The Nippon-maru in full sail (Photo: Shinya Ota)

The Nippon-maru, Sail Exhibit

Nippon-maru Memorial Park, Minato Mirai, Yokohama

The Nippon-maru in full sail (Photo: Shinya Ota)
Shinya Ota   - 3 min read

The Nippon-maru, a sailing ship is berthed at the former site of No.1 dock of the shipyard, now the Nippon-maru memorial park near the Landmark Tower in Yokohama's Minato Mirai 21 area. She was built at a shipyard in Kobe as a training ship for seafaring college students some 80 years ago, and then traveled around the world with them. Over 11,000 students were given training on board by the time she was decommissioned in 1984. Yokohama was chosen as her resting place for the rest of her life. She has berthed at the former dock since 1985. There could not have been a better place than this for the ship. Another dry dock is located across the street from the park. It is a part of the Landmark Tower and used as an event place now. Both of the two docks are designated as national important properties.

Once a month, except during the winter season, the park holds an event to exhibit her in full sail. (The event actually starts at 10:30 in the morning. But by 10 o’clock, people are coming to secure their places to sit or to search out a good position to take a photo from before the start.) The Nippon-maru is a four mast ship with 29 sails. About 80 volunteers attend the event, climb the masts and walk on ropes to unfurl the sails. The highest mast reaches 46 meter high above the water. The volunteers wear white uniforms and yellow helmets. The members are all volunteers. Some are company employees, students and fire fighters. About half of the members are female. For a guy with acrophobia like me, it is impossible to understand why they are willing to do that but I guess it must be pleasant to feel the gentle winds on their faces from the water. On the deck, they lift the sails by pulling ropes with shouts of “Washoi” or “Yo-heave-ho” all together. (We also shout “Washoi” when we carry a portable shrine at summer festivals.) It seems they enjoy working as a team immensely. They furl all the 29 sails in perfect order in an hour. You can see the Nippon-maru beautifully in full sail from the moving walk which connects JR Sakuragicho Station and the Landmark Tower. It is a day when the Minato Mirai area looks the Minato Mirai.

The ship is open to the public. The inside of the ship is preserved just as it was used back then.

Shinya Ota

Shinya Ota @shinya.ota

Shinya Ota is a Registered National tourist English guide.  Native of Yokohama living here more than 50 years. He loves Yokohama and enjoys walking through Yokohama harbor area on weekends.