A luxury liner, a hospital ship…the Hikawa Maru has gone through a fascinating destiny
Completed in 1930, the Hikawa Maru carved out a route as a ship service for cargo and passengers through the northern Pacific with the United States and Canada. It was a luxury liner which accommodated 289 passengers and was equipped with cutting-edge engines. The ship was named after Hikawa Shrine in Saitama Prefecture. In its wheelhouse, there was a household Shinto shrine, and it is said that the captain would always make the effort to pray for a safe voyage at the shrine whenever the ship entered Yokohama. The Hikawa Maru made its grand debut as a luxury liner on the Seattle route and was forced into service as a hospital ship in World War II. It was the only ship among the large ships in the Nippon Yusen fleet to not sink, and after the war, it returned to service on the Seattle run. After 30 years of service in 1960, it was retired from the front line. Thereafter, it was designated as a Tangible Cultural Property by the city of Yokohama and was opened to the public in 2008.
Charlie Chaplin’s cabin
The ship’s interior, refurbished to its original appearance, has facilities such as a first-class dining room, a first class smoking room and first-class special cabins which can be toured, and there is also an exhibition corner which introduces the history of the Hikawa Maru and from the Promenade Deck, the scene of Yokohama Harbor can be viewed. Even when taking into consideration the era of luxurious voyages through the Pacific Ocean, the Hikawa Maru was a vessel that took care of its passengers. The first-class special cabins inside not only had sleeping rooms but also had parlors and bathrooms, and in 1932, Charles Chaplin used one of them to head home from Japan. The retro atmosphere still remains of that time when every luxury imaginable was provided.