Yokosuka, Kure, Sasebo and Maizuru are big port town developed during the Meiji era y Japanese government. I want to talk about how they were developed.
During the Meiji period (1868-1912), Japan as a modern state urgently needed to protect its waters and coastline and to compete with Western powers.
To do so the government selected four ideal natural harbors that, at the time, housed quiet fishing villages, and rapidly established them as naval ports.
Naval institutions and infrastructure such as water lines and rail access were installed while state-of-the-art technology and labor were poured into these ports, thus, the resulting four naval port cities helped to push forward Japan’s modernization.
Currently, many facilities in the four cities remain in operation, reminding visitors of their storied roles while the old ports with their dignified histories continue to attract visitors.
A policy of increasing national prosperity and military strength is one of slogans which Meiji new government holds up to establish a modern nation, and the naval forces played an important part in strengthen military power. Meiji new government built navy ships and set “Chinjufu”” or a naval station at Yokosuka in 1884 to compete fairly and squarely to European powers. Kure, Sasebo and Maizuru were also set “Chinjufu” to establish a military defense system to have jurisdiction over the divided districts of surrounding Sea of Japan.
“Chinjufu” is a headquarter set on a naval port which protects each army area, controls a naval dockyard (production and repair of ships, production of arms), naval hospital, water lines, other facilities.
A commander in chief of Chinjufu was at the head of an army.
Four naval ports were selected meeting severe geographical features such as surrounded by steep mountains, entrance of a bay which prevents an enemy from invading, inside a bay in which ships can navigate and anchor, a calm inlet with deep depth of water. More than 100 years has passed, ships were changed to modern models, a unique landscape centered as a naval port has become a landmark of each town. We can see now a dockyard, a wharf, a series of brick houses stand around the port, railway, water lines, a communications infrastructure, landscape of a town spread from the sea, a ruin of a fortress set on a hill.
A cutting-edge technology and facilities were always deployed to a navy, but a force which absorbs it and transmit widely, take over to a next generation was needed. A posture which promotes technology is seen as the root in Yokosuka iron mill, a predecessor of Yokosuka Naval Dockyard. Japan has imported the newest shipbuilding equipment from the Europe with French technical guidance, established a system in which all the things needed are produced in the iron mill. “kosha” or school of technical education was founded to promote development of technology of Japanese.
There are Yokosuka Iron Mill and Yokosuka Dockyard which conveys the promotion of technology at the present time. The first dock (the oldest Japanese stone dock) was built by French engineers, but the third one (current second one) was built by Japanese engineers who studied in the Kosha. Technology cultivated in Yokosuka was transmitted to Kure, from Kure to Sasebo, Maizuru and private companies. It has made rapid progress and enriched human resource training in Kure. Modern shipbuilding technology born in the navy began with battleship building in Yokosuka, compiled into a single work to build the world’s biggest battleship Yamato in only 60 years.
A ferroconcrete building is a general construction method today, but it was welcomed as the newest technology which takes over the brick in late Meiji era. The first building was Sasebo navy Dockyard, but Hashirimizu water purification facility in Yokosuka completed in 41th year of Meiji handed down the technology as the oldest ferroconcrete building. Hario transmitting towers in Sasebo completed in the 11th year of Taisho (Three towers of 136m height) is the terminal point of the technology as the unprecedented largest transmitting tower in Japan.
The four cities were originally quiet farming and fishing villages. The latest technology and huge amount of money was put into the village in short terms by the government. The construction of a naval port town was rapidly done systematically. A big strong point and uniqueness is in this point.
A front-page story was that water lines of four cities were developed as one of naval port, then it was delivered to citizens. There are two geological formations, Hashirimizu and Hanbara, the latter is unparalleled water system which uses a difference of altitude of 70m, runs about 53km from Sagami River in the north side of Kanagawa prefecture. It took 10 years to complete in 10th of Taisho era.
In kure a modern water system was established one year after the opening of Chinjufu, it was third one in Japan. Honjo waterworks which was the largest one in the Orient, with the length of 97m, the height of 25m completed in 7th year of Taisho. A profound and magnificent waterworks was important for water supply for ships, and for industrial use. Once the water supply was stabilized, it led a rich life for citizens.
Keeping a land transportation is also unique. Four cities have difficulty in land transportation compared to sea road. After the opening of Chinjufu many tunnels and iron bridges were constructed and a railroad was laid. It accelerated development of town by stimulating transportation of people and commodities. Rapid increase in population from all over Japan is the same phenomenon of four cities. They constructed a square urban district which was functional and promising around the main road to Chinjufu. In Sasebo the population was increased from 3,800 to 50,000 in 20 years after the opening of Chinjufu.
The urban development such as waterworks, railway, urban district supported civil life and established a naval port town. A picture like “Yokosuka Meisai Ichiranzu” gives us a vivid description of development of naval port town and expanse of a town. In Maizuru 33 streets in square town were designated as ship name such as Yashima, Shikishima or Mikasa. Confidence and pride of naval port town can be seen.
Things brought by naval port town is not only the cutting-edge technology or urban development, but also food culture brought by the navy. “Japanese-style cooking book for the Navy” which was issued by Maizuru Naval Academy published more than 100 recipes of Western food. Curry or Nikujaga were improved food for Japanese which was a western food to prevent from getting beriberi.
Four cities, Yokosuka, Kure, Sasebo and Maizuru have been developed as a cornerstone of coastal defense of modern Japan. They have imported the cutting-edge technology from Western countries, handed down it, created new technology, polished the technique, and promoted modernization of Japan. Many of Heritage associated with naval port such as stone, brick, iron, concrete which is a proof of transformation to modern city is operated today. That describes the high technological level.
There are only four cities in Japan where people can share the history of naval port and Chinjufu, experience bodily sensations. A naval port town moved lively to modernization of Japan, preserving past events nostalgically and vigorously should attracts visitors.