from “Go West”, Village People, 1979.
“Yes you can sail the seven seas!” Well sort of. We got somewhat close to this on a visit to the naval city of Kure, around 30 minutes train ride from Hiroshima where we visited two museums: the Kure Maritime Museum and the JMSDF Kure Museum.
The Kure Maritime Museum – more popularly known as the Yamato Museum after the 1/10th scale model of the battleship Yamato in the central hall – presents the history of Kure, which is essentially the history of the modernisation of Japan. It focuses on the lives of people in the city, its culture, and main industries of shipbuilding and steel-making, as well as the history of the battleship Yamato, an iconic ship in Japanese naval history, and the largest battleship ever built.
The JMSDF (Japanese Maritime Self Defence Force) Kure Museum is mainly dedicated to the mine-sweeping activities of the JMSDF from the end of World War II, when the seas around Japan had been heavily mined by Allied forces. There is also an extensive history of submarines, torpedoes and submarine rescue, and visitors can access the interior of the 76m long Akishio SS-579 submarine, which was launched in Kobe in 1985 and served in the navy until 2004.
We spent a very enjoyable day touring both these museums, and seemed to be the only gaijin (foreigners) there that day. In the JMSDF Kure Museum we ended up being the last people out of the door when they were trying to close the museum without looking like they were trying to throw us out – probably because it was murder getting Philip out of the helmsman’s seat of the Akishio submarine!
As we waited for the train at Kure station they played their station music, just like we have encountered on many of Japan’s railway and metro stations. In Kure’s case it was the theme to “Space Battleship Yamato” or as Western anime fans know it “Star Blazers”. Robert had been singling this all day and Philip was happy to have finally heard a more tuneful rendition of the theme! Didn’t stop Robert from singing it all the way back to Hiroshima.