and the fourth Tuesday of every month.
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