Despite an officially pacifist constitution written when memories of its World War II rampage were still fresh — and painful — Japan boasts a military that puts all but a few nations to shame.

Dozens of tanks and soldiers fired explosives and machine guns in drills Monday on Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido, a main stronghold for a nation that is perhaps the world’s least-known military powerhouse.

Just across the sea from rival Russia, Japan opened up its humbly named Self Defense Force’s firing exercises to the media in a display of public firepower that coincides with a recent escalation of Chinese and Russian military moves around Japanese territory.

The drills, which foreign journalists rarely have a chance to witness, will continue for nine days and include about 1,300 Ground Self Defense Force troops. On Monday, as hundreds of soldiers cheered from the sidelines and waved unit flags, lines of tanks shot at targets meant to represent enemy missiles or armored vehicles.

The exercises illuminate a fascinating, easy-to-miss point. Japan, despite an officially pacifist constitution written when memories of its World War II rampage were still fresh — and painful — boasts a military that puts all but a few nations to shame, Reports the AP.

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