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Friday, 18 April 2014

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Japanese visitors honour Barrow shipbuilders

HOT pot was on the menu for a group of Japanese pilgrims who visited Barrow’s shipyard to see the birthplace of their most famous battleship.

There were emotional scenes when 28 visitors from Japan were taken to the Barrow shipyard berth from which their most famous battleship, HIJMS (His Imperial Majesty’s Japanese Ship) Mikasa, was launched in 1900.

One man, whose grandfather served on Mikasa and whose father was the last captain of another Barrow-built Japanese battleship, HIJMS Kongo, held up photographs of his relatives over the berth, while another lady was moved to tears.

Mikasa, under the command of Admiral Togo Heihachiro, played a key role in defeating the Russian Navy at the Battle of Tsushima in 1905, and is now preserved as a national monument at the naval base of Yokosuka.

The party, all members of the Mikasa Preservation Society, was treated to a traditional British lunch of Lancashire hot pot and apple crumble and custard, in the shipyard dining room, and were shown the Devonshire Dock Hall.

President of the society, Nobuyuki Masuda, 78, a former shipyard manager and director of Mitsubishi Corporation, said: “It is my great privilege and honour to visit this place where Mikasa was launched and constructed.

“I am probably the first president of the society to have the opportunity to visit this place – and you were also very kind to give us the chance to see the construction site of the submarines.

“It was a real honour and privilege to do that and, from the bottom of my heart, I would like to express my appreciation for your kindness.”

Mr Masuda presented BAE Systems safety and assurance director Tony Burbridge with a plaque to commemorate the visit and a picture of Mikasa as she is today.

Mr Masuda had intended to present a 250th scale model of the ship but, due to delivery problems, that would follow shortly.

Mr Burbridge thanked the president, referred to the shared history and heritage through Mikasa, and said he hoped it would not be another hundred years before further such collaboration.

After leaving the shipyard, the party visited Barrow’s Dock Museum to see ‘Togo’s Sword’, presented by Admiral Togo in recognition of his flagship’s construction, and Mikasa Street on Walney, named after the famous ship.

The party was also shown around Barrow town hall by Mayor Councillor Wendy Maddox, who showed them an antique satsuma bowl kept in the mayor’s parlour.

Have your say

I have visited this ship in Yokotsuka, it moved me to tears, being from Barrow. I also took my son there to teach him about his heritage of two nations. I always tell my students about it when they ask me where I am from. Did you know that the British navy also introduced curry (now a national dish) to Japan around the same time?

Posted by Simon on 16 November 2012 at 11:36

As someone who was born and brought up in Mikasa Street Walney, I find this all a little crazy. However it is lovely to see a strong relationship between ourselves and the Japanese. They are very welcome.

Posted by florence on 15 November 2012 at 15:28

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