SAILING THE PACIFIC ON THE NYK AND OSK LINES in the 1920s – 1930s

Cruise line history: NYK LINES history in the 1920s and 1930s.  Japan had one of the great passenger liner fleets.

Ad from Travel Magazine in the late 1930s.

CRUISE HISTORY – SAILING ACROSS THE PACIFIC – ABOARD THE NYK LINES AND OSK LINES

Jazz Age Destination – 1920s – YouTube video – great films of the fabulous Orient before WW2.


M/S Asama Maru (1929) and M/S Tatsutu Maru (1930) – NYK Line

One of Japan’s proudest periods in passenger shipping was the 1929 building of two of the finest and most luxurious ships ever to sail the Pacific Ocean – the Asama Maru and Tatsuta Maru. They were routed on NYK Line’s premier express service, regularly sailing from Hong Kong, Shanghai, Kobe and Yokohama to Honolulu, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Their passenger areas were of the highest quality, much of it in traditional European style. There were polished woods, stained glass skylights, fine dining rooms, lounges, library, gift shop, hair salon, comfortable cabins and a swimming pool on deck. This was luxury cruising at its finest. Notable passengers who sailed on these fine ships included Albert Einstein and Charlie Chaplin.

The Asama Maru was the first to enter service in 1929 and she soon set the record for the fastest crossing of the Pacific on the Yokohama to San Francisco route. Her sister, the Tatsutu Maru entered service in 1930. In 1936 the Tatsutu Maru become the first merchant ship to pass under the new Bay Bridge linking San Francisco and Oakland. In 1937 the Asama Maru suffered a mishap when she was driven aground in Kowloon Bay during the Great Hong Kong Typhoon. After the outbreak of the Second World War both ships were requisitioned as troopships but unfortunately both were sunk and did not survive the war and it was left to the Hikawa Maru to re-establish the trans-pacific service.

The OSK AND NYK LINES were the equivalent of Japan’s Cunard and US Lines before WWII. The Japanese trans-pacific service was booming during the interwar years following the First World War. NYK and OSK were ordering new and more luxurious ships for the prestigious trans-pacific service. Seen below are elegant postcards from Japan’s two major shipping companies – during the heyday of their passengers service between WWI and WWII.

OSK AND NYK LINE POSTCARDS – PROMOTING THEIR LINERS

NYK LINE HISTORY

The company traces its history back to the Tsukumo Shokai Shipping company founded by the Tosa clan in 1870. In 1875, as the re-named Mitsubishi Shokai, the company inaugurated Japan’s first passenger liner service, with a route from Yokohama to Shanghai; and in that same year, the company name was changed to Mitsubishi Mail Steamship Company. In 1885, a merger with Kyodo Unyu Kaisha (founded 1882) led to the adoption of the company’s present name.  The merged company had a fleet of 58 steamships and expanded its operations rapidly, first to other ports of the East and then worldwide, with a liner service to London being inaugurated in 1899.   The majority of Japanese merchant ships, tankers and liners sailed sailed under the NYK banner during this period. Regular services linked Kobe and Yokohama with South America, Batavia, Melbourne, Cape Town; and frequent cruises to San Francisco and Seattle. Other routes connected local Chinese cabotage vessels on the Chinese coasts and upper Yangtze.  Ocean routes went east from Japan to Vancouver (Canada) or Seattle (USA). Another way was to stop in Hawaii, and continue to San Francisco and the Panama Canal. The next commercial routes were south from Japan, across the East China Sea. These went to South East Asia, the China coasts, and towards India and the Indian Ocean, to Europe or Batavia (Dutch Indies), or Australia and New Zealand. The fastest services took ten days from Yokohama to Seattle, and one month to Europe.
Local sea routes connected 78 home seaports (38 open to foreign trade). Yokohama, Kobe and Osaka had the greatest importance for trading with Japan. These ports had the third, fourth and eighth place in net tonnage registered in the world. Coal passed from Moji to Osaka and Yokohama. Karafuto timber represented a third part of local trade. Soy bean products from Dairen and Ryojun arrived at Yokohama. The sugar cane of the South Pacific Mandate and Formosa, cotton, salt and minerals represented other important parts of these transport transactions. The current funnel livery was introduced in 1929.  The company also ran services connecting metropolitan Japan to its exterior provinces (Chosen, Karafuto, Kwantung, Formosa and South Mandate) of the Empire. During World War II the NYK Line operated a military transport service for Japanese Army and Navy troops. Many vessels were sunk by the Allied navies, and installations and ports were attacked from the air. Its surviving vessels and equipment were confiscated by the Allied authorities, as reparations, or taken by recently liberated Asian states, during 1945-46.  World War II resulted in the destruction of much of the fleet. Only 37 vessels remained in NYK’s fleet. NYK lost 185 ships which were supporting military operations in the Pacific.  The NYK fleet expanded in bursts, responding to changed economic conditions and perceived changes in the market for passenger liner travel.  Today, NYK owns Crystal Cruises.

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One comment

  1. Wonderful piece on NYK. Had no idea connected to Crystal. Love Crystal and wish they would have a lecture on the history of this great Japanese company. Thanks so much.

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