When launched in 1940, the battleship Yamato was the biggest warship in the world. 263 meters long, with a displacement of 65,000 tonnes, she had numerous unique and innovative features, including the biggest naval guns in the world that fired 1.36 tonne shells from its 18.1 inch barrels, but it was also largely obsolete as the day of the battleship had passed to be replaced by aircraft carrier groups.
The Yamato saw very little action, and was sunk by U.S. Navy aircraft in April 1945 on its final mission, a suicide mission to defend Okinawa that cost the lives of almost all its full complement of 3,000 crew.
In 2005 the movie "Yamato" (Otoko-tachi no Yamato in Japanese) was released and was very popular. Like almost all Japanese World War II movies it focused on the suffering and sacrifice of Japanese, and not on their victims.
In April 2005, on the anniversary of the sinking of the Yamato, a new museum opened in Kure, Hiroshima, once the largest naval shipyard in the Orient, and where the Yamato was built.
Outside the museum are artifacts taken from the wreck after it was discovered in 1985, including one of the huge guns and a propeller, but the centerpiece of the museum is a 1:10 scale model of the battleship.
At 26 meters in length, it is impressive, and cost 200 million yen, being built by the same company that built the original.
The museum also has displays on the history of shipbuilding in Kure, a floor of mainly interactive displays on the science and technology of ships, a room including a 2-man kamikaze sub, a Mitsubishi Zero, and other war materials.
Incidentally, this is an almost exact copy of a room at the museum in the infamous Yasakuni Shrine. There are also models and displays on the hugely popular anime series Space Battleship Yamato, wherein the Yamato is resurrected and converted into a spaceship and used to defend Earth. The original anime was more popular in Japan than Star Wars.
The Yamato Museum is a 5 minute walk from JR Kure Station. Closed on Tuesdays, entrance is 500 yen for adults. Hours are 9am-6pm.
Adjacent to the Yamato Museum is the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force Museum. Entrance is free, and the highlight is entering the Akishio, a 76 meter long Yushio Class submarine built in 1985.
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