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Japanese Ocean Liners

Tsuyoshi Ishiyama

1.Close & Opening of Japan

When you talk on the history of Japanese modern shipping, you need to lead in the historic backgrounds, 'the close and the opening of Japan'. Because Japanese modern shipping started with the opening of Japan, and it was premised on the historic fact, 'the National Isolation'.

In 1543, a Chinese junk with Lusitanians was washed ashore in Tanegashima island off the coast of south of Kyushu. They were the first Europeans who visited Japan. The Lusitanians brought firearms into Japan at this time.

In the wake of the event, the trading with Portugal and Spain began. And in 1549, a missionary from the Society of Jesus (Societas Ies), Francisco de Xavier (1506-52) arrived at Kagoshima in southern Kyushu, and began his mission. In those days, the Japanese citizens called the Lusitanians and the Spanish, 'Nanban-Jin'. 'Nanban-Jin' means 'barbarians from the south'.

Trading with the Southeast Asian nations by the Japanese became active. Japanese vessels called 'Shuin-sen (=Red Stamp Vessel)' sailed from Hirado and Nagasaki in Kyushu, Japan to the Philippines, Viet Nam, Cambodia, Thailand, etc. And Japanese towns were formed by the Japanese in some places.

However, the Dutchmen who penetrated Asia belatedly peached on that the aim of propagandism of the Christianity by Portugal and Spain was the colonialization and invasion of Japan to the then Japanese government, 'Bakufu'.

Therefore, the 'Bakufu' goverment forbade the Christianity, and then shut out the Lusitanian and the Spanish. And Japan had a limited relationship with only the Netherlands since 1641. This was a Japanese policy, which was pointed out by a German doctor, Engelbert Kaempfer (1651-1716) in his book, 'The History of Japan' which was published in 1727 in the British Empire, and then called the 'Sakoku (=National Isolation)' policy. The 'Bakufu' government forbade export and import trade with foreign countries except for the Netherlands, China and Korea. Also, it prohibited the Japanese citizens from building big ships.

In this way, the country 'Japan' disappeared from the world until 1854 when it opened to the world again. Thanks to the 'Sakoku' policy, Japan staved off colonializations by European countries, and was able to maintain the feudalistic system by the 'Bakufu' government during more than 200 years. It's also possible to describe that peaceful time continued.

However, the social progress was behind due to the restriction of trade. Especially, fields of shipbuilding, ports and sailing were far behind from European countries. Furthermore, the closed economy often led to famines. It is true that the nutritional status of the then Japanese citizens was never good. The Japanese druring the 'Sakoku' period were the shortest in history and it is said that there were no gouty patients but people who were suffering from beriberi were predictable.

In Europe, the Industrial Revolutions and the Bourgeois Revolutions broke out, and by and by European countries started out races of acquirement of colonies in Africa and Asia to go for cheaper raw materials and lucrative markets. In the nineteenth century, the British Empire and France extended power over East Asia at last. China and Japan faced the threat of the Western imperial military powers. The events that China (Qing) was beaten by the British Empire in the the First Opium War which broke out in 1840 and Hong Kong was taken over, sent shockwaves towards Japan.

In June 1853, the U.S. Navy Admiral, Matthew Calbraith Perry (1794-1858) led 4 'Kurobune' or black-painted warships, and arrived at Uraga (nowadays Yokosuka, Kanagawa prefecture) near Edo (nowadays Tokyo) to press for Japan to open the country. The then United States hoped to open the Pacific route and trade with China. This would require Japanese ports as stopping points. And America wanted supply bases for whaling ships. The 'Bakufu' govenment bothered over the question, but decided to open the country and concluded the Convention of Peace and Amity between the United States of America and the Empire of Japan (Treaty of Kanagawa) in 1854. Additionally, the 'Bakufu' govenment concluded similar treaties with the British Empire, Russia and the Netherlands. The 'Bakufu' abolished the ban of building of big ships in 'Buke Shohatto' or Acts for the Military Houses of 1635 for national security reasons, and founded 'Kaigun Denshu-sho' or naval academe in Nagasaki, etc. to learn Western navigation. Foreign trades began in Hakodate, Yokohama and Nagasaki in 1859. The British Empire had a high proportion of the transactional countries.

However, there were a lot of deep-seated arguments against the open the country, which was decided by the 'Bakufu' govenment, therefore, cases of murder foreigners also occured one after another. Civil wars broke out in Japan, and the 'Bakufu' govenment went to ruin at last in 1867. And new government whose sovereign was The Emperor Meiji (Mutsuhito, 1852-1912) arose in 1868. These string of moves are called 'Meiji Ishin'. The 'Meiji Ishin' means the renovation of a political regime in Meiji Era (1868-1912).

The Meiji govenment's primary aim was to stand on an equal footing to powerful European countries and the United States in the international community.? Due to this, 'Fukoku Kyohei (=prosperous country and strong army)' and 'Shokusan Kogyo(=encouragement of new industry)' policies were adopted. In other words, Japan adopted 'modernization policy'. And the end of this modernization policy was the defeat in the Second World War in 1945,

2. Nippon Yusen Kaisha & Osaka Shosen Kaisha

Once Japan opened, Western-style sailing vessels and steam ships in Japan increased at a rapid rate, and stood at 138 vessels in 1867. However, Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company (P&O) opened the Shanghai-Nagasaki route in 1859, and then extended the route to Yokohama. In September 1865, Compagnie des Messageries Maritimes (MM) also opened the Shanghai-Yokohama route. And the company that opened the San Francisco-Yokohama-Hong Kong route in 1867, and opened the Yokohama-Kobe-Nagasaki-Shanghai route in 1870, was Pacific Mail Steamship Company (PM), an American shipping line. As a result, wooden paddle steamers including PM's Colorado (3,728gt, 1864-78) took Japanese coast by storm. The Meiji government with a critical feeling over the situation, geared to promote domestic shipping.

In January 1870, the Meiji government founded 'Kaiso Kaisha (=Shipping Company)' in Tokyo. The company which transported postal matters, rice and passengers on the Tokyo-Yokohama-Osaka-Kobe route was the earliest ancestor of modern shipping companies. In those days, there were not the Commercial Code nor the Companies Act in Japan. But the company was a poorly-managed company and went into liquidation only a year later. So the Meiji government founded 'Kaiso Toriatsukai-sho' in January 1871, and in August 1872, newly founded 'Nippon-koku Yubin Jokisen Kaisha (=Japan Mail Steamship Company)', instead of 'Kaiso Toriatsukai-sho'. The 'Nippon-koku Yubin Jokisen Kaisha' operated the Tokyo-Osaka route, the Hakodate-Ishinomaki route, and the Okinawa route.

Meanwhile, Toyoshige Yamauchi (1827-72), the domain head of Tosa-han (nowadays, Kochi prefecture) in Shikoku, founded 'Kaisei-kan' to sell special local products and to get steamships and weapons by use of its profits. Yataro Iwasaki (1835-85) was a person responsible for a navigation and a finance of it. He founded 'Tosa Kaisei Shosha' in 1870, succeeded the business of 'Kaisei-kan', and opened the Tokyo-Kobe-Osaka-Kochi route. The 'Tosa Kaisei Shosha' developed into latter 'Nippon Yusen Kaisha (NYK Line)'. The 'Tosa Kaisei Shosha' changed it's name to 'Tsukumo Shokai (1870)', 'Mitsukawa Shokai (1872)' and 'Mitsubishi Shokai (1872)' frequently.

Under this situation, 66 residents from Ryukyu (nowadays Okinawa prefecture) drifted down to Taiwan and 54 of them were killed by residents in Taiwan in 1871. China (Qing) avoided responsibility of the incident claiming that the residents in Taiwan were people whom China had no diplomatic sovereignty. So Japan sent troops to punish the residents in Taiwan in 1874 ('Seitai No Eki' or 'Taiwan Shuppei' or 'dispatch troops to Taiwan').

As a matter of course, ships were needed to dispatch troops from Japan to Taiwan. At first, Japan intended to use the Pacific Mail Steamship Company's fleet, but it was impossible to use them because the United States declared a neutrality on the conflict. So the Japanese government (Meiji government) purchased 13 foreign ships in order to transport troops. However, 'Nippon-koku Yubin Jokisen Kaisha' which was due to operate these ships, showed less appetite for the operation. Rather Yataro Iwasaki's 'Mitsubishi Shokai' made positive efforts to cooperate with the government. As a result, Mitsubishi Shokai became highly regarded by the Japanese government.

In 1875, the Japanese government entrusted the operation of the 13 foreign ships to Mitsubishi Shokai, and ordered to open the Shanghai route. Mitsubishi Shokai opened the Yokohama-Kobe-Shimonoseki-Nagasaki-Shanghai route with 4 ships, the Tokyo Maru (ex-New York, 2,217gt, 1864-86), the Niigata Maru (ex-Erie, Behar, 1,910gt, 1855-97), the Kanagawa Maru (ex-Madras, 1,185gt, 1852-96) and the Takasago Maru (ex-Delta, 1,618gt, 1860-1906), and began to engage in fierce competition with Pacific Mail Steamship Company. This Shanghai route was the first Japanese oversea regular line.

Mitsubishi Shokai was ordered to transport mail matters by the Japanese government. On September 18, 1875, Mitsubishi Shokai changed its trade name to 'Yubin Kisen Mitsubishi Kaisha (=Mail Steamship Mitsubishi Company)'. The Japanese government dismissed 'Nippon-koku Yubin Jokisen Kaisha', and disposed of its holding fleet to Yubin Kisen Mitsubishi Kaisha. As a result, Yubin Kisen Mitsubishi Kaisha developed a shipping company which owned all large ships in Japan.

Yubin Kisen Mitsubishi Kaisha combated with Pacific Mail Steamship Company under the wing of the Japanese government, and forced it to leave the Shanghai route at last. And the Yubin Kisen Mitsubishi Kaisha took over its 4 wooden paddle steamers and its assets in Shanghai, Nagasaki and Kobe at the cost of 780,000 dollars. Besides, Yubin Kisen Mitsubishi Kaisha donated 30,000 dollars to Occidental and Oriental Steamship Company (OO), another competitor, and fastened down it not to allocate ships on the Shanghai and coastal routes over 30 years. However, British P&O opened the Hong Kong-Shanghai-Yokohama route in February 1876. Yubin Kisen Mitsubishi Kaisha carried on fierce competition with P&O, and also succeeded to remove it from the Shanghai route in August.

As just described, Yubin Kisen Mitsubishi Kaisha was fighting with Anglo-American shipping companies, but it employed a lot of Europeans (British, German, Swedish, etc,) as officers because there were few high-caliber Japanese seamen in those days. Japanese officers were not trusted at all, so Euramerican insurance companies did not take insurance of cargos aboard ships which Japanese captains or chief engineers operated. This was not only racial prejudice. In fact, it was the case that there were not Japanese seamen who were good at Western-style watermanship.

So the Japanese government ordered Yubin Kisen Mitsubishi Kaisha to establish an educational institution to turn out Japanese sailors. In November 1875, 'Mitsubishi Shosen Gakko (=Mitsubishi Nautical School)' was established. Its textbooks on ship handling were translated textbooks of the Royal Navy. The 'Mitsubishi Shosen Gakko' became 'Tokyo Shosen Daigaku (=Tokyo University of Mercantile Marine)', and later developed into the present-day 'Tokyo Kaiyo Daigaku (=Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology)'. The year when foreign officers disapeared was 1920,

The Japanese government drived forward the radical westernization policy in every field. You can learn of a shape of the then Japanese society through 'Unbeaten Tracks in Japan' (1880), a travel report written by Isabella Lucy Bird (1831-1904), a British lady writer.

Of course, the radical westernization policy was also met by backlash, especially former Samurai, called 'Shizoku', who were denied feudalistic privileges had strong grievance against the government. Putsches by 'Shizoku' erupted in different parts of the country. The largest putsch of them was 'Seinan Senso (=Southwest War)' which was brewed by Takamori Saigo (1827-77) in Kagoshima, Kyshu in February 1877. You may recall a Hollywood movie, 'The Last Samurai' (2003). The movie is fictional, but it is modeled on these civil wars.

The government managed to quash the putsch in September 1877. When 55,000 troops, war-horses and military supplies were transported from Osaka to Kyushu, Yubin Kisen Mitsubishi Kaisha offered almost all holding ships to the government. Thanks to the contribution, the company developed and took a power to have a monopoly on Japanese shipping industry.

However, there were also a lot of criticisms over the Yubin Kisen Mitsubishi Kaisha's monopolization. In 1881 when Shigenobu Okuma (1838-1922), a politician who had supported the Yubin Kisen Mitsubishi Kaisha, resigned under pressure in the 'Meiji 14-nen No Seihen' or the political change of the 14th year of Meiji, the government started to put a brake on its monopolization. On July 14, 1882, 'Kyodo Unyu Kaisha' a parastatal shipping company was founded to fight against Yubin Kisen Mitsubishi Kaisha. Kyodo Unyu Kaisha's management employees were dominated by relevant people from the Navy.

Yubin Kisen Mitsubishi Kaisha and Kyodo Unyu Kaisha entered into a fierce competition each other, and it was said that both companies almost cut each other's throats as a result of the price war. This ruinous competition meant a crisis of Japanese shipping. So the government made both Yubin Kisen Mitsubishi Kaisha and Kyodo Unyu Kaisha amalgamate, and founded 'Nippon Yusen Kaisha' (NYK) on September 29, 1885. The first president was Masazumi Morioka (1834-98), the ex-president of Kyodo Unyu Kaisha.

Hereat the largest shipping company in Japan, which owned 58 steam ships and 11 sailing ships, a total of 72,922 gross tonnage 69 ships, was born. The house flag was so-called 'Nibiki (=Two Lines)', which were two red lines against white background. The two red lines meant the amalgamation of Yubin Kisen Mitsubishi Kaisha and Kyodo Unyu Kaisha, and the house flag is used even today.

The start-up Nippon Yusen business moved a domestic shipping to center stage of its business field, but with tightening competition, and developing domestic railway system, it was forced to shift over an ocean-going shipping.

In those days, cotton-spinning industry developed in Japan, and it was necessary for Japan to import cottons from India in order to develop the Chinese market. However, a Freight Conference which was constituted of 3 companies, P&O, Osterreichischer Lloyd (Austrian Lloyd) and Navigazione Generale Italiana, established hefty freight rate, and had a monopoly on the Bombay (now Mumbai) routes. So Nippon Yusen and Tata & Sons, an Indian cotton trader opened the Bombay route (Kobe-Hong Kong-Singapore-Colombo-Bombay) in November 1893 to fight against P&O, etc. The first ship was the Hiroshima Maru (ex-Golden Age, 2,453gt, 1853-90). Nippon Yusen battled for 2 and a half years, and accomplished to join the Bombay Conference at last.

In 1893, the modern Commercial Code (a so-called 'pre-commercial code revision') was executed in Japan. In response to this, Nippon Yusen changed the structure to adapt the Commercial Code, and changed its trade name to 'Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha'. 'Kabushiki Kaisha (KK)' means 'company limited by shares (Aktiengesellshaft)'.

Meanwhile, 'Osaka Shosen Kaisha' (OSK), another shipping company was also born on May 1, 1884. During the 'Seinan Senso' of 1877, Osaka was an army assembly area, and many water carriers appeared one after another in the Seto Naikai (Inland Sea) in the wake of the civil war by Shizoku (ex-Samurai). However, the competition among water carriers escalated. So, Saihei Hirose (1828-1914), the manager of the Sumitomo Family played a central role in founding 'Osaka Shosen Kaisha' with 55 ship owners. This company owned 93 steam ships, but most of them were small ships. Osaka Shosen developed, swallowed Mitsui Steamship and became 'Osaka Shosen Mitsui Senpaku (Mitsui O.S.K. Lines)' in 1964. And in 1999, it also swallowed Navix Line and became 'Shosen Mitsui (its English trade name remained 'Mitsui O.S.K. Lines'.)

It can be said that Nippon Yusen and Osaka Shosen were comparable to Cunard Line and P&O of the British Empire. But the Nippon Yusen and the Osaka Shosen not only supported the Empire of Japan in the past, but also remain giant shipping companies even today. They are totally different from the Cunard Line and the P&O in this regard.

Japan at the time, was afraid that Korea falls under the domination of European countries, especially Russia. Because Japan thought that it will be prohibitively difficult for Japan to secure homeland, if Korea, a neighboring nation falls under the domination of Russia. Therefore, Japan tried to cope with European countries by means of dominating over Korea. Meanwhile, China (Qing) regarded Korea as one of dependencies. So Japan and China came to be opposed to each other over Korea.

In May 1894, a grand-scale rebellion was popped out by Korean farmers who profess a religion which was hostile to the Christianity in Korea. Korea asked China, its suzerain for a troop deployment to quash the rebellion. Japan also deployed to Korea under the pretext of a protection of its denizen. In July, both Japanese army and Chinese army collided with each other, and 'Nisshin Senso' or 'The First Sino-Japanese War' broke out.

During the war, the Army and the Navy requisitioned 112 and 24 commercial ships respectively. It goes without saying that Nippon Yusen and Osaka Shosen offered their ships. Such kind of ships were called 'Goyo-sen' or 'requisitioned ships'. The Goyo-sen carried 631,600 total number of soldiers, 51,600 war-horses and other military goods.

The war lasted for about 8 months. Japan gained a crushing victory over China, educated an independence of Korea from China, and gained Taiwan, Liaodong Bandao, etc. Powerful Euro-American countries flocked around destabilized China, and China came to be a semi-dependent country of Japan and Euro-American countries.

However Russia didn't like that Japan extended it's influence in China, and pressured Japan to restitute Liaodong Bandao to China, with France and Germany. Jumped-up Japan did not have power to hold out against these three countries. Japan had no choice but to relinquish Liaodong Bandao. This event was called 'Sangoku Kansho' or 'trilateral intervention'. The 'Sangoku Kansho' drove Japanese citizens to exasperation, and Japanese government had to move ahead with arms buildup and enrich resources of the country.

Meanwhile, since about this time, 'The Yellow Peril', a political propaganda that the yellow race will bring down misfortune to the world, was begun to be propagandized in Europe. The initial prophet was the German Kaiser Wilhelm II (1859-1941), a grandchild of the British Queen Victoria (1819-1901). 'The Yellow Peril' targeted at Chinese at first, but as Japan gained power, it came to aim its attack at Japanese.

In March 1896, Japan enacted the 'Kokai Shorei-ho (=Navigation Incentive Law)' and the 'Zosen Shorei-ho (=Shipbuilding Incentive Law)', and began to promote marine transportation and shipbuilding. Under the auspices of the government, Nippon Yusen ventured to open three routes: the Europe route, the North America (Seattle) route and the Australia route, and ordered a lot of ships. Nippon Yusen enjoyed subsidy though, this was a big project because the cost of constructing ships alone was worth of more than 1.5 times of its capital fund.

On March 15, 1896, the Europe route (the Yokohama-Kobe-Shimonoseki-Hong Kong-Colombo-Bombay-Port Said-London-Antwerp route) was opened by the Tosa Maru (ex-Islam, 5,402gt, 1892-1925). The four-legged Tosa Maru was named after 'Tosa (nowadays Kochi prefecture)', the birth place of Yataro Iwasaki, the first president of Yubin Kisen Mitsubishi Kaisha, the predecessor of Nippon Yusen. Her running mates were the Izumi Maru (3,235gt, 1894-1904), the Kagoshima Maru (ex-Port Albert, 4,370gt, 1891-1918) and the Ryojun Maru (ex-Port Hunter, 4,794gt, 1892-1921). The 6 Kanagawa Maru-class ships: Kanagawa Maru (6,151gt, 1896-1934), Hakata Maru (6,151gt, 1897-1933), Kawachi Maru (6,099gt, 1897-1933), Kamakura Maru (7,850gt, 1897-1933), Sanuki Maru (6,117gt, 1897-1934), and Hitachi Maru (6,172gt, 1898-1904); and the 7 Wakasa Maru-class ships: Wakasa Maru (6,266gt, 1897-1933), Inaba Maru (6,192gt, 1897-1935), Tamba Maru (6,102gt, 1897-1934), Bingo Maru (6,421gt, 1897-1931), Sado Maru (6,219gt, 1898-1934), Awa Maru (6,309gt, 1899-1937) and Shinano Maru (6,388gt, 1900-51) were built for the route. 11 ships were built in the U.K., at the same time, the Hitachi Maru and the Awa Maru were ordered from Mitsubishi Nagasaki Shipyard.

On August 1, 1896, the North America route (the Kobe-Yokohama-Honolulu-Seattle route) was opened by the Miike Maru (3,312gt, 1888-1930). This route was proposed to Nippon Yusen by Great Northern Railway. It connected Japan and New York via Seattle. Seattle has been developed by the open of the route. The running mates were the Yamaguchi Maru (ex-Pak Ling, 3,320gt, 1890-1916) and the Kinshu Maru (ex-Kintuck, 3,967gt, 1891-1904). 4 ships: Kaga Maru (6,301gt, 1901-34), Iyo Maru (6,320gt、1901-33), Aki Maru (6,444gt、1903-34) and Tango Maru (7,463gt、1905-43) were built for the route.

On October 3, 1896, the Australia route (the Yokohama-Kobe-Moji-Nagasaki-Hong Kong-Thursday Island-Townsville-Brisbane-Sydney-Melbourne route) was opened by the Yamashiro Maru (2,528gt, 1884-1910). The Yamashiro Maru is well known as a ship which carried emigrants from Japan to Hawaii under an agreement between Japan and Kingdom of Hawaii (1795-1893). Pro-Japan Hawaii was annexed by the United States of America in 1898. Since the annexation, Japanese emigrants came to be shut out from Hawaii. In 1900, the United States barred contract immigrant labor from getting into Hawaii.

In those days, Japanese pearlers took up their abode on northern Australian Thursday Island. Therefore, the Australia route was expected to make a profit from Japanese emigrant traffics at first. But due to 'the White Australia policy' (1901-73),? emigrants from Japan were not allowed. Ultimately, the route depended on a profit from cargo transports. The Yamashiro Maru's running mates were the Omi Maru (2,473gt, 1884-1910) and the Tokyo Maru. The 3 Kasuga Maru-class ships: Kasuga Maru (3,797gt, 1898-1935), Futami Maru (3,841gt, 1898-1900) and Yawata Maru (3,818gt, 1898-1934) were built in the U.K.. The Futami Maru went aground at Mindoro, the Philippines and totaled in August 1900. So the Kumano Maru (5,076gt, 1901-27) was built as a substituting vessel. In 1903, the approximately-same Nikko Maru (5,539gt, 1903-45) was also built.

As a result of the 'Nisshin Senso' or 'The First Sino-Japanese War', Japan took out maritime power and authority in Chinese coast and Changjiang (Yangtze river), in addition took out the dominium over Taiwan, too. So Osaka Shosen started out managements of the China routes and the Taiwan routes. As Japan was overrunnig China, the both routes were developing.

3.Toyo Kisen Kaisha

In 1896, a notable shipping company was born under the 'Kokai Shorei-ho (=Navigation Incentive Law)'. The compnay was 'Toyo Kisen Kaisha' (TKK), which was founded by Soichiro Asano (1848-1930), known as one of the outstanding businesspersons.

Soichiro Asano was folks from a deserted village in Toyama prefecture, and allegedly he had loved doing business from his boyhood. When he was 24 years old, he moved up to Tokyo, and began to sell a glass of cold sugared water to passersby in summer. Then, he began to trade in bamboo rinds in Yokohama, and then he became a fuelwood dealer, and became a coal merchant. Later he got involved in Kyodo Unyu Kaisha. Meanwhile, he also started to manage a cement company. And he got involved in Iwaki Tanko, a coal mining company and Tokyo Gas. As Japanese Industrial Revolution advanced, Asano's businesses were also expanding.

On July 15, 1886, Asano purchased the Bellona (1,098gt, 1872-1906), which was built at Denton, Gray & Co., a British shipbuilder, from Deutsche Dampfschiffs Rhederei Zu Hamburg (Kingsin Linie), and renamed 'Hinode Maru'. And on September 11, he founded 'Asano Kaiso-bu'. 'Kaiso' means 'maritime trade' in the old-fashioned word. Therefore, 'Asano Kaiso-bu' means 'Asano maritime trade division'.

The first task of the Hinode Maru was a transport of 2000 'Tonden-hei' (=ex-legionaries, 1875-1904), who kept watch on and reclaimed Hokkaido, from Honshu to Hokkaido. The Hinode Maru transported coals, rices, etc., and Asano Kaiso-bu developed. In 1888, Asano also founded Sapporo Beer Kaisha (nowadays Sapporo Breweries Ltd.) in Hokkaido. Asano's business willingness was never losing steam.

After the Nisshin Senso (The First Sino-Japanese War), Asano decided to bring fulfillment to his longtime dream of having a shipping company which operates foreign routes. In order to come up with the finances, he sold the Asano Kaiso-bu, and founded 'Toyo Kisen Kaisha' (TKK) in 1896.

Asano, now the president of Toyo Kisen visited the United States, met with Collis Potter Huntington (1821-1900), the president of Pacific Mail Steamship Company in New York and secured his agreement on the allocation of Toyo Kisen's 3 ships on the Hong Kong-Yokohama-San Francisco route. This was the extremely rare case because the newly-established Toyo Kisen was allowed to enter into the San Francisco route which even Nippon Yusen couldn't penetrate.

Asano went right on to the United Kingdom, and ordered 3 ships, the Nippon Maru (6,307gt, 1898-1929), the America Maru (6,307gt, 1898-1944) and the Hong Kong Maru (6,364gt, 1899-1935) from 2 British shipyards. The Nippon Maru sailed out into San Francisco from Hong Kong on December 25, 1898. This ship was about the same clipper ship of the Canadian Pacific Line's RMS Empress of India (5,905gt, 1891-1923), the RMS Empress of Japan (5,905gt, 1891-1926) and the RMS Empress of China (5,905gt, 1891-1912). She was an epoch-making ship at that time because she was equipped with electric lamps inboard. The San Francisco route connected with the Southern Pacific Railroad. In 1900, Toyo Kisen bought sister ships, the Rohilla (3,501gt, 1880-1905) and the Rosetta (3,876gt, 1880-1908) as spare ships from P&O, and renamed 'Rohilla Maru' and 'Rosetta Maru' respectively.

In 1900, the Boxer Rebellion broke out in China (Qing). During the anti-alien movement, a German minister-counselor and a Japanese legation were killed. So Japan, the United States, the British Empire, Russia, France, etc. sent troops to China, and subdued the Boxer Rebellion.

However, only Russia stayed its numerous army in Manchuria after the Boxer Rebellion was subdued, in addition, it tried to extend its influence in the Korean Peninsula. Japan, which had a fear of the extension of Russian power, concluded 'the Anglo-Japanese Alliance' with the British Empire in 1902 in order to countervail Russia. But Russia began to build a military base in Korea. Thus Japan and Russia were opposed to each other over sovereignty of Manchuria and Korea, and the 'Nichiro Senso' or 'Russo-Japanese War' broke out at last in February 1904.

This war was a war which emerging Japan challenged big-power Russia, and it was a war which the existence were staked for Japan. Shipping companies completely cooperated with the Japanese government, and Toyo Kisen offered its all ships to the country.

Nippon Yusen offered 73 ships, and 11 out of them were lost. The Hitachi Maru? which was requisitioned by the Army is known as a tragic ships which was fired on by the Vladivostok Fleet on June 15, 1904 and sank with about 1,000 lives of crew members and soldiers. Also, the Shinano Maru which was used as a cruiser is well known as a ship which espied the comming up Baltic Fleet off Goto islands near Kyushu in the early morning on May 27, 1905, sent a telegram, 'Tekikan Miyu (=discovered enemy ships)' and led Japan to victory. On the day, Japanese combined fleet which was headed by the Admiral Heihachiro Togo (1847-1934) wiped out the Russian Baltic Fleet off Tsushima. The flagship Mikasa (15,140t, 1902-23) was built in Barrow-in-Furness, the U.K.. She is reserved in Yokosuka.

On May 27 when the Battle of Tsushima took place, Toyo Kisen's board of directors resolved to build the Tenyo Maru (13,454gt, 1908-33) and the Chiyo Maru (13,426gt, 1908-16).

In those days, its rival, Pacific Mail Steamship Company introdeced the Korea and the Siberia ships on the San Francisco route. In addition, it also introdeced larger ships, the Manchuria (13,639gt, 1904-52) and the Mongolia (13,639gt, 1904-46) on the route. In response to this, Toyo Kisen resolved to contend with these ships.

The Tenyo Maru was a heavy oil combustion ship which loaded steam turbine engines, and one of the passenger ships containing the most modern technologies in those days. And she was built at Mitsubishi Nagasaki shipyard. This meant Japanese shipbuilding technology was verging the level of the U.K., the world's most advanced country at that time. Still, the Tenyo Maru's turbine engines were made in the U.K.. The ship which Japanese-made turbine engines were loaded, was the Shinyo Maru (13,377gt, 1911-36), the third ship.

The Japan's victory of the Russo-Japanese War brought hope to nonwhite races (Asian Indian, Egyptian, etc., for example) who were pained by European tyrannicalnesses. But the Yellow Peril went the rounds in Europe and the United States. In California, Japanese school children were forced to transfer to the Oriental Public School for Chinese, Japanese, and Koreans in 1906, and a boycott of Japanese immigrants grew even stronger. Meanwhile, resistances againt Japan, which was extending it's influence, were growing in China and Korea.

As a consequence of this war, Japan gained control of Manchuria (North Eastern China), Kanto-shu (Liaodong Bandao), Korea and Southern Karafuto (nowadays Sakhalin). Therefore, routes which connects these foreign parts and Japan's mainland (inland) were due to be established. In 1907, 'Nisshin Kisen' which operates Chinese coastal routes was founded. After Korea (Korean Empire) was colonialized by Japan in 1910, 'Chosen Yusen', a national policy concern was also founded in 1912. Most colonies of European countries and the United States were located in Africa and Asia, which were far from the mainland. Therefore, the so-called 'ocean liners' ran on the colonial routes which connected thier colonies and the mainlands. However, Japanese colonial liners were not 'ocean liners' but 'ferries' because all Japanese colonies and overseas territories skirted around Japan. These ships also took on the character of 'emigrant ships'. In 1912, Republic of China was founded by Sun Wen (1866-1925) in China, the last Qing emperor, Aisin-Gioro Pu Yi (1906-67) was forced to abdicate from throne, and the Chinese royal dynasty system ended. In 1915, 'Dairen Kisen', a subsidiary of the South Manchuria Railway Co. was founded, and started to operate cargo-passenger ships along Chinese coast from Dalian ('Dairen' in Japanese).

On the deep-sea shipping, Nippon Yusen, Osaka Shosen and Toyo Kisen were developing as the big three shipping companies. Ships of the big three were called 'Sha-sen (=company's ship)', and were distinguished from 'Shagai-sen (=external ship)'.

In December 1905, Toyo Kisen chartered a British ship, the Glenfarg (3,647gt, 1894-1914), and opened the western South America route. Japanese immigrants to the South America shifted into full swing after the Russo-Japanese War. The first immigrants to Brazil of 1908 aboard the Kasato Maru (ex-Potosi, Kazan, 6,167gt, 1900-45), which was chartered by 'Kokoku Shokumin Goshi Kaisha', an emigration company, is well known. In Brazil, slavery was ended in 1888, so blue-collar workers were short in farming plants in those days.

In 1908, Nippon Yusen built the 6 Kamo Maru-class ships: Kamo Maru (8,524gt, 1908-1944), Hirano Maru (8,521gt, 1908-18), Mishima Maru (8,500gt, 1908-34), Miyazaki Maru (8,500gt, 1909-17), Atsuta Maru (8,523gt, 1909-42), and Kitano Maru (8,515gt, 1909-42) because the Kanagawa Maru, etc. on the Europe route became older.

In July, 1909, Osaka Shosen opened the North America (Tacoma) route, and introduced the 6 Tacoma Maru-class ships: Tacoma Maru (5,773gt, 1909-44), Seattle Maru (5,774gt, 1909-44), Chicago Maru (5,866gt, 1910-43), Panama Maru (6,058gt, 1910-44), Mexico Maru (5,785gt, 1910-44) and Canada Maru (6,063gt, 1911-43) on the route. The route was the Osaka Shosen's first ocean-going regular line, and it connected to the 'Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad'. In 1915 or later, the 6 Tacoma Maru-class ships were replaced by the 6 Hawaii Maru-class ships: Hawaii Maru (9,482gt, 1915-44), Manila Maru (9,486gt, 1915-44), Africa Maru? (9,476gt, 1918-42), Arabia Maru (9,480gt, 1918-44), Arizona Maru (9,684gt, 1920-42) and Alabama Maru (9,695gt, 1920-30).

In 1910, 'Enyo Koro Hojo-ho (=Ocean Line Aid Law)' was established as substitute for the existing 'Kokai Shorei-ho'. Under the law, the routes which were aided by the government were as follows:
1. North America routes of Toyo Kisen, Nippon Yusen and Osaka Shosen
2. Europe route, Australia route and Bombay route of Nippon Yusen
3. Western South America route of Toyo Kisen.

Nippon Yusen built the Yokohama Maru (6,469gt, 1912-42) and the Shizuoka Maru (6,568gt, 1912-33) for the North America route in 1912. And it built the Katori Maru (10,513gt, 1913-41) and the Kashima Maru (10,559gt, 1913-43) for the Europe route in 1914, and the Suwa Maru (11,758gt, 1914-43), the Yasaka Maru (10,932gt, 1914-15) and the Fushimi Maru (10,940gt, 1914-43) in 1914.

Toyo Kisen bought the Persia (ex-Coptic, 4,381gt, 1881-1925) and renamed 'Persia Maru' in 1915, when Pacific Mail Steamship Company withdrew from the Pacific route. In 1916 it bought sister ships, the Korea(11,810gt, 1902-34) and the Siberia(11,790gt, 1902-35), renamed 'Korea Maru' and 'Siberia Maru' respectively, and introduced them on the San Francisco route.

After the Russo-Japanese War, Japan concluded accords with Russia, France and the United States respectively, approved Russian sovereignty over Northern Mongolia, French sovereignty over Indochina and American sovereignty over the Philippines, and undertook alliance obligations of India with the British Empire. In return, Japanese sovereignty over Korea was approved by those countries.

However, in Europe, the Triple Entente (Russia, France and British Empire), which Japan concluded accords or undertook alliance obligations, came into collision with the Dreibund (Germany, Austria, and Italy). On June 28, 1914, the Austrian crown prince, Francis Ferdinand (1863-1914) was assassinated in Sarajevo, Bosnia by a Serbian young man, and 'World War I' broke out.

Japan declared war on Germany on August 23, 1914 on ground of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance, and occupied German colonies, such as Qingdao in Shandong peninsula, China, and Micronesia in the Pacific Ocean. In these missions, requisitioned merchant ships transported troops. Meanwhile, some of Japanese merchant ships which ran on the Europe route, were sacrificed of the war.

On December 21, 1915, Nippon Yusen's Yasaka Maru, which was known as her Germanish interior decorating, was torpedoed without notice by the U-38, a German submarine near Port Said , and sank in less than an hour. But every 120 passengers and 162 crew members evacuated in safe. This quick evacuation was praised at that time.

Meanwhile, Nippon Yusen's Hitachi Maru was attacked with gunfire and seized by the SMS Wolf, a German cruiser on the Indian Ocean, and sank in explosion on September 26, 1917. The captain drowned himself. The first Hitachi Maru sank during the Russo-Japanese War. Similarly, the Second Hitachi Maru also came to a tragic end.

On October 4, 1918, Nippon Yusen's Hirano Maru was torpedoed by the UB-91, a German submarine off the south coast of Ireland, and sank mere 7 minutes. At this time, 86 passengers and 124 crew members were killed. It became the worst disaster of Japanese merchant ships during World War I.

The First World War which continued for 4 years ended the defeat of the Central Powers (Germany, Austria, etc.). The First World War was a 'Total War' which was totally diferent from traditional wars, means of foreign diplomacy or politics. Europe fell into disrepair by the 'Total War'.

However, Japan and the United States, which are far from Europe, succeeded at becoming victor countries at the cost of minimum sacrifices. Especially in Japan,shipping industry and shipbuilding industry perked up at unprecedented rate because European countries were troubled by the lack of military goods, food goods and ships. Japan became the world's third-largest maritime power behind the British Empire and the United States, and its shipbuilding skill was coming close to the highest level in the world. And the so-called 'Funa Narikin', who were newly-rich industrialists built up a fortune in a maritime industry sprouted like mushrooms. Among them, the president of Uchida Kisen, Nobunari Uchida (1880-1971) was well known. Uchida was 30's around that time though, he built a huge asset and had big parties at his luxurious mansion in Suma, Kobe almost daily.

Nippon Yusen lost the Yasaka Maru, the Miyazali Maru, the Hitachi Maru, the Tokuyama Maru and the Hirano Maru on the Europe route during the war, so it built the 4 Hakone Maru-class ships: Hakone Maru (10,423gt, 1921-43), Haruna Maru (10,421gt, 1922-42), Hakozaki Maru (10,413gt, 1922-45) and Hakusan Maru (10,380gt, 1923-44). These 4 ships were called 'H-gata-sen(=H type ships)' named after their initials.

Osaka Shosen also ordered the London Maru (7,191gt, 1922-44) and the Paris Maru (7,197gt, 1922-34) from a British shipbuilder.

But as European countries were being restored, Japan-made goods were getting thrown off the market, and the then Japanese industrial strength, such as a spinning industry or a silk industry faced the recession. The shipping industry also faced serious financial troubles because of an excess of space, a fall in rates and tonnage values. In order to overcome the recession of the shipping industry, Nippon Yusen and Osaka Shosen seeked an amalgamation each other, but dropped anchor.

As one misfortune followed another, 'Kanto Dai-Shinsai (=The Great Kanto Earthquake)' struck on September 1, 1923. The Tokyo metropolitan area was devastated by the massive earthquake that killed more than 100 thousands people. Also, socialists, Korean and Chinese were massacred by neighborhood watch groups, policemen and Kenpeitai (=military police) in the confusion. Banks couldn't clear bills in hand because they couldn't make contact with a lot of business enterprises. Therefore, many banks fell into bankruptcy in 1927.

Meanwhile, Canadian Pacific Line and Dollar Steamship Company (Dollar Line), which recognized the importance of North Pacific Ocean routes from experiences during World War I, introduced large fast ships to the routes in order to overcome the recession of the shipping industry. Toyo Kisen, which ran the San Francisco route was seriously affected by those moves.

Toyo Kisen instantly fell in financial difficulties. It established 'Dai-ni Toyo Kisen (=the Second Toyo Kisen)', and transfered its fleet, as well as the San Francisco route, the western South America route, to the Dai-ni Toyo Kisen. And then, the Dai-ni Toyo Kisen was merged by Nippon Yusen. Toyo Kisen washed its hands of the operation of ocean liners. Nippon Yusen took out a total of 9 ships: the Korea Maru, the Siberia Maru, the Tenyo Maru, the Shinyo Maru, the Anyo Maru (9,257gt, 1913-45), the Rakuyo Maru (9,419gt, 1921-44), the Ginyo Maru (8,600gt, 1921-43), the Bokuyo Maru (8,619gt, 1924-39) and the Taiyo Maru, an entrusted ship by the Finance Ministry.

As a result, Toyo Kisen, which was founded by Soichiro Asano in 1896, disappeared from ocean-going regular lines in 1926. However, Toyo Kisen in itself survived as a shipping company that operated cargo ships until 1960 when it was merged with Nippon Yusosen. Nippon Yusosen (=Japan tankers) was merged with Nissan Kisen, and became Showa Shipping Co. Ltd. in 1964. And then, Showa Shipping Co. Ltd. went into liquidation in 1998 when it was merged with Nippon Yusen.

Ships which Nippon Yusen took out from the Dai-ni Toyo Kisen were overage ships. So, Nippon Yusen made a plan to build 3 large fast ships, called 'Yushu-sen (=excellent ships)' for the San Francisco route. The ships were the Asama Maru, the Tatsuta Maru and the Chichibu Maru (later Kamakura Maru).

Also, Nippon Yusen took a decision to build the Hikawa Maru (11,622gt, 1930-60), the Hiye Maru (11,622gt, 1930-43) and the Heian Maru (11,616gt, 1930-44) for the Seattle route, the Terukuni Maru (11,931gt, 1930-39) and the Yasukuni Maru (11,930gt, 1930-44) for the Europe route, and the Heiyo Maru (9,816gt, 1930-43) for the South America route.

Meanwhile, Osaka Shosen built the Buenos Aires Maru (9,626gt, 1929-43) and the Rio de Janeiro Maru (9,627gt, 1929-44) for the eastern South America route. Those ships were completed one after another from 1929.

4.Golden Age (1930's)

In the 1930's, Nippon Yusen's Taiyo Maru, Asama Maru, Tatsuta Maru and Chichibu Maru (Kamakura Maru) ran on the San Francisco route, which was one of the star routes for Japanese merchant ships.

The Taiyo Maru (ex-Cap Finisterre, 14,458gt, 1911-42) was one of the ships that Nippon Yusen took out from Toyo Kisen, and was originally from Germany as one of the World War I reparations. She was built as the Cap Finisterre for Hamburg Sudamerikanische Dampfschiffahrts-Gesellschaft (Hamburg South America Line) in 1911. She had a Winter Garden on the top deck.

The Asama Maru (16,947gt, 1929-44) and the Tatsuta Maru (16,955gt, 1930-43) were of the same stripe, two-stakcer, and the then ultimate level of ships built at Mitsubishi Nagasaki shipyard. Around that time, Japanese immigrants were put 'aliens ineligible to citizenship' under the Immigration Act of 1924, generally known by the name of 'Johnson-Reed Act', so it was impossible for Japanese to immigrate to the United States. Therefore, those ships were not directed to immigrants but upper passengers. In order to attract westerners, those ships were decorated to suit westerners' taste. A lounge, a library room, a gallery, a smoking room, a children's play room, a gymnasium, a swimming pool, a card room, a talking film projection room, dining rooms, cabins, etc. were decorated in Anglicism by top designers from the U.K.. A barber's shop, a beauty parlor, a post office, a bank (Sumitomo Bank) were set up and staff members from Japan Tourist Bureau gave a helping hand to passengers. A shop of Matsuzakaya, a department store was set up aboard the Asama Maru, meanwhile a shop of Takashimaya was put up aboard the Tatsuta Maru.

Only the Chichibu Maru (17,498gt, 1930-43) was built at Yokohama Senkyo. She varied greatly in appearance with one stack, and had different main engines. Japanese tatami rooms were also set up aboard the Chichibu Maru, and her shop was a shop of Daimaru, a department store. The 177.77m in length, 22.56m in beam, and 12.95m in depth ship was far smaller than modern large car ferries though, she was the largest Japanese passenger ship at that time.

At first, her name was spelled 'Chichibu Maru' in Hepburn system. However, in 1938, Japanese government embraced the Japanese form of romanized spelling, and her name was changed to 'Titibu Maru'. But it revealed that the 'Titibu' was associated with 'tit (=teat)'. So it was re-changed hurriedly to 'Kamakura Maru' in January 1939.

Since a lot of photos which were shown up white models were placed on the then brochure, it's easy to understand that those ships targeted mainly Westerners. Nippon Yusen also stepped up cuisines, invited chefs from France, and educated Japanese cooks about western-style cuisines at the 'Jimubuin Yoseijo (=crew training school)' in Yokohama. Also, in order to improve the quality of services, it sent captains and pursers to Europe and the United States to review their services on board, and trained stewards. Thanks to such efforts, services of Nippon Yusen were received well among Western passengers.

Around that time, celebrities who got on board the Nippon Yusen's passenger ships were as follows: Albert Einstein (Kitano Maru, October 1922); Johnny Weissmuller (Taiyo Maru, September 1928); Charles Spencer "Charlie" Chaplin (Suwa Maru, March 1932, etc.); Douglas Fairbanks (Chichibu Maru, September 1932, etc.); Efrem Zimbalist (Tatsuta Maru, January 1933); Guglielmo Marconi (Chichibu Maru, November 1933); Helen Adams Keller (Asama Maru, April 1937).

As just described, Japanese passenger ships brought the golden age, but the 1930's was far from a happy era. The world was going to smash its way to the Second World War.

In October 1929, the New York Stock Exchange in Wall Street, the United States, saw that the stock market took a great dive. This was the beginning of 'The Great Depression'.

In Germany, jobless workers exceeded 3 million in 1930. In this kind of environment, Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (NSDAP) headed by Adolf Hitler (1889-1945) made a clean sweep of the election in September, and established the one-party regime in 1933. He went ahead with public works projects and buildup of armaments, and succeeded the economic recovery. A lot of German citizens came to espouse the Nazis. In 1936, Berlin hosted Olympic Games.

Meanwhile, Japan had been suffering hard-core depressed condition after World War I, and Japan's economy depended heavily on exports to the United States. As a result, Japan was hard hit by The Great Depression, and a large amount of jobless workers came into being. As Japanese govenment did not take enough measures to the depression, discontents against party politics rose among the Japanese public, and men in uniform and right-wingers came to break the deadlock with terrorism.

In 1930, Nippon Yusen deteriorated business performance and could not pay a dividend. So, Nippon Yusen, Kinkai Yusen (a company which spun off from Nippon Yusen in 1923) and Osaka Shosen entered into an ocean route agreement called 'Yu-sho Kyoyaku (=Yusen-Shosen agreement)' in 1931. The outline of the agreement was as follows:
?1. The North America route, the western South America route and the Europe route will be operated by Nippon Yusen.
?2. The eastern South America route, Chinese coastal routes and Dalian routes will be operated by Osaka Shosen.
?3. On the other routes, the parties will avoid excessive competitions.

At that time, it was possible to enter into such an ocean route agreement because there were no antitrust laws.

On September 18, 1931, a railway track of the South Manchuria Railway Co. was blew up at Liutiaohu in Manchuria. Japanese Kanto Gun (Kwantung army) that kept watch over Manchuria, Kanto-shu (Guandong) and the South Manchuria Railway alleged that Chinese military blew up the railway track, and occupied all parts of Manchuria. However, the fact of the matter was that the Kanto Gun blew up the railway track, and the incident was fabricated by the Kanto Gun that had a plot to occupy all parts of Manchuria.

The 'Manchurian Incident' or the 'Mukden Incident' was a militaristic conduct that the Kanto Gun, mere an outpost of the Japanese Army took the liberty to begin without reference to the Japanese government policy. In 1932, the Kanto Gun declared the nation-building of 'Manchukuo', and Pu Yi, the last Emperor of Qing was installed the Consul (later, the Emperor) of Manchukuo. As the prime minister, Tsuyoshi Inukai (1855-1932) showed less appetite for approval of Manchukuo, he was assassinated by naval officers on May 15, 1932. Japanese party politics was ended by the '5.15 Incident'. Since then, the military came to become an influential political player. Japan, which was criticized the Manchurian Incident by the League of Nations, withdrew from it in March 1933. In October of the same year, Gemany also withdrew from the League of Nations. On February 26, 1936, the '2.26 Incident', a coup d'etat by army officers occured. Politicians always faced threats to life by terrorism, it became impossible to form a government which the Army doesn't support.

In this kind of environment, Japanese government implemented a subsidization policy called the 'Senshitsu Kaizen Josei (=The Quality of Ships Improvement Aid)' . The subsidization policy was that the government makes a grant to shipping companies, when the shipping companies build new ships with conditions of scrapping overage ships. In 1932, the 'Dai-ichiji Senpaku Kaizen Josei (=The First Ships Improvement Aid)' was implemented. Then, the 'Dai-niji Senpaku Kaizen Josei (=The Second Ships Improvement Aid)' in 1935, and the 'Dai-sanji Senpaku Kaizen Josei (=The Third Ships Improvement Aid)' in 1936 followed. Under the subsidization policy, the Korea Maru, the Siberia Maru, the Tenyo Maru and the Shinyo Maru, which Nippon Yusen took over from Toyo Kisen were scrapped. By the same token, the Kanagawa Maru, the Kaga Maru, the Kasuga Maru, etc., which were built when Nippon Yusen opened the Europe route, the North America route and the Australia route in 1896, were also scrapped.

In 1937, Japanese government implemented 'Yushu Senpaku Kenzo Josei Shisetsu (=The Excellent Ships Construction Aid)'. The subsidization policy was that the government makes a grant to shipping companies when 25 ships (passenger ships, cargo ships and tankers) were built without conditions of scrapping overage ships. But those 25 ships were due to be converted to military ships in times of emergency. Nippon Yusen built the so-called 'NYK San Shimai-sen (=NYK 3 sisters)': the Nitta Maru (17,150gt, 1940-43), the Yawata Maru (17,128gt, 1940-44) and the Kasuga Maru (17,130gt, 1940-44) for the Europe route. Those ships were national policy ships for the national defense. Their interior design incorporates the 'Shin Nippon Yoshiki (=New Japan style)', and they were built by not foreign-made products but domestic products only. You can be sensible of the Japanese Zeitgeist at the time from those features. Additionally, the Miike Maru (11,738gt, 1941-44) and the Aki Maru (11,409gt, 1942-44) were also built for the North America route, but they didn't go into service. Japanese government also implemented 'Ogata Yushu Senpaku Kenzo Josei Shisetsu (=The Large Excellent Ships Construction Aid)' in 1938. Nippon Yusen decided to build the 27,700gt passenger ships, the Kashiwara Maru and the Izumo Maru for the San Francisco route.

In this way, Japan achieved economic recovery, and Nippon Yusen made unprecedented profits in 1937. However, in July of the same year, Japanese troops and Kuomintang Party's troops encountered at Marco Polo Bridge in the suburbs of Beijing, and this incident triggered the Second Sino-Japanese War. In December, Japanese Army occupied Nanking, the capital city of Kuomintang Party's government. At this time, powerful lot of Chinese unarmed civilians and captive soldiers were killed (the Rape of Nanking).

In April 1938, 'Kokka Sodoin-ho (=National General Mobilization Act)' was issued. Under the law, govenment held an authority to mobilize materials and workforces to prosecute wars without congressional actions. The war in China evolved into a hopeless mess, and the end of war was nowhere in sight. In November and December 1938, when the prime minister, Fumimaro Konoe (1891-1945) announced that the aim of this war was to establish the 'Toa Shin Chitsujo (=East Asia New Order: a yen bloc)', an economic bloc integrated by Japan, Manchukuo and China, the United States reacted sharply against the announcement, and sent a notification of the abolishment of 'Treaty of Commerce and Navigation between the United States and Japan' in July 1939 (effected in January 1940). Meanwhile, 'Toa Kaiun', a national policy concern which operated Sino-Japanese trade on the initiative of Japanese government in August 1939. Also, government built 'Kaiun Tosei Iinkai (=Shipping Control Committee), and came to play a role in the shipping industry.

Osaka Shosen built 2 emigrant ships bound for South America, the Argentina Maru (12,755gt, 1939-45) and the Brasil Maru (12,752gt, 1939-42, her name was spelled in Portuguese) at Mitsubishi Nagasaki Zosensho in 1939. The sister ships were built by domestic products only and their interiors were decorated Japanesquely. They were architected by Dr. Haruki Watsuji (1891-1952). Also, the 3 Hokoku Maru-class ships: the Hokoku Maru (10,438gt, 1940-42), the Aikoku Maru (10,438gt, 1941-44) and the Gokoku Maru (10,439gt, 1942-43) were built for the Africa route.

On September 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland. To compete, the United Kingdom and France which made Agreement of Mutual Assistance with Poland, declared war on Germany, and 'World War II' broke out.

At first, Japan expressed a nonintervention in the war policy. On November 21, Nippon Yusen's Terukuni Maru, which ran on the Europe route, met a sea mine off the coast of Harwich, the United Kingdom, and sank. She was the first victim of Japanese merchant ships during World War II. Fortunately nobody was killed though, by which country the sea mine was laid, the U.K. or Germany still remains an open question.

In January 1940, Nippon Yusen's Asama Maru was made an inspection by the HMS Liverpool, a British navy ship off Nojimazaki point, Chiba prefecture, and 21 German passengers snatched and took by the Royal Navy (the Asama Maru Incident). Japanese press actively inflated anti-British sentiment among Japanese public. But under international law, it was a legal procedure that navy ships of warring countries make a inspection of ships of neutral countries on the high seas.

In June, when Italy joined the war in German side, and Germany knocked down France, an incorrect forecast that "the U.K. will surrender soon and World War II will draw to conclusion by victory of Germany", spread in Japan. Japan which was delirious from German fever, changed policy, and formed a military alliance, the Tripartite Pact or Dreimachtepakt with Gernamy and Italy in September 1940. And Japan embarked to establish the 'Dai Toa Kyouei-ken (=Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere)' in East Asia and Southeast Asia. This fatefully led to have a conflict with the United States which supported the U.K.. The Europe route was closed.

In July 1941, when the Japanese troops made an entry to Saigon (nowadays Ho Chi Minh City) in French Indochina (nowadays Viet Nam), the United States banned oil sale to Japan outright in August. Thus, Japan which was hunted down economically decided to open war with the United States and the United Kingdom.

As Japanese assets in the U.S., the U.K., the Netherlands and their colonies were freezed on July 26, 1941, Japanese nationals living there were forced to pull up from September to November 1941. The Tatsuta Maru, the Hikawa Maru and the Taiyo Maru were used when Japanese citizens in the North America returned home. Also, the Hiye Maru carried Japanese citizens in India, the then British colony, meanwhile the Asama Maru carried Japanese citizens in Singapore, the then also British colony. Additionally, the Hakone Maru was used when Japanese living in the Philippines, the then American colony returned home. The North America route, the India route, the Australia route, the western South America route, etc,. were forced to be closed one after the other. In August 1941, government laid down the 'Senji Kaiun Kanri Yoko (=Wartime Maritime Management Rule)'. Prime minister Konoe hesitated to open war with the U.S., but the outbreak of war was a matter of time.

On December 2, Nippon Yusen's Tatsuta Maru set off from Yokohama with 141 passengers, including American officers and men back home. Right before sailing, Captain Shohei Kimura was handed away a small box and was adjured to open the box at the stroke of the midnight on December 8 Japan time, by Commander Toshikazu Omae from the Ministry of the Navy. When Capt. Kimura opened the box, he found a pistol and a mandate that ordered an immediate return in the box. At this time, the Tatsuta Maru already reached near Midway though, she changed suddenly and returned to Yokohama safely on December 14. The voyage of the Tatsuta Maru was a kind of decoy in order to disguise the time of the start of the war.

On December 8, (December 7 local time), 1941, Japanese Navy's task force made a surprise attack on the U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. Meanwhile, Japanese Army group that started out from the port of Sanya on Hainan island, China 4 days before, also landed on British Malay Peninsula on the same day, and started the battle with British forces. In that way, a span of 3 years and some 8 months 'The Pacific War' or 'Dai Toa Senso (=The Great East Asia War)' broke out. And this war went hand-in-hand with the war in Europe, and developed literally 'The World War'.

5. The Pacific War (1941-45)

?At first, Japan defeated the U.S., the U.K., and the Netherlands in Hong Kong, the Philippines, Singapore, Dutch East Indies (nowadays Indonesia) and Burma (nowadays Myanmar). Japan succeeded in collapsing of those nation's domination of Southeast Asia in 100 days or so, and asserted the war objectives were to liberate Asia from imperialist Great Powers and to establish the 'Dai Toa Kyoei-ken (=Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere)' led by Japan. In November 1943, Japan assembled delegates from the Reorganized National Government of China, Manchukuo, Thailand, Burma, the Philippines and the Provisional Government of Free Indian, and the 'Dai Toa Kaigi (=Greater East Asia Conference)' was held in Tokyo. The conference declared the decolonization from Europe and the United States, and the elimination of racial discrimination. And Japan asked for help on the war. However, the true Japanese aim of the occupation of South East Asia was to rob important resources including oil, and to dominate over there in succession to Europe and the United States. Though South East Asia countries welcomed Japan at first, later, anti-Japanese movements were organized, and Japanese soldiers were annoyed by anti-Japanese guerrilla fighters.

In March 1942, the 'Senji Kaiun Kanri-rei (=Wartime Shipping Management Act)' was issued, and the 'Senpaku Unei-kai (=Shipping Operation Society)', a special legal entity which operated the state control of shipping was established in April. Noboru Otani (1874-1955), the president of Nippon Yusen assumed the first president. The state controlled all ships, seamen and shipbuilding. Therefore, the autonomy of shipping was virtually lost. In this way, wartime Japanese merchant ships were categorized into 3 types: the 'Rikugun Choyo-sen (=Ships requisitioned by Army), A-ships: 519'; the 'Kaigun Choyo-sen (=Ships requisitioned by Navy), B-ships: 482'; and the 'Senpaku Unei-kai Shiyo-sen (=Ships used by Shipping Operation Society), C-ships: 1,528'. The Army, the Navy and the Senpaku Unei-kai had control over all ships. A total of 1,036 poor-quality cargo ships and tankers called 'Senji Hyojungata-sen (=Wartime Standard Ships)' were also built until the defeat in war. And there were 30 ships owned by 'Teikoku Senpaku', a statutory company which was established in July 1940 in order to resolve shipping shortages by means of taking out foreign ships. Additionally, there were also 123 ships, which were captured ships of enemy countries, such as the U.S., the U.K., the Netherlands, etc.

Luxury passenger ships which were built under subsidy policies such as 'Yushu Senpaku Kenzo Josei Shisetsu (=The Excellent Ships Construction Aid)' or 'Ogata Yushu Senpaku Kenzo Josei Shisetsu (=The Large Excellent Ships Construction Aid)' were bought out by the military, and converted into aircraft carriers. Abuilding Nippon Yusen's Kashiwara Maru and Izumo Maru were completed as aircraft carriers, the 'Junyo' and the 'Hiyo' respectively.

However, complexion of the war changed significantly in the Battle of Midway of June 1942 when the Japanese combined fleet encountered a defeat.

As Japan lost 4 aircraft carriers (the Akagi, the Kaga, the Soryu and the Hiryu) in the Battle of Midway, the so-called 'NYK San Shimai-sen (=NYK 3 sisters)', the Nitta Maru, the Yawata Maru and the Kasuga Maru were converted into aircraft carriers, the 'Choyo', the 'Unyo' and the 'Taiyo' respectively. Osaka Shosen's Argentina Maru was converted into an aircraft carrier, the 'Kaiyo'. Her sister ship, Brasil Maru was also scheduled for conversion into an aircraft carrier, but she was torpedoed by the USS Greenling (SS-213) and sank in August 1942. And Norddeutscher Lloyd (nowadays Hapag-Lloyd AG)'s Scharnhorst (18,184gt, 1935-44), which could not return Germany from Japan, was converted into an aircraft carrier, 'Shinyo'.

At the time, Japanese government detached 'Exchange Ships' in order to exchange Japanese diplomats, overseas Japanese citizens and alien friends, who were detained in enemy countries for enemy's diplomats, enemy aliens, who were detained in Japan and its friendly nations called 'Toa (=East Asia)', in a neutral country under the auspices of Swiss government. Ships which were disengaged from impressment temporarily were used, and Nippon Yusen was commissioned to operate them.

'The first U.S.-Japanese exchange ships' were conducted from June 1942 to September 1942. The Asama Maru and the Conte Verde (18,761gt, 1923-45), an Italian ship carried the American ambassador to Japan, the Brazilian ambassador to Japan, etc. to Lourenzo Marques (nowadays Maputo) in Portuguese East Africa (nowadays Mozambique). Meanwhile, the Gripsholm (17,993gt, 1925-66), the U.S. exchange ship carried Japanese diplomats, including Kichisaburo Nomura (1877-1964) and Saburo Kurusu (1886-1954), Japanese ambassadors to Washington, and overseas Japanese citizens, and exchanged passengers each other.

'The second U.S.-Japanese exchange ships' were conducted from September 1943 to November 1943, by using the Teia Maru (ex-Aramis, 17,536gt, 1932-44) of Teikoku Senpaku. The U.S. exchange ship was the same Gripsholm though, the exchange place was Mormugao (Goa) in Portuguese India this time.

Meanwhile, 'The Anglo-Japanese exchange ships' were conducted from July 1942 to October 1942, by using the Tatsuta Maru and the Kamakura Maru. Japanese citizens, Thailanders and German diplomats, who were aboard the City of Paris(10,902gt, 1922-56), the El Nil(ex-Marie Woermann, Tjerimi, 7,690gt, 1916-53) and the City of Canterbury(8,439gt, 1923-?)were exchanged for alien enemies including the British ambassador to Japan, the Belgian ambassador to Japan, etc. at Lourenzo Marques.

In February 1943, Japanese army group was forced to pull out of Guadalcanal. In Europe, the 300 thousands German army was almost completely destroyed at Stalingrad (nowadays Volgograd) in the U.S.S.R. (nowadays Russia). In September, Italy surrendered to the allied power.

In June 1944, allied forces landed on Normandy, France. Meanwhile, the U.S. forces landed on Saipan in July, and Leyte, the Philippines in October 1944. On December 7, the 'Showa Tonankai Jishin (=Showa South East Sea Earthquake)', a huge earthquake centered off the coast of Nagoya occurred, and a lot of munition factories were destroyed.

In February 1945, the United States, the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union concluded the Yalta agreement at Yalta in Crimean peninsula, the U.S.S.R. (nowadays Ukraine). The Soviet military enclosed Berlin, and beleaguered Hitler suicided himself on April 30. Germany surrendered at discretion in May. At last the war in Europe ended.

In Asia, the U.S. forces landed on Iou To (or Iwo Jima) in March, Okinawa in April, and unfurled dreadful ground attacks. About 100 thousands civilians and about 100 thousands Japanese Imperial Army soldiers were killed in Okinawa. Japanese cities were exposed to air raids. Tokyo was destroyed in indiscriminate attack by use of incendiary bombs in March and about 100 thousands civilians were burned to death.

In May, the 'Kaiun Sokanbu (=General Shipping Management Department)' was set up in the 'Dai Honei (=Imperial Headquarters)', and all ships were controlled over by the Military though, Japanese defeat in war was close at hand.

The number of lost Japanese merchant ships which were over 100gt steel ships conducted wartime sealift during the Pacific war was as follows:

1941:????? 9
1942:??? 204
1943:??? 426
1944:? 1,009
1945:??? 746
Total: 2,394

The number of seamen who were killed or missing in action, or died of disease in the war was 30,592, which accounted for 43% of the total seamen who engaged in wartime sealift. As far as Nippon Yusen's employees, 5,157 seamen were killed. Whereas, the attrition rate of army soldiers was 20% and navy soldiers was 16%. You can easily understand how lives of impressed merchant seamaen were considered less serious.

Japanese merchant ships which engaged in wartime sealift, were called 'Hell Ships' by captured Allied soldiers or POWs. To be accurate, prisoner-of-war carrying Japanese vessels (e.g., warships, passenger ships, cargo ships, etc.) were 'Hell Ships',

During the Pacific War, the Japanese troops took about 350 thousands Allied soldiers captive. Out of these, about 140 thousands white captives were held as 'Furyo (=POWs)' in prisoners' camps. Local soldiers in occupied areas were pushed around as 'Asian Labors'. It is well known that about 13 thousands POWs and several tens of thousands of Asian labors died of inhuman working conditions when the Thai-Burma Railway (Death Railway) was constructed between Thailand and Burma (415km), and the incident was criticized internationally.

Back in those days, Japan faced a serious labor shortage because a lot of older boys were inducted into the military forces. So, junior high-school students or older students, and women were marshalled for munition factories. What is more, many Koreans and Chinese were forced into Japan, and worked in coal mines, metalliferous mines or civil engineering work sites, etc. under duress. In order to make the most use of the POWs as working powers, the POWs were also forced into Japan in a stream from southern occupied areas such as Singapore, etc. The number of the POWs who were forced into Japan during the Pacific War was presumed about 36 thousands.

The POWs were transported by ship, however the voyage to Japan was truly appalling situation. The POWs were squeezed into not cabins but holds. As might be expected, there were no toilets in holds. So, buckets were available as toilets. When a ship welterd and a bucket turned over, feces spread on the floor. The POWs were forced to sleep on such a dirty floor. As quick as a flash, epidemics including dysentery were widespread, and dead men appeard one after another. Some become mad in so terrible odors and hot air. Furthermore, the POW transport ships were under threat of sinking by the allied sea mines, thunderstrokes and bombardments. The number of POWs who were killed in action or died of illness en route Japan was said to be about 11,000.

Japanese transport ships were based at Moji in Northern Kyushu. Therefore, most of the POWs arrived at Moji-ko (=Port of Moji). A wharf near the current JR Moji-ko Station. From January 1942, a total of 130 POW camps were set up in Japan's mainland. Prisoners were sent to scattered POW camps from Moji by rail, and forced to work in mines, shipyards, factories, ports, etc. as slave laborers. Under the 'Senjin Kun (=charge in the battlefield)', a charge Hideki Tojo (1884-1948), the Army Minister gave instructions to Japanese soldiers in January 1941, Japanese troops strictly prohibited to be taken prisoners by enemy forces as the worst disgrace. Therefore, the then Japanese soldiers disdained the POWs supposably. In addition, Japan signed on for 'The Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, Geneva July 27, 1929 (Geneva Conventions、Genfer Konventionen)', but did not ratify it.

Osaka Shosen's Montevideo Maru (7,627gt, 1926-42) is relatively known among the POW transport ships which sank in early phase of the Pacific War. As is clear from her name, she was originally an emigrant ship in service on the South America route. Her sister ships were the Santos Maru (7,267gt, 1925-44) and the La Plata Maru (7,267gt, 1926-45). They were requisitioned by the Navy, and used as transport ships during the war.

On June 1942, the Montevideo Maru with 1,053 Australian prisoners left Rabaul for Sanya on Hainan island, China. However, at 3:22 a.m. on July 1, she was torpedoed by the USS Sturgeon (SS-187), a U.S. submarine, and sank off the northern coast of Luzon, the Philippines. All prisoners were killed. But her accident description was little descriptive of prisoners, but rather entirely-focused on Japanese crew members and soldiers. According to it, all 3 life boats were capsized though, 2 life boats out of 3 were turned back by Japanese crew members and got on them. The Montevideo Maru sank at 3:34 a.m., when 9 crew members and 11 soldiers went missing. And then, survivors give up searching for missing men, they pulled and arrived at Luzon in the evening on July 2, and bivouacked there. The next day, they spotted an islander, asked for making contact with the Japanese army group, and then rested in an empty house in the settlement. On the following day, July 4, they were made an attack by islanders and stragglers, and were killed in battle one after another. The 16 survivors managed to get to an army base and were rescue, the accident description said.

As just described, there were a few records on the POW transport ships in Japanese side beyond expectation. A lot of records were lost because the military destroyed all evidences on the eve of the war defeat. Therfore, we have only fragmented information. There are not any exhaustive documents or tomes as of now. Also, as damages of the POW transport ships were responsible for thunderstrokes or air strikes of the U.S. military mainly, they were considered taboo even in the Allies for a while after the war. In the Cold War years, the Allies, especially the United States obscured Japan's responsibility for the war in order to attract eastmost Japan to western powers. Anyway, the 'Hell Ships' are going to be lost to history.

The typical ships which sank during transport POWs and took a lot of victims were as follows:

Nippon Yusen's 'Lisbon Maru' (sank on October 1, 1942); Kuribayashi Steamship's 'Suez Maru' (sank on November 29, 1942); Eyo Kisen's 'Tamahoko Maru' (sank on June 24, 1944); a captured ship, 'Kachidoki Maru' (ex-President Harrison) (sank on September 12, 1944); Nanyo Kaiun's 'Rakuyo Maru' (her former owners were Nippon Yusen and Toyo Kisen, sank on September 12, 1944); Baba Shoji's 'Junyo Maru' (sank on September 18, 1944); Osaka Shosen's 'Hofuku Maru' (sank on September 21, 1944); Mitsui Steamship's 'Arisan Maru' (sank on October 24, 1944); Osaka Shosen's 'Oryoku Maru' (sank on December 14, 1944); Nippon Yusen's 'Enoura Maru' (sank on March 21, 1945), etc.

Meanwhile, the incident that the Nippon Yusen's Awa Maru (11,249gt, 1943-45), which did not transport POWs, but carried relief materiel to the allied POWs, a vessel furnished with a safe-conduct or a licence was torpedoed by the USS Queenfish (SS-393), a U.S. submarime and sank on April 1, 1945, became a big political issue as 'the Awa Maru Incident' after the war. Despite the Awa Maru was assured the safety of navigation by the Allies, she was torpedoed due to negligence of the U.S. side, and 2,129 people were killed. In response to the protest by Japanese government, the U.S. government made a reply that it will recompense for a loss after the war. In April, 1949, however, Japanese national diet resolved to disclaim on this case, and Japan did not claim for compensation to the United States. In 1950, Japanese government paid a consolation payment to Nippon Yusen, and 'the Awa Maru Incident' was settled as a no-one-is-unhappy settlement.

In July 1945, the leaders of the United States, the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union talked together about a treatment of Germany and other issues at Potsdam in the suburbs of Berlin, Germany. On July 26, 'The Potsdam Declaration', a joint communique that made an appeal to Japan to surrender at discretion, was announced. Japan, which lived in hope of engagement in peacemaking by the Soviet Union, deliberately ignored the Potsdam Declaration. Japan did not know at all that at the Yalta Conference of February, the Allies covertly decided that the Soviet Union will enter a war after a period of several months after German surrender.

On August 6, an atomic bomb, a new weapon was dropped on Hiroshima, and about 200 thousands people were killed. On August 8, the Soviet Union declared war on Japan on the basis of the Yalta agreement, and sent troops to Manchuria, Southern Karafuto (nowadays Sakhalin) and Chishima islands (or Kurile Islands). On the following day, August 9, another atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, and about 70 thousands people were killed.

The military still maintained to go on the war in hope of homeland battles to the finish though, The Emperor Showa (Hirohito, 1901-89) took a decision to accept the Potsdam Declaration at last on August 10. Japan sent out a notice via Swiss government to the Allies, and surrendered at discretion. The surrender of Japan was announced to Japanese public on the radio on August 15. And on September 2, the signing ceremony on the instrument of surrender was held aboard the USS Missouri (BB-63) in Tokyo Bay, and the Second World War, the all-time worst tragedy ended.

The number of Japanese war death and missing is estimate to a total of about 3 million. And the only surviving Japanese ocean liner was the Hikawa Maru, which was used as a hospital ship during the war. The Nippon Yusen's Hikawa Maru is currently stored in the Port of Yokohama.


This is a rough draft of "Japanische Ocean Liner- Teil I & II", which I wrote for German "FERRIES" magazine in 2014.