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.




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。