Japan is expected to pass security bills that would allow troops to fight on foreign soil for the first time since World War II, despite fierce criticism it would fundamentally alter the character of the pacifist nation.

The legislation, backed by Shinzo Abe's ruling coalition, was expected to go to a vote in the full upper house some time on Friday, following days of heated debate that at times descended into scuffles and and shouting matches between parliament members.

Opposition lawmakers on Thursday pushed and shoved in a failed bid to stop a committee approving the bills.

Abe has faced fierce criticism for his handling of the bills and there are growing signs the campaign has taken a political toll.

Major scuffles have broken out between parliament members over the security bills [EPA]

Opinion polls show the vast majority of the public is against the changes, and Abe's once sky-high approval rating is dropping.

Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets in almost daily rallies, in a show of public anger on a scale rarely seen in Japan.

On Friday hundreds gathered again outside the parliament in Tokyo.

Opponents argue that the new laws - which would allow the tightly restricted military to fight in defence of allies - violate Japan's constitution and could see the country dragged into US-led wars.

Abe wants what he calls a normalisation of Japan's military posture, which has been restricted to narrowly defined self-defence and aid missions by a pacifist constitution imposed by the US after World War II.

Source: AFP