Oh look, Japan has Marines again
Well, “again” may not be entirely correct. Back in 1897, the Imperial Japanese Navy formed, much like every modern navy or the time, a cadre on each of its seagoing vessels of sailors equipped with small arms, basic pack, and a smattering of small unit tactics into what were termed landing force (rikusentai) units, soon to be bloodied in the Russo-Japanese War, the grab for Tsingtao from the Germans and later fighting in Manchuria.
By 1932, these individual detachments formed into company and battalion sized units named after their naval district and were designated Special Naval Landing Forces (Kaigun Tokubetsu Rikusentai), characterized by Western historians as something akin to the marine troops of the Imperial Japanese Navy as they evolved into specialists in amphibious warfare, and three battalions of the force was even parachute trained.
It was the SNLF that saw some of the bloodiest combat of WWII and many of these units (growing as large as regimental and brigade-sized) were bled out of existence in the subsequent island hopping campaigns of 1942-44, ceasing to exist as a whole in 1945.
Post-war, as a byproduct of the 1947 Japanese constitution which swore off aggression, the Coastal Safety Force (which later morphed into the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force) lacked dedicated amphibious troops although ship’s boarding teams were formed for inspections. While the JMSDF has operated old WWII-era surplus landing ships (USS LST-689 as JDS Oosumi starting in 1961), built their own 2,000-ton Miura-class LSTs in the 1970s, and today operate three very modern 14,000-ton Ōsumi-class tank landing ships (the latter capable of carrying a pair of LCACs, 8 helicopters, and a battalion-sized force with 10 main battle tanks each), the forces intended to be toted were regular Army (well, “Japan Ground Self-Defense Force”) troops whenever they weren’t conducting search & rescue and other disaster relief operations such as after an earthquake and tsunami.
This has changed as the Japanese are considering placing an order for a large Wasp-class amphibious assault ship and the Japanese Diet approved a law that allowed for the reinterpretation of the constitution that allowed military personnel to train with U.S. forces in amphibious assault units designed to take outlying islands.
And now they are working on Marines…
The new Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade (suirikugidoudan) stood up 7 April and is a 2,100-man unit formed around the nucleus of the old Western Army Infantry Regiment, the former a battalion sized light infantry unit that since 2002 has trained just for amphibious operations in defense of the Home Islands. While still light infantry in nature, they are acquiring AAVP-7A1’s amtracs, and Japan is looking at MV-22 Ospreys as well to form legit Marine Expeditionary Units.