The emblem was introduced to the public in May, and features a cherry-blossom star, elements of the Japanese flag and an unsheathed katana, or traditional Japanese samurai sword, with a crossed sheath, in the center.
The Japanese military last used traditional katanas in World War II, in which Tokyo invaded several nations including China and the United States, sparking recent controversy and turning many in Japan away from the new image.
A Ground Staff Office spokesman attempted to calm tensions by saying that the sword was placed on the emblem as a tribute to Japanese traditional culture, not to refer to any particular period of wartime history.
"The emblems of the armies of foreign nations often use guns and bayonets," the official said. "We thought it would be appropriate for the GSDF from the standpoint of displaying a sense of Japanese-ness."
Yoko Shinohara, a community leader based in Tokigawa, Saitama, launched an online petition in July to alter the logo. The demand has drawn 22,000 supporters so far.
"A military sword is a symbol that will conjure up images of the plunder and threats carried out by the Imperial Japanese Army," Shinohara said to Asahi Shimbun. "I do not believe it is appropriate as an emblem of the SDF."
The introduction of the emblem comes in a wake of a series of law amendments pushed by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe which revise the country’s postwar pacifist constitution, marking a shift to militarization and a more aggressive Japanese military posture.
Ground Staff Office officials denied a connection between the constitutional shift to a more aggressive military and the use of a sword on the logo.