The Japanese Defense Ministry will allow Self-Defense Forces recruits to have longer hair from April this year as it aims to make the armed services more attractive to young people.

The ministry currently requires new troops in training units to have a buzz cut for men and short hair for women, but it will start allowing them longer hairstyles, officials said, reflecting a similar relaxation of rules at public high schools in recent years.

From the start of the new fiscal year, the ministry will allow men to have short back and sides with longer hair on top and women to have long hair as long as it does not interfere with the wearing of a helmet or hat and is tied up when they are in uniform so it does not fall onto the shoulders.

File photo taken in April 2011 shows an entrance ceremony held at a Ground Self-Defense Force camp in Otsu, western Japan. (Kyodo)

The easing of haircut rules was reported last month at a meeting of an expert panel tasked with bolstering troop numbers, after the panel called on the ministry last July to "change or eliminate disciplinary regulations that lack rationality."

"As our nation faces a serious workforce shortage, we recognize competition with others, including the private sector, to secure talent has been intensifying," Defense Minister Minoru Kihara told the expert panel meeting on Jan. 18.

It is his "mission" as the defense chief to improve the working environment for each SDF officer and secure excellent personnel, Kihara added.

The move comes as Japan faces a worsening regional security environment caused by China's rapid military buildup and North Korea's expanding missile and nuclear programs.

In a related move, the Defense Ministry has also been considering allowing people with tattoos to join the SDF by reviewing the current guidelines banning them from applying to be SDF cadets.

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