Sayonara, Samurai

YASSER AL-ZAYYAT-AFP/GETTY IMAGES

PLAYING DEFENSE: Japanese soldiers train in Kuwait in 2004

When Japanese Self-defense Forces (SDF) troops departed for Iraq in 2004, they carried with them the fears of a divided nation, the historical burden of Japan's wartime actions—and Prince Pickles. The Prince, one of the SDF's cartoon mascots, is a cutesy manga character with saucer eyes and an oversized helmet who is supposed to soften the image of the Japanese military. Although the Prince seems unfit for service in a war zone, he's probably a perfect symbol for the SDF, which by law cannot use force beyond the minimum needed to defend itself and the nation. Japanese soldiers can find themselves...

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