Art Deco Japan – The Lost World of the Hikawa Maru

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On a cloudy winter day, the Hikawa Maru has few visitors. Her exterior seems unexceptional. But step inside and things change.

Launched September 30, 1929, the Hikawa Maru was one of three “class motor ships” operated by the NYK Line (Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha.) Hikawa Maru’s two sisters, Heian Maru and Hie Maru did not survive World War II.

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You are passing through a door to a world all but forgotten.

Traveling between Yokohama and Vancouver/Seattle, he Hikawa Maru made 254 Pacific crossings between 1930-1960, treating passengers to comfort and top notch food in a splendid Art Deco environment, the work of French designer Marc Simon.

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Let’s head down the stairs and warm up.

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There’s nothing like a good electric fireplace.

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Or we could visit the first class smoking room.

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We’ll meet the other passengers in the Social Hall.

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The Social Hall

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The Social Hall ceiling

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A closer look at the Social Hall mural.

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A “column” in the Social Hall

The ship’s most famous passenger was Charlie Chaplin. He came aboard in 1932, shortly after making City Lights. But the Hikawa Maru played an important role in the lives of the less well known too. When war broke out, she carried Jewish refugees to Canada and the U.S. and on the way home, repatriated 400 Japanese.

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Look at the time! Let’s head to your cabin.

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Not bad, but I expected better for a first class cabin. We should have booked the deluxe cabin, next door….

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That’s the ticket, but the table is too small for entertaining so we’ll use the connected dining room.

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Perfect. This is the way to travel.

During the war, the Hiykawa Maru was converted to a hospital ship. She struck mines on three occasions but survived. At the war’s end, she repatriated Japanese soldiers, and in 1947 began work as a cargo ship.

In 1953, the Hikawa Maru began a new life refitted as a luxury liner. Resuming the Yokohama – Seattle route she knew so well, she remained in service until December 1960, when she was decommissioned, eventually becoming a museum.

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One of Hikawa Maru’s many Art Deco light fixtures.

© 2016 Randy Juster.  All Rights Reserved.



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