43. In The Navy

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.

Kure – it’s kind of a Japanese version of Portsmouth only with less fighting in the local pubs. However, it looks like they’re not so good at docking their submarines here.

The Kure Maritime Museum Рmore popularly known as the Yamato Museum after the 1/10th scale model of the battleship Yamato in the central hall Рpresents 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.

Yamato Museum – lots of models and artefacts to be seen.
Battleship Yamato – OK got all those technical details?
Battleship Yamato – a 1/10th scale model. We’re going to need a bigger bathtub.
Battleship Yamato – nice set of propellers.
Mitsubishi A6M “Zero” – Japan’s most famous WWII fighter plane.
Yamato Museum – the Large Objects Exhibition Hall.

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.

JMSDF Kure Museum – the mines hall detailing the types of mines handled by the JMSDF.
JMSDF Kure Museum – the mine location and disabling equipment used by the JMSDF.
JMSDF Kure Museum – the submarine and torpedo hall.
Akishio SS-579 – hmm, quite a few controls to master.
Akishio SS-579 – what happens if the two helmsmen turn in different directions?
Akishio SS-579 – up periscope! Hope there aren’t any Klingons on the starboard bow.

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!

JMSDF Kure Museum – no Philip that is not how a helmsman pilots the Akishio SS-579 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.