Kure is most famous for being the naval base where the Yamato, the one-time flagship of Japan’s navy during World War II, was built. Today, the Yamato Museum commemorates the ship itself as well as a lot of the naval history of Kure.
The central feature of the museum is an enormous 1:10 scale model of the Yamato. The original ship was the crown jewel of the Japanese navy and packed a massive amount of firepower, one of the largest battleships ever built. It didn’t see nearly as much combat action as might be expected for the sizable amount of resources devoted to its construction, and it was sunk near Okinawa near the end of the war without having made much of an impact.
The attention to detail in this model is really something:
There are also a selection of other large exhibits around the museum. One of the most sobering this this one, a Kaiten human torpedo. These were employed in desperation by the Japanese navy in the later stages of the war, and were designed for a single, doomed pilot to steer their explosive payload into an enemy ship. Talking to a co-worker about this, he said that most of these torpedoes were gunned down before reaching their target, making the waste of life mind-bogglingly senseless.
Next to this suicide torpedo are the pictures of a couple of its 18 year old pilots. Standing in front of its narrow dimensions, you can’t help but imagine the horror of these boys of being sealed into a dark, metal tube, sailing off on a one-way trip to their certain deaths, whether colliding with an enemy ship, destroyed before reaching their objective, or just failing to get there altogether. Thinking about modern day school boys you see on the train every day horsing around with their friends being forced to lay down their lives in such a horrific way leaves a lasting impression.
The plane you can see here is of course the famous Mitsubishi Zero fighter. At the back is a two-man midget sub along with a selection of shells.
Nearby the museum is the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) Museum, with its main attraction, the submarine Akishio:
If you ever end up visiting Hiroshima, have an afternoon to spare and have even a passing interest in history, a trip to Kure and the Yamato Museum should be on your list of things to do. It’s an educational, if grim, experience, but if you’re visiting Hiroshima, that’s probably why you’re there, after all.