Visiting the Yamato Museum [Kure Maritime Museum]


Note: Unless otherwise noted, all information is from the museum. Some of the signs and placards in the museum are also in English, but I’ve translated others that aren’t (with the assistance of Google translate because my Japanese is a bit rusty). As museums constantly update and change their collections, the information in this post is accurate as of March 2015. All photos (except public domain historical ones) are my own. For reasons of time and length, I’ve only included technical data for certain vessels and aircraft on display. Japanese names are rendered family name first, given name last.

The city of Kure, just east of Hiroshima, has a long history of shipbuilding. In response to Commodore Matthew Perry’s opening of Japan in 1854, Japan realized that it needed to adopt western technology to avoid becoming completely overtaken by foreign powers. The development of a modern navy was concomitant with that goal. Four major naval shipbuilding yards (and naval districts) were established for the Imperial Japanese Navy. These were Yokosuka, Maizuru, Sasebo, and Kure. The Kure Naval Arsenal was established in 1889 and continued service until Japan’s surrender at the end of WWII. The battleship Yamato was, of course, built at the Kure Naval Arsenal. Following the war, what remained of the shipbuilding infrastructure that wasn’t destroyed was turned over to civilian control.

Opened in April 2005, it’s officially the 呉市海事歴史科学館, (Kure-shi Kaiji Rekishi Kagakukan), or literally Kure City Maritime History Museum, but for simplicity, everyone calls it the Yamato Museum. A must-see for any battleship Yamato fan (or any Imperial Japanese Navy fan for that matter), the museum also chronicles the history of Kure itself and its relationship with the Japanese maritime industry.

My personal research interest in the Imperial Japanese Navy probably seriously began around 2008, and this museum has been on my bucket list ever since I learned about it. After moving to Japan to teach English in 2010, I finally got around to visiting this museum in March 2015, several months before I left to return home to the U.S. Additionally, during this visit to Kure, I had some time to visit the JMSDF museum of Kure across the street (to be covered in another post). The Yamato Museum itself is self-guided, but if you want, there are audio players you can check out to listen to additional information on the exhibits.

Main Exhibit Room

1:10 Scale Battleship Yamato Model (AKA Hiroba Yamato)

The highlight exhibit of this museum is a massive 1:10 scale model of the Japanese battleship Yamato in her late-war configuration. (In other words, it’s 10x smaller than the actual ship.) It’s probably the most detailed model of the ship you’ll find, likely because it has the real estate to actually have such a high level of detail.

According to the museum, the model was constructed by Yamamoto Shipyard Co. Ltd. with the assistance of the IJN Model Ships Preserving Association. It was completed in February 2005 after eight years of work and at a cost of more than 200 million yen (~$19,500+ in 2005), mostly donated by a single individual. The model itself is more than 86 feet in length.1 Unverified reports say that this model actually had a launching ceremony*. Whether or not that means that it can actually float is unknown.

*Unlike the western tradition of breaking a bottle of champagne against the prow, Japanese ship launching ceremonies instead issue commemorative hatchets to the ship owner. These hatchets are used to cut the lines to “launch” the ship from the ways and are thought to ward off bad luck.

The pictures really don’t do this model justice. It’s pretty much as big as a fishing boat. The model is situated inside a pit, and you can go down and walk around the entire model, however, the bollards and railings prevent anyone from getting too close to it. No touchy!

Port-side view of the model.
Port side from the bow looking aft.
A sample of the model’s wooden deck planking.

During the construction of the model, after the base of the bridge was installed on the hull in April 2004, master carpenter Oshita Toshiaki began working on attaching the wooden deck. Oshita worked at the Navy Arsenal as a juvenile worker at the end of the war. He continued working at various shipyards building iron and wooden ships following the war. The deck, which looks flat at first glance, actually slopes downward to the left and right to improve water drainage. Creating these undulations on a 1:10 scale was a challenge. As for the wood, Taiwanese cypress was used for the deck material of the actual battleship, but if the same type of cypress was used in the model, only the wood grain of the deck material would be on a 1:1 scale. Thus, it was decided to use ash wood because it has a good grain and color which would be more accurate for the model. Over a period of four months, Oshita manually laid the 15 mm-wide boards on the model’s huge deck one by one and fastened the ends of the deck materials with timber framing. Thus, he was able to faithfully reproduce the wooden deck of the Yamato, which has a unique slope, on a 1:10 scale.

Bow & Forecastle

Forward Turrets

Superstructure & Midships

Starboard-side view of the superstructure.
Port-side view of the smokestack.


Midships to stern (starboard side).
Aft fire control tower, #2 6″ turret, and #3 18.1″ turret.
Portside aircraft catapult.
Portside screws, main rudder, and auxiliary rudder.
Fantail & aircraft handling facilities. (A Type 0 observation seaplane is mounted on a handling trolley.)

Mitsubishi F1M2, Navy Type 0 Observation Seaplane (Allied codename: “Pete”)

The aircraft model located on the fantail is of the same 1:10 scale as the ship.

Length9.5 m
Width11 m
Height4 m
PowerplantMitsubishi Zuisei Model 13, 14-cylinder air-cooled radial, 875 hp.
Max speed200 kts @ 3,440 m (370 kph or 230 mph)
Cruising Range400 nm (740 km)
Armament2x 7.7 mm fixed machine guns
1x 7.7 mm flexible rear-firing machine gun
2x 60 kg bombs
2x 30 kg bombs
1x 250 kg bomb (experimental)

Designed by a team led by engineer Hattori Joji of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, the Type 0 observation seaplane (Mitsubishi F1M) was the only observation plane of its type to be accepted by the IJN for mass production. The original F1M1 prototypes had stability problems both on the water and in flight. However, after redesigning the wings and control surfaces, and changing the engine to a more powerful Zuisei Model 13, the F1M2’s handling drastically improved. Petes operated throughout the Pacific from both ships and land bases. In addition to its reconnaissance and patrol duties, the Pete also saw use as a fighter and dive-bomber supporting amphibious operations. Of the F1M2 airframes, 524 were built by Mitsubishi, and 590 were built by the 21st Naval Air Arsenal at Sasebo.2


Miscellaneous Artifacts

A naval ensign from the battleship Nagato. (The red spots on the white areas are holes in the fabric, not spots of blood. They’re red because the flag is folded.)

This ensign from the battleship Nagato measures 3.6 m x 5.4 m and was taken off the ship at the end of the war by a U.S. Navy captain. The daughter of the captain submitted it to the TV Tokyo program “Kaiun! Anything Appraisal Team” where it was later purchased by Mr. Ishizaka Koji who donated it to the city of Kure. It was then given to the museum. The Nagato was ultimately sunk during the Bikini Atoll atomic bomb tests after the war.

A rocket engine nozzle to be used in the Mitsubishi J8M Shusui interceptor.
Mitsubishi J8M Shusui.

If this aircraft looks suspiciously like a Messerschmitt Me 163 Komet, it’s because it essentially is. Japan obtained manufacturing rights for the aircraft and the HWK 109-509 engine in late 1943. However, one of the two submarines taking the technical data to Japan was sunk. Only incomplete data from CDR Iwaya Eiichi was received back in Japan. In July 1944, the IJN issued specifications for the aircraft, and with the IJA (in a rare case of cooperation), continued the joint development of the aircraft and engine based on the available data; designated J8M1 by the Navy and Ki-200 by the Army. Initial prototypes were purely gliders that first flew in December 1944. During the only powered test on 7 July 1945, the engine failed during the climb after takeoff and the aircraft crashed, killing the pilot, LCDR Inuzuka Toyohiko. The war ended before further designs could be completed. The rocket was a Toko Ro.2 (KR10) bi-fuel engine estimated to have 3,307 lbs. of thrust and impart a max speed of 900 kph at 10,000 m. The aircraft could theoretically climb to 10,000 m in 3 minutes and 30 seconds and have a powered endurance of 5 minutes and 30 seconds.3 The shape of this aircraft and the short duration of its powered flight clearly show that it was designed as an interceptor. It was meant to travel very fast up to altitude to reach the B-29 Superfortresses that began raiding Japan in late 1944. This also means that as an interceptor, it wouldn’t be doing much dogfighting, so don’t expect maneuverability on par with an A6M Zero.

Large Exhibits Room

Nakajima A6M7 Model 62 Zero (Serial No. 82729)

Note the bomb underneath the aircraft.
Width11 m
Length9.121 m
Height3,509 m
Wing Area21.3 sq. m
Weight2,155 kg
Max Speed543 km/h
Cruising Speed370 km/h
Practical Ascent Limit10,180 m
Cruising Range1,519 km
Armament3x 13 mm MG (1 in the engine cowling, right side)
2x 20 mm cannon
2x 60 kg bombs
1x 250 kg bomb
1x 500 kg bomb

While Mitsubishi is the most well-known for the design and manufacture of the Zero, Nakajima Aircraft actually produced more of them at 6,455 compared to Mitsubishi’s 3,843 (in terms of all variants produced).4 The A6M7 variant was designed as an attack/dive bomber to operate from smaller carriers. The armament is largely the same as the A6M5c, but the centerline drop tank was replaced with a bomb rack. 40-gallon wing-mounted drop tanks could also be fitted outboard of the landing gear.5

This particular aircraft belonged to the 210th Naval Air Squadron at Meiji Base (now Anjo City in Aichi Prefecture). It crashed into Lake Biwa on 6 August 1945 after suffering engine trouble while piloted by Sub-Lieutenant Azuma Tsuneo (who survived). It was recovered in January 1978 and restoration was supervised by LT Azuma, himself.

Sakae Ko-Type engine (Serial No. 31707)

Nakajima Sakae radial engine restored by Mazda E&T Co. Ltd.
Type14-cylinder air-cooled, double-row, star-shaped radial
Power1,130 hp (takeoff)
Length1.63 m
Diameter1.15 m
Dry Weight590 kg
Working Weight642 kg

Shell Display

A display of various shells in the Large Exhibits Room (I’ve added the labels).
The remaining shells in the display (I’ve added the labels). Note that the 12″ shell is the type that would’ve been used on the battleship Mikasa of Russo-Japanese War fame.

Heavy Cruiser Aoba‘s 8″ gun

An 8″ gun is situated behind the shell display. According to the museum, it’s the right-side gun from the heavy cruiser Aoba‘s #3 turret that had its breech block damaged during the Battle of Cape Esperance on 11 – 12 October 1942. (Japanese refer to it as the Battle of Savo Island. Not to be confused with what the Allies referred to as the Battle of Savo Island on 8 – 9 August 1942.) The gun was removed while the ship was being repaired at Kure and kept in the Materials Plant at the Kure dockyard. The barrel has been cut down and sealed up. The Aoba was made into a “special guard vessel” in June 1945 and was anchored off Kegoya just outside of Kure. She was sunk during a carrier raid on 24 July 1945.

Aoba off Buin, Bougainville on 13 October 1942 following the Battle of Cape Esperance.


The Type 2 torpedo is a modification of the Type 91 mod. 3 aerial torpedo. About 800 were made between 1943 and 1945. They were used on torpedo boats and special-purpose Kairyu midget submarines. This particular Type 2 is a training torpedo used by the Kure Maritime Corps.

For comparison, here are the specifications for the Type 93, Type 2, and U.S. Mk. 15 torpedoes:

TorpedoCountryDiameterLengthWeightWarheadSpeed/RangeMotive ElementsPropulsionYear in Service
Type 93 Model 1Japan61 cm9 m2,765 kg483 kg36 kts./40,000 m, 48 kts./20,000 mOxygen/Oil/SeawaterHorizontal reciprocal 2-cylinder1935
Type 2Japan45 cm5.6 m1,000 kg350 kg39 kts./3,000 mAir/Alcohol/WaterStar-shaped reciprocal 8-cylinder1945
Mk. 15U.S.53.3 cm7.3 m1,742 kg374 kg33.5 kts./9,140 m, 45 kts./5,480 mAir/Alcohol/WaterTurbine1935

Kairyu Midget Submarine

Length17.28 m
Diameter1.3 m
Speed7.5 kts (surfaced)
9.8 kts (submerged)
Armament2x Type 2 torpedoes (350 kg warhead each)

The Kairyu (Sea Dragon) was the first midget submarine with bow and stern planes. This sub was constructed at the Yokosuka Naval Dockyard and Naval Training College. The Kure Naval Dockyard carried out various experiments with it to test its feasibility. The mass-produced version would’ve had its bow packed with 600 kg of explosives and used as an underwater suicide weapon after firing the torpedoes that would’ve been mounted on the sides.

This particular vessel was sunk in Ajiro Harbor, Shizuoka Prefecture in 1945 after being hit in the stern by an aerial rocket that failed to detonate. It was raised on 27 May 1978. The hole where the rocket hit can be seen in the top photo between the stern planes. (Of all the places to hit, it hit on the narrowest part of the sub!)

Kaiten Type 10 Prototype

The long (horizontal) object behind it is a Type 88 Model 3 periscope.
Length9 m
Weight2,500 kg
Fuselage Diameter0.53 m
Cockpit Diameter0.7 m
Speed8 kts
Cruising Range30 km
Warhead300 kg

This is a Type 10 version of a “manned torpedo” used as a suicide weapon. Several versions exist, such as Type 1, 2, 4, 10, etc. Only the Type 1 saw actual combat of which about 420 were produced from modified Type 93 torpedoes. The Type 10 was based on a Type 92 electric torpedo used on submarines. It has a short range and was used for the defense of the home islands.


Model Exhibits

*Note: Some of these photos are stitched panoramas of the models, hence the jarring edges and lighting changes. Submarines and ships are at a 1:100 scale unless otherwise noted.

Commander-in-Chief’s Barge

Commander-in-Chief’s barge. (1:10 scale)
Length15 m
Width3.1 m
Max Speed13.5 kts
Propulsion160 hp gasoline engine

This vessel was used when the Commander-in-Chief of the fleet was aboard the flagship. The interior features red carpeting and white curtains befitting the rank of the CinC. In addition to one commander’s barge, the Yamato battleship also carried 17 m, 12 m, and 11 m boats, as well as various launches, cutters, and transit boats. This model was built by the late Mr. Kawai Tokio to the same scale as the 1:10 scale Yamato battleship model. It was donated by Mr. Kawai Shinichi.

Battleship Nagato.
(An easy way to tell a Nagato-class BB apart from a Kongo-class BB is by looking at the funnels and secondary casemate armament. Nagato only has one funnel and a different layout for her secondary armament.)
Battleship Kongo (late-war configuration).
Aircraft carrier Akagi.
Heavy cruiser Atago.
Atago (same model from the port quarter).
Heavy cruiser Aoba. (1:200 scale)
Heavy cruiser Nachi. (1:200 scale)
A diorama of the Yamato wreck. The bow section is in the foreground and the overturned stern section is in the background.

1:24 scale aircraft models

Outside Exhibits

Battleship Mutsu‘s gun, screw, & rudder

One of Mutsu‘s screws.
Mutsu‘s rudder.

Research Submersible Shinkai

Submerged Displacement90.88 tons
Length16.52 m
Width5.53 m
Draft4 m
Speed2.24 kts (submerged), 2.35 kts (surfaced)
Endurance10 hours at 1.5 kts
Propulsion1x 11 kw motor
HullNS46 high tensile steel

Completed on 22 March 1968, the Shinkai was built by the Kawasaki Heavy Industries Kobe factory and was operated by the Japan Coast Guard. She could dive to a depth of 600 meters and made 307 dives off the Izu peninsula conducting biological and mineral resource studies before being retired in 1976.

Miscellaneous Outside Artifacts

There’s a sign below the bell which describes how a ship’s bell is rung at the top and bottom of the hour in single and double rings to mark the time to watchstanders. There’s also an outside area known as the Yamato Wharf which is a 1:1 scale tiled layout of the port side of the Yamato from the bridge to the bow.

The Museum and the City of Kure

The upper floors of the museum contain more hands-on, experiential exhibits designed to educate visitors on the scientific concepts of marine engineering and shipbuilding, as well as the continuing maritime industry in Kure. Most of these exhibits are geared toward children. Some are designed to teach about buoyancy, navigation, propulsion, etc. There’s also a computer simulator with helm controls where you can sail the Yamato battleship back into her berth, but I didn’t get the chance to use it because kids kept hogging it…and crashing the ship.

The city of Kure and the Kure Naval Arsenal played a major role as a port and shipbuilding facility for the Imperial Japanese Navy in WWII. Even today, the city retains significant naval and maritime infrastructure as a port. Several naval repair and training facilities exist around the city. For example, the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) submarine training school and the Japan Coast Guard Academy are in Kure. To the west is the island of Etajima which houses the JMSDF First Service School (i.e. Officer Candidate School) on the site of the former Imperial Japanese Naval Academy. Several of these places have their own museums, as well, but I didn’t have time to visit them. To the south is Hashirajima which was a major anchorage for the IJN fleet during WWII.

All in all, this museum was a very interesting experience. I didn’t have time to experience or document everything in the museum, but the models and exhibits are well-preserved and nicely presented. That said, apart from the 1:10 scale model of the Yamato battleship and the large exhibit room, there are a handful of other artifacts and exhibits that may interest people. No doubt, most who visit the museum do so because of the models. While the real battleship Yamato is on the bottom of the East China Sea, for those Yamato fanatics who want to see a really big model, check out the Yamato Museum.


1. Steven Wiper, ShipCraft 14: Yamato Class Battleships, (Yorkshire, UK: Seaforth Publishing, 2009), 44.

2. Rene Francillon, Japanese Aircraft of the Pacific War, (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1979), 358 – 362. Francillon writes that this aircraft design team was headed by Joji Hattori, however, the Yamato Museum’s placard says it was designed by Sano Eitaro.

3. Rene Francillon, Japanese Aircraft of the Pacific War, (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1979), 404 – 407.

4. Robert Mikesh, Zero, (Osceola, WI: Motorbooks, 1994), 124 – 125.

5. Robert Mikesh, Zero, (Osceola, WI: Motorbooks, 1994), 92 – 93.


Francillon, Rene. Japanese Aircraft of the Pacific War. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1979.

Mikesh, Robert. Zero. Osceola, WI: Motorbooks. 1994.

Wiper, Steven. ShipCraft 14: Yamato Class Battleships. Yorkshire, UK: Seaforth Publishing. 2009.


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