The Funeral of Commander Hirose, Tokyo, 1904.

1900sHistoric EventsPatriotism/Military
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“The funeral of Commander Hirose”, 1904. During the Battle of Port Arthur, Hirose Takeo volunteered to command the Fukui Maru, an old cargo vessel which was to be used as a blockship during a second unsuccessful attempt to blockade the entrance to Port Arthur on the night of March 26, 1904. As the ship was about to reach the channel, it was struck by a Russian torpedo and exploded. Hirose was fatally wounded while searching for survivors and went down with the ship. Because of his heroism, he was posthumously promoted to commander, and deified as a ‘military god’. A Shinto shrine was built in his honor in his hometown of Taketa, Oita Prefecture, and a statue of him was also erected outside the Manseibashi railway station in Tokyo until 1947.

See also:

Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905).
Manseibashi Station (1912-1936).
Prince Ito Hirobumi state funeral, 1909.
The Bronze Statue of Masashige Kusunoki, Tokyo, c. 1930.

“When the vessel was about to drop anchor, Sugino descended into the hold to ignite the explosives, when the enemy’s torpedo struck the ship and killed him. Commander Hirose, when the crew had got into the boat, not seeing Sugino, searched through the ship. The sinking ship compelled him to take to the boat, and as they were retreating, a missile struck the Commander on the head, carrying his body overboard and leaving nothing behind but a piece of flesh.”

– Admiral Togo’s report to the Navy Department, 29 March 1904

“The funeral of Commander Hirose, the young Japanese officer who met his death at Port Arthur, exhibited the behavior of the Japanese in the presence of their heroic dead.

“Hirose was blown to pieces by a Russian shell at Port Arthur after his ship had been torpedoed and while he was trying to rescue one of his gunners who had been left below. Hirose commanded the Fukui Maru, one of the four steamers which were selected to be sunk in the entrance of Port Arthur on the second attempt made to block the channel. They were picked up two miles distant from the harbor mouth by the Russian searchlights, and the remainder of the run was made under a terrific fire from both the guardships and the forts.

“The statue of Captain Hirose and Warrant Officer Sugino”, Manseibashi Station, Tokyo, c. 1910.

“As the Fukui Maru reached the harbor mouth and was about to anchor, she was struck by a torpedo. At the moment, Sugino, a gunner, was below, lighting the magazine which was to blow up the vessel and scuttle the ship. Hirose and his crew were escaping from the sinking steamer in the shore boat before they discovered that Sugino was not with them. Hirose instantly clambered back on board and ran below, searching for the missing man. He failed to find him, and on returning to the deck of the Fukui Maru and learning Sugino had not yet reached the shore boat, twice again went below, the last time remaining there until the rush of the rising water drove Hirose back on deck.

“Hirose had just dropped in safety into the shore boat when a shell struck him and tore him to pieces. One of these pieces fell back into the shore boat.

“‘To-day,’ wrote Collier’s special correspondent, Richard Harding Davis, from Tokio, ‘the small piece of flesh which was once a portion of the body of the young naval officer was buried here with such honors from the Mikado and Government and, on the part of the people, With such demonstrations of reverence, that, as half saint, half hero, the memory of Commander Hirose now ranks in Japan near to that of the Forty-seven Ronins.

“‘But before it was buried it was treated with the honors paid to a reigning monarch. As it passed in the transport that conveyed it to Japan it received the salutes of the entire Japanese fleet; the guns were fired, the yards were manned, the flags lowered to half staff.’

“Later a detail of officers escorted it to Tokio, where thousands and thousands of ardent Japanese watched its passage to the grave.”

The Russo-Japanese War: A Photographic and Descriptive Review of the Great Conflict in the Far East, Collier’s Magazine, 1904

Manseibashi Station, c. 1910, showing the location of the statue (between the streetcars) honoring Commander Hirose relative to the terminal.

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