YOKOSUKA, Kanagawa Pref. — Entertaining people with a meal is one way of winning favor, and a local Maritime Self-Defense Forces’ branch showed how effective this approach can be Mar. 7 when they invited members of the public to an unprecedented luncheon aboard MSDF destroyers.

“People have this rigid and somewhat hardcore image of the Self-Defense Forces,” said a lieutenant commander at the MSDF Yokosuka Defense District. “So we wanted to soften that up a little bit.” Of the approximately 600 applicants, 200 people were chosen Mar. 7 by lottery to eat “Friday curry” — a popular dish on the weekly menu among MSDF troops — at dining messes aboard five MSDF destroyers anchored here.

“Once we start a voyage, a meal becomes the only thing we look forward to,” the lieutenant commander said. “We try to make the curry hot and heavy enough for the crew to alleviate physical and psychological stress caused by the tough manual labor.” Each person participating in the luncheon was asked for a 481 yen fee to be put toward public coffers.

The event was organized to foster harmonious relations between the MSDF and local communities and to give citizens a better understanding of MSDF ships. “This is such a good opportunity,” said Mutsumi Kato from Yokohama. “I have only seen such ceremonial events as troops saluting. But what I really wanted to see was how they lived their daily lives.”

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