15 Juillet 2017
July 14, 2017
Lucky Dragon, now 70, remains intact as an anti-nuclear icon
By NAOMI NISHIMURA/ Staff Writer
A series of 360-degree view shots by a special camera at the Daigo Fukuryu Maru Exhibition Hall show a fish-hold-turned-cabin, a close-up of an original wall of a fish hold, a mezzanine exhibition space, and the stern of the vessel. (Atsushi Takahashi)
Peeling paint, beams blackened from aging and dusty but original equipment remain inside the Daigo Fukuryu Maru (Lucky Dragon No. 5), a fishing vessel that became a symbol of the anti-nuclear movement in around the globe.
The vessel was showered with radioactive fallout from a hydrogen bomb test at the Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands in 1954. Twenty-three crew members were affected, and one died within six months of the blast.
The Daigo Fukuryu Maru is now preserved at an exhibition hall in the reclaimed Yumenoshima district of Tokyo’s Koto Ward.
It not only serves as a reminder of the dangers of nuclear weapons and testing, but it is also a rare and important heritage of Japan’s now-dwindling wooden shipbuilding industry.
Asahi Shimbun reporters on July 13 were given special permission to look inside the ship, which is usually off-limits for conservation reasons.
“The lifespan of a wooden ship is between 15 and 20 years,” said Kazuya Yasuda, 64, chief curator of the hall, who showed the reporters around the vessel. “It is probably the only wooden ship that survived from right after the end of the World War II through today.”
The 30-meter-long ship, with a gross tonnage of 140 tons, is a towering presence at the display hall.
Signs of aging are clear on both the inside and outside of the vessel.
Paint on the hull is peeling away, and dents and scratches appear all over the planks. Parts and equipment used when the ship was hit by nuclear fallout remain in place.
The Daigo Fukuryu Maru was initially constructed in 1947 as a bonito fishing boat. Four years later, it was modified into a tuna boat to be operated in the Pacific Ocean and was based in Yaizu, Shizuoka Prefecture.
The central government bought the ship after the nuclear incident in 1954, and it was used as a training vessel for a university.
After the Daigo Fukuryu Maru was decommissioned in 1967, it was left in Yumenoshima, which was a landfill back then.
A preservation movement started soon thereafter. The Tokyo metropolitan government agreed to take care of the vessel and opened the Daigo Fukuryu Maru Exhibition Hall in 1976.