The Japanese Self-Defense Forces have a bewildering array of ration packs. I recently discovered the website of MREInfo.com forum contributor Laughing Man, ‘Japan SDF’s Combat Rations‘, in which he catalogs the various types and another site called ‘Combat Rations Archive‘ (JP). Military ration packs and cuisine are often known as ‘Mili-meshi‘ here in Japan (military + meshi, food). The GSDF (the prime consumer of field rations) has two types of combat rations, Type I and Type II, and the ASDF maintains a survival ration pack for downed pilots and air crew.
Type I Combat Rations
Type I rations are canned, and are also known as ‘Can-meshi‘. They consist of uniform weights making up a full meal, and are incredibly durable (lasting 3 years). Having been used in the SDF since its inception in 1954, they come in 8 kinds made up of one large can (450g) of rice of 5 kinds (white, red, chicken, shiitake mushroom and gomoku) or hard biscuits (infinitely more edible-looking than Britain’s biscuit browns), and two or three smaller cans (around 200g a piece). They can be cooked in 25 minutes and kept for 3 days before they must be eaten (although once opened they must be quickly eaten). In each set, a compact can-opener is supplied, although many modern supplies are apparently fitted with pull-tabs.
Type II Combat Rations
Type II rations are boil-in-the-bag, or ‘Pack-meshi’. This type of ration pack was adopted in 1990 as it offers a easier-to-carry and easier-to-cook (10 minutes) alternative to the Type I rations in sole use up to that point, although they are less durable than their canned cousins (lasting only 1 year). In 2009, following a survey of SDF personnel, the Ministry of Defense issued a new menu of choices to make eating and carrying the packs easier. A major plus side is the expanded menu, which offers 21 different options including breakfast vs lunch/dinner variants, as well as Japanese, Western and Chinese food options. Each pack is comprised of two packs of rice (similar to commercial offerings), and two or three additional packs of side dishes. Each pack contains a plastic spork to eat with.
Survival Ration Pack
The survival ration pack is designed to be eaten without any need for cooking, ideal for a downed pilot or a ship’s crew adrift, it is also known as the ‘Ganbare-meshi‘ (ganbare, as you may have heard frequently since the recent earthquake, means to keep trying or persevere). It is supplied alongside a first aid kit and clean water. The dehydrated meal looks far from appetizing underneath its aluminum wrapping, but each of two jelly main courses (mysteriously labelled ‘A’ and ‘B’ and tasting like traditional Japanese sweets) supplies 270 kilocalories, a third of what you would find in a Type I/II ration pack for a fraction of the bulk. The MSDF supplies 9 of these, the ASDF supplies 5, in metal containers with instructions and a message of encouragement: “Hang in there! Keep going! Help is coming!”
The final kind of ration packs are used on exercises, on base, and when supplying civilians. They are not designed for survival cases, and need not be so durable, and so we see much more variety and commercialism, including what has to be the best example of military food in the world: the SDF cup noodle.
See: THE戦闘糧食 (JP)
Video: Milimeshi Hour
Finally, a video to get your mouth watering (in Japanese).
A former contributor to World Intelligence (Japan Military Review), James Simpson joined Japan Security Watch in 2011, migrating with his blog Defending Japan. He has a Masters in Security Studies from Aberystwyth University and is currently living in Kawasaki, Japan.
His primary interests include the so-called 'normalization' of Japanese security (i.e. militarization), and the political impact of the abduction issue with North Korea.
James Simpson has 254 post(s) on Japan Security Watch