Omoiyari Yosan (思いやり予算?, lit. sympathy budget), is a popular term for funds provided by Japan as host nation support for the U.S. forces stationed in Japan. The official term is Cost Sharing for the US Forces Stationed in Japan (在日米軍駐留経費負担? Zainichi Beigun Churyu Keihi Futan). Although the term technically only covers the portion of financial support not mandated under the 1960 U.S.-Japan Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), it is popularly used to refer to Japanese support as a whole.
The term originates from comments made in 1978 by the then Director-General of the Japan Defense Agency, Shin Kanemaru, in defense of the Japanese government's decision to share financial responsibilities for the American bases in Japan. When questioned about the expenditure, Kanemaru replied that they were provided out of "sympathy".
Under the 1960 SOFA agreement, the support Japan was required to provide for US Forces Japan (USFJ) was limited to the provision of "facilities and areas" for use:
1. It is agreed that the United States will bear for the duration of this Agreement without cost to Japan all expenditures incident to the maintenance of the United States armed forces in Japan except those to be borne by Japan as provided in paragraph 2.
However, with the rising of the yen against the dollar increasing the cost of maintaining forces in Japan and Japan's rapid economic growth increasing the ability of the Japanese to contribute, the United States began to pressure Japan in the mid-1970s to increase its financial support.
Origins of the Term
The Japanese government first agreed to provide additional support in 1978 by assuming responsibility for the welfare payments of Japanese nationals employed by the USFJ. When questioned in the Diet about the new appropriation in June, Kanemaru made a series of statements in which he repeatedly used the word "omoiyari," which means sympathy or consideration:
- On June 6, he asked "given how indispensable the US-Japan relationship is and the situation with the strengthening of the yen versus the dollar, isn't it alright to have sympathy if we do this not because America is requesting it, but rather to increase the sense of trust between us?"
- On June 8, "It's because I think that some sympathetic consideration here can improve the US-Japan relationship... I sincerely believe that the US-Japan Security Treaty is essential to maintaining Japan's independence and security today. As such, isn't it necessary to address the issue of burden sharing with an approach based on the importance of having deep sympathy?"
- On June 29, "Now, about the issue of host nation expenditures. When I explained to Secretary Brown that although we may not be able to promise anything specific in terms of numbers yet, our agency will, from a sympathetic position, put effort into presenting a more detailed view on the issue within the scope of SOFA prior to his visit to Japan. He was very pleased and no further request was made from the American side."
Because of the continual use of the term, both by Kanemaru and those questioning him, these additional expenditures became known as the "sympathy budget."
The circumstances that led to the initial establishment of the budget have since ceased, but the budget itself has continued. The current Japanese government explains the rationale for the sympathy budget in this way: "As a measure to ensure the smooth operation of US forces stationed in Japan, and taking due consideration of the financial situation, our nation voluntarily bears part of the operating costs for those troops."
Expansion of the Budget and Current Status
The additional support provided by the Japanese government has rapidly expanded since 1978. Although initially handled on an ad hoc basis, since 1987 the US and Japanese governments have signed a series of Special Measures Agreements (SMA) formally establishing the Japanese commitment of support. The most recent SMA, covering the five-year period from 2011–2015, was signed in January 2011. The agreements cover the categories of expenses that will be paid for by the Japanese government rather than specify specific monetary amounts.
The most significant expansions in Japanese support have been:
- partial assumption of welfare costs for Japanese employed by USFJ (since 1978)
- establishment of the Facilities Improvement Program (FIP) which provides funds for the maintenance and upgrade of facilities and areas provided to USFJ (since 1979)
- partial assumption of labor costs for Japanese employed by USFJ (since 1987)
- partial assumption of utility costs for USFJ (since 1991)
- assumption of USFJ training relocation costs (since 1996)
These expanded costs have become Japan's most significant contribution to the US-Japan security alliance. In 2002 Japan's contributions represented more than 60% of all allied financial contributions to the US and covered 75% of USFJ's operating costs.
The appropriation amount steadily increased from 1978 to 2001, but has since declined due to pressures placed on the Japanese government (see Opposition below). The 2012 Japanese defense budget allocated ¥186.7 billion for cost sharing (¥144.4 billion of which are SMA-related payments.) This represents a 0.5% increase from the previous year and a 10.4% decrease from 5 years earlier.
With the downturn in Japan's economic fortunes and the ending of the Cold War, criticism by opposition parties and the public have increased. In 1998 former Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa proposed ending the budget in 2000 when the then-current SMA expired due to Japan's "severe financial crisis."
When the 2008 SMA came to a vote in the Japanese Diet, it was opposed by the opposition Communists, Democrats (DPJ), and Social Democrats, leading to its failure to pass the House of Councillors. Although the House of Representatives later overrode the decision, the opposition managed to create a one-month gap between the prior Agreement's expiration and the new one's passage, the first gap since the support was established in 1978. In explaining their opposition, the Democrats stated that the Japanese government needed to "negotiate from the viewpoint of the Japanese people," while criticizing the government for destabilizing the lives of the bases' Japanese workforce.
Shortly after becoming Prime Minister of the first non-LDP government since 1996, Yukio Hatoyama promised a "comprehensive review" of the sympathy budget. The 2011 SMA was presented with few changes by his DPJ successor, however, and passed with LDP support.
- Ministry of Defense page on support for US forces (Japanese)
- Chiezō definition for Omoiyari Yosan (Japanese)
- Hook, Glenn D. (2005). Japan's International Relations (2nd ed.). Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-33638-3.
- Diet minutes from 1978/6/6 (Japanese)
- Full text of SOFA agreement (English/Japanese)
- Chiezō definition for Omoiyari Yosan
- 日米関係が不可欠である以上、円高ドル安というこの状況の中で、アメリカから要求されるのでなくて、信頼性を高めるということであれば、思いやりというものがあってもいいじゃないか Diet minutes from 1978/6/6 (Japanese)
- ひとつ思いやりある配慮をするということが日米関係を高からしめるという考え方を私は持っておるわけであります...日本の今日の安全が、あるいは独立が保てるような日米安全保障条約、これは不可欠だ、私は信念的にそう思っています。ですから、それには深い思いやりというものが必要だという、こういう考え方の中で分担金の問題については対処していかなければならぬじゃないか。Diet minutes from 1978/6/8 (Japanese)
- なお、駐留軍経費の問題については、私から思いやりの立場で地位協定の範囲内でできるかぎりの努力を払いたいと考えており、現在具体的数字を挙げて約束することはできないが、ブラウン長官の訪日までに防衛庁の考え方をより詳細に説明できるよう努力する旨述べたところ、ブラウン長官はこれを高く評価し、特に米側から要望はありせんでした Diet minutes from 1978/6/29 (Japanese)
- Hook, Glenn D., Julie Gilson, Christopher W. Hughes, and Hugo Dobson (2001). Japan's International Relations: Politics, Economics and Security. Routledge, p. 154
- 在日米軍の駐留を円滑かつ安定的にするための施策として、財政事情などにも十分配慮しつつ、我が国が在日米軍駐留経費を自主的に負担 MOD page on the development of the sympathy budget (Japanese)
- Text of the agreement
- Ministry of Defense 2008 White Paper
- US Department of Defense - Allied Contributions to the Common Defense 2003 
- MOD White Paper 2012
- MOD estimates for support costs
- Kenneth B. Pyle, "Japan's Immobilism" NBR Analysis 9:4
- "思いやり予算：参院否決、来月発効へ 国会初、衆院優位," Mainichi Shimbun 25 April 2008
- が国民の立場に立って交渉を遂行して DPJ explanation for its vote against the SMA (Japanese)
- Kyodo News article
- 包括的なレビュー Ryukyu Shimpo article
- Smith, Sheila A. "Do Domestic Politics Matter?: The Case of US Military Bases in Japan".
- Ishikida, Miki Y. (July 2005). "National Defence, Peace Movements and Peace Education". Toward Peace: War Responsibility, Postwar Compensation, and Peace Movements and Education in Japan. iUniverse. ISBN 0-595-35063-1.