The announcement came during a Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology panel that aired on the public broadcasting network NHK. JAXA will release a more concrete blueprint of their lunar ambitions next week.
Japan's announcement follows a recent statement from China that they to put their first taikonaut on the moon by 2036. JAXA may wish to race China or perhaps even work with them, as they admit they lack the funds to unilaterally send a man to the moon.
Instead, Tokyo intends to join the international effort to colonize the moon and in the process get their first-ever astronaut on its surface. Only 12 men have ever walked on the moon, all Americans, and none since the 1972 Apollo 17 mission.
NASA hopes to change that as part of their new 2017 budget, which saw a big boost in their funding in exchange for a Congressional order for them to place a man on Mars by 2033. NASA intends to fulfill this goal in three stages.
The first stage, the one we're currently in, is a large scale NASA project to study the effects of lengthy space travel on the human body, as astronauts on a mission to Mars may spend eight or nine months in space. The second stage would be a test of NASA's ability to maintain an offworld permanent colony: specifically, one in orbit around the moon. The third and final stage would be the actual mission to Mars.
As for Japan, many see them to be in competition with Asia's other two largest economies: China and South Korea. In addition to their lunar ambitions, China also intends to send a rover to Mars in the early 2020s. India meanwhile plans to send a probe to the moon in 2018. Both of them have planted flags on the moon, while Japan has not.