“The Murasaki Maru was a very modern 3000-ton ship, with all the luxuries of an ocean liner. Crowds waved her goodbye as if the ship was setting off across the Atlantic instead of doing a day trip down the equivalent of a long lake … The ship throbbed grandly through the endless horned islands. Tiger said there were fine whirlpools ‘like great lavatory pans, specially designed for suicides’ between some of these. Mean while, Tiger and Bond sat in the first-class dining room and consumed ‘Hamlets’ – ham omelets – and sake. Tiger was in a lecturing mood. He was determined to correct Bond’s boorish ignorance of Japanese culture. ‘Bondo-san, I wonder if I will ever get you to appreciate the nuances of the Japanese tanka, or the haiku …”
– You Only Live Twice, Ian Fleming, 1964
The Murasaki Maru, launched in 1921, was the first passenger ship in dedicated service on the route between Hanshin and Beppu. Engineer Dr. Haruki Watsuji designed the Murasaki Maru, which reigned as the “Queen of Seto Inland Sea”.
Earlier in its history This is Japan magazine was edited by Torao Saito, a distinguished reporter and photographer. He was also a friend of Ian Fleming and when Fleming traveled around Japan in 1962 to research detail for his Bond novel, You Only Live Twice, it was Saito he took along. One leg of their trip took them through the Inland Sea, sailing from Kobe to Beppu.
Saito recalls, “Fleming may have borrowed the name Murasaki Maru for his story from the ship of the same name that was launched in 1921. In You Only Live Twice, Fleming has James Bond take the same trip on a vessel he calls the Murasaki Maru; describes the Inland Sea as ‘the equivalent of a long lake … the ship throbbed grandly through the endless horned islands.'”