The number of people applying to join the Japanese military has declined more than 10 per cent at a time when they are more likely to end up fighting a conflict after the government's revision of its pacifist constitution. The reinterpretation of the constitution would permit Japanese forces to carry out collective self-defence and come to the aid of an ally that is under threat. Public concern over the sea change in official attitudes towards the use of the military has escalated to the point where some believe that the government could be forced to reintroduce a compulsory draft to maintain personnel levels. "Young people who have not thought about the draft or going to war are becoming concerned," said Karin Amamiya, a peace activist. The Ministry of Defence, however, claims that the fall in recruit numbers is a result of the recovery in the national economy as more young people opt for a white-collar career. According to ministry statistics, 31,101 people applied in the last fiscal year to join the Self-Defence Forces as non-commissioned officers, who account for about 60 per cent of all SDF personnel. In the previous year, 34,534 people applied. In addition, 3,856 senior high school students sought to become cadet pilots, down 5 per cent, and 16,470 people applied for positions at the National Defence Academy of Japan, 25 fewer than last year. The figures are in sharp contrast to recent interest in the forces. In 2011, for example, the Japan Coast Guard received more than 8,000 applicants, up from 3,000 the previous year. The increase was pinned on an upsurge in patriotic desire to protect Japanese sovereignty over the Senkaku Islands, which China claims and refers to as the Diaoyu archipelago. Concerned at the declining interest, the defence ministry has been running a series of poster campaigns designed to highlight the military as a career choice. And in a nation that reveres cartoon characters, it is perhaps appropriate that recruiting posters rely heavily on fantasy. Last year, the campaign enlisted the puppets from the cult British show Thunderbirds. One poster featured Jeff Tracy's sons in their uniforms, sashes and hats, along with Prince Pickles, the cuddly cartoon character used by the SDF in previous campaigns, in his pilot, soldier and sailor uniforms. This week, eyebrows were raised over the use of moe-kyara - mini-skirted cartoon girls - to reel in recruits, with critics saying they do not accurately reflect the armed forces.