Relationship between Turkey and Japan through Ertuğrul

On September 15, 1890 at noon, Ertuğrul, the old frigate of the Ottoman Navy set sail from Yokohama for Istanbul. The very good weather conditions at the departure changed the next day in the morning. A reverse wind began to blow, getting stronger towards evening. By nightfall, the wind came from below the bow so that the sails had to be folded. At the same time, violent waves in the rabid sea began beating against the ship, which, under severe trial, could hardly make headway. The 40m high mizzen mast collapsed and caused severe damage by shaking from side to side and banging into the other sails. While the storm continued gaining power, waves coming from the bow separated the deck boards from the front. Water broke through into the coal depots in the boiler room. In the next four days, the crew tried to repair the damage by remedying the sails and tightening the shrouds. They also continuously tried to empty the water with buckets out of the coal containers, which was the most serious danger, since the pumps were insufficient.

Despite all the efforts, the ship’s disintegration was imminent and the only option was seeking sanctuary in a nearby port. They headed to Kobe, within 10 miles of the ship, in the gulf beyond the Kashinozaki Cape with Oshima Lighthouse.

Seawater breaking through finally extinguished one of the furnaces in the engine room. Almost immobile without main sails and sufficient propulsion, and having only the wind and the waves behind, Ertuğrul drifted towards the dangerous rocks at the eastern coast of Oshima Island. As the crew tried just to stop the ship before the rocks by emergency anchoring, the ship hit the reefs and fell apart at the first impact around midnight on September 18, 1890.

At the site of the accident, around 533 sailors, of whom fifty were officers including the commander Admiral Ali Osman Pasha, lost their lives. Only six officers and sixty-three sailors survived. Six of the survivors were uninjured, nine severely wounded and the others with only lightly injuries. After the rescue operation, two survivors were taken to Kobe by Japanese ships, another two by a Japanese battleship and sixty-five by German gunboats. All the sixty-nine survivors were transported back to Istanbul aboard Japanese corvettes Kongo and Hiei, leaving Shinagawa, Tokyo in October 1890. The sultan accepted the officers of the Japanese battleships on January 5, 1891 and expressed his appreciation for the relief operation by decorating them with medals.

Ironically, this accident created general sympathy in Japan for Turkish people and led to the establishment of a strong basis for which friendship between Turkey and Japan was to later flourish.

In February 1891, a cemetery was established for the 150 sailors recovered dead at the calamity, and a memorial next to it was built near the lighthouse in the town of Kushimoto, Wakayama.

Emperor Hirohito visited the cemetery on June 3, 1929, which was extended the same year. Turkey renovated the monument in 1939.

In 1974, a “Turkish Museum” was established, in which a scale model of the ship, photographs and statues of the sailors are on exhibition.

The event is being commemorated every five years on the day of the tragic accident in Kushimoto with the participation of high-level officials from Turkey and Japan.

1985年3月12日、イラン・イラク戦争の最中、イラク軍によるイランの首都テヘランに対する空爆が始まった。テヘランの在留外国人は空爆を避けるために国外避難を準備し始めたが、3月17日に至って、イラクのサッダーム・フセイン大統領は「3月19日20時半以降はイランの上空を飛ぶすべての飛行機を撃ち落とす」という声明を発した。

宣言後、イランに住む外国人についてはそれぞれが国籍を置く国の軍隊、ないしは民間航空会社を使っての脱出が計られた。しかし、当時日本では自衛隊に対し海外へ在留する日本人への緊急脱出をさせる為に活動させるといった法律が無く、他国に応援を要請したが断られてしまう。また過去にテヘランに寄港していた日本航空は当時既にテヘランへの寄港を停止していたため、日本政府は現地との調整に手間取り、日本航空チャーター機の派遣も反会社側労働組合の反対と、前記期日までの脱出が困難であることを理由に実現しなかった。そのため、在イラン日本人200名以上は脱出方法が見つからずに生命の危機に瀕していた。

ぎりぎりの状態で脱出策が講じられた末に、イラン・イラクの隣国トルコが航空機の派遣を申し出、2機のトルコ航空機がテヘランへ派遣された。2機のトルコ航空機が215人の在留邦人を乗せてイラン国境を越えてトルコ領空に入ったのはタイムリミット直前のことであった。

この事件はのちにインターネット上の電子掲示板やメールマガジンを通じて親日国トルコのイメージを広めることに貢献し、テレビでもTBSのクイズ番組「日立 世界・ふしぎ発見!」、フジテレビのバラエティ番組「奇跡体験!アンビリバボー」や、2004年にはNHKのドキュメント番組「プロジェクトX」でも取り上げられた。

この救出の後、1999年にトルコ大地震が発生したが、その際この救出された邦人の一部が義捐金を募りトルコに贈った。

また、湾岸戦争勃発1ヶ月前の1990年12月に、当時国会議員だったアントニオ猪木が自らイラクに赴いて平和を訴えるイベントを行い、サッダーム・フセイン政権によってイラクからの出国を差し止められ事実上の人質として抑留されていた在留日本人の解放を果たしたとき、チャーター便を出してこれを助けたのもトルコ航空であり、日本との縁は深い。

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