Miho Otani becomes the first woman in the Maritime Self-Defense Force to assume command of an Aegis destroyer on Dec. 2 in Maizuru, Kyoto Prefecture. (Video footage by Naoki Okubo)

MAIZURU, Kyoto Prefecture--A woman for the first time assumed command of a Maritime Self-Defense Force Aegis destroyer on Dec. 2, which serves as a vital line of defense in the Sea of Japan against North Korean missiles.

Capt. Miho Otani, 48, took the helm of the Myoko, which has a standard displacement of 7,250 tons and a crew of about 300.

“I will shoulder the responsibility not only for my ‘family,’ which means crew members, but also a large household that includes all crew members’ families," Otani said in addressing the crew. "I am determined to protect my large family with my life as the ship's commander.”

A change of command ceremony was held aboard the Myoko, which is homeported at the MSDF’s Maizuru base in Maizuru, Kyoto Prefecture. A small boat ferried the ship's new commander to the destroyer, which she boarded and was welcomed by the crew members.

After the ceremony, Otani told reporters that in leading an Aegis destroyer, “I know it will not be easy, but I have no concerns. I want to fulfill my duties."

In terms of women serving in the MSDF, Otani said: “I think that the number of female members will increase from now, but I am not sure how many of them can gain a foothold. The challenge is how female members can work actively while balancing life events such as marriage and giving birth.”

Otani is from Suita, Osaka Prefecture. In 1992, she enrolled in the National Defense Academy in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, as the first female student. She has served as the skipper of the destroyer Shimayuki, which is used in training exercises, and at the helm of the escort vessel Yamagiri.

Aegis destroyers have the capability of tracking and intercepting targets such as hostile aircraft and missiles using a high-capacity radar system. Currently, the MSDF operates six Aegis destroyers. In addition, two others were newly launched by July.