The creation of the National Security Council (NSC) in 2013 was part of the most ambitious reorganization of Japan's foreign and security policy apparatus since the end of the Pacific War in 1945. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe aimed to create a ‘Strategic Headquarters’ to better coordinate Japanese grand strategy across a fissiparous bureaucracy and political class. The formation of the NSC is a potential watershed in Japanese strategic policy-making. The improved crisis management, upgraded intelligence and centralized security policy-making that Japanese leaders hope to achieve through the NSC are indispensable if Japan is ever to resolve the inherent tension between its desire to enhance alliance management and its desire to reduce dependence on the United States. However, we conclude that the initial successes examined in this article may not be sustainable.