Built in 1929 at Yokohama by Yokohama Dock Company for Nippon Yusen K.K. Line, completed in April 1930.
Completed as passenger liner to accomodate 331 passengers in three classes: 75 first-class, 70 tourist and 186 third-class. Launched on September 30, 1929 and commenced her maiden voyage from Kobe to Seattle on May 13, 1930. Made a total of 74 voyages prewar.
Superb service and food made her a sought after ship and passengers gave her the nickname “Queen of the Pacific.” Famous passengers included Charlie Chapman who once traveled aboard her in first class. Hikawa Maru also transported 82 Jewish refugees who escape from Europe to Japan, then traveled aboard the Hikawa Maru to Canada.
Requisition by the Japanese Navy as a hospital ship on November 21, 1941, conversion is completed by December 21. Her hull and funnel were painted white with a wide green band along her hull, as well as a red cross on each side of the hull and on the superstructure and funnel.
1st Hospital Ship Voyage
Departed Yokosuka on December 23 and arrives at Roi on December 31, then departs again on January 2, 1942 for Truk, departs for Kwajalien where the ship tends to wounded from the US Navy raid on February 1, 1942, then departs for Roi, then arrives at Wotje on February 7, 1942 and tends to wounded from bombardment of the island from the US Navy raid. Departed Wotje on February 8 and arrives at Kwajalein then returns to Yokosuka on February 16.
2nd Hospital Ship Voyage
Departs Yokosuka February 22 for Truk, then onto Palau and Rabaul arrving March 10 and departing on 18 to Truk and March 28. Next at Guam. and Saipan before returning to Yokosuka on April 5. Afterwards, dry docked and repaired.
3rd Hospital Ship Voyage
Departs Yokosuka on April 25 for Truk, then onto Rabaul on May 8-11 then to Queen Carola Harbor on Buka Island arriving on May 12. Targeted by USS Tautog SS-199 but during daylight sees the hospital ship markings and breaks off the attack, instead returns to Truk on May 15-17. Returns to Yokosuka on May 22 and proceeds to Kure. On June 15 processed to Hashirajima where 500 wounded from Battle of Midway are taken aboard from Nagara. Survivors are told not to speak of the battle or be arrested. Departes Hashirajima on June 21 and arrives at Yokosuka. Departs on 23 for Kure.
4th Hospital Ship Voyage
Departs Kure on June 26, arriving at Davao on July 1-3, 1942. Arrives at Menado on July 4 and departs the next day. Arrives at Kendari on July 6 and departs the following day. Next arrives at Ambon July 8-9 Kupang July 11. July 13-15 Makassar. July 16-18 Balikpapan. July 19-22 Surabaya. July 25-26 Singapore. On July 27 was targeted by USS Gar SS-206 but no attack is pressed when the hospital ship markings are observed. July 28-30 Saigon. August 2-5 Manila. August 7-8 Mako then August 10-11 Sasebo and finally August 12 Kure anchoring at Kuroshima.
5th Hospital Ship Voyage
Departs Kuroshima on August 28 for Truk September 4-6. Arrives at Rabaul September 9-11, then Kavieng and onto Truk. Returns to Yokosuka on September 20.
6th Hospital Ship Voyage
Departs Yokosuka on September 26. Truk October 2-7. Rabaul October 9-10. Returns to Yokosuka on October 18.
7th Hospital Ship Voyage
Departs Yokosuka on October 22. Truk October 28 - November 7. Buin November 10-11. Rabaul November 12-13. Arrives Yokosuka November 21.
8th Hospital Ship Voyage
Departs Yokohama November 29, 1942. Truk December 6-11.
Hikawa Maru was the only Japanese passenger liner that survived the war. During the occupation of Japan, the vessel was seized by the US government and during 1945 to 1947 used to transport US personal between the United States and Japan.
In 1947 Hikawa Maru operated as a freighter to the United States East Coast. This service ended in 1954. Thereafter she was refitted into a fine passenger liner once more and she re-commenced her original trans-Pacific service until 1960.
During May 1961, Hikawa Maru was permanently moored at Yokohama off Yamashita Park. Initially, fitted out as a youth hostel and museum. Sadly, some of her engine spaces and lower accommodation decks were gutted to facilitate dormitories. During 1973 due to declining visitors, the hostel closed.
She remains at her berthed as a museum, restaurant and banquet facility. During the summer a beer garden was operated out on her open decks. In late 2002, the restaurant closed. Today, only the museum, summer beer garden and event facility remain.
"Refugee and Survivor, Rescue Attempts during the Holocaust" by Zorach
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October 23, 2019