The Queen of the Pacific: Hikawa Maru

Yamashita Park, Yokohama

“She rode on a ship from Yokohama pier, taken away by a foreigner.” – Akai Kutsu

Yamashita Park in Yokohama is the place where the luxury passenger liner Hikawa Maru is docked and where you can find the famous “Little Girl with Red Shoes On” statue. 

The Little Girl With Red Shoes On

The little girl with red shoes

“The little girl with red shoes on”

Her name is Kimi and her true story came alive through Akai Kutsu (‘Red Shoes’) song, composed in 1922.

At the age of 3, Kimi was given for adoption to an American missionaries couple by her single mom. Kimi contracted tuberculosis and she was unable to take the long journey to America. She was placed in an orphanage in Tokyo where she died at the age of 9. Her mom never found out what happened. She thought Kimi had gone to America.

“A young girl with red shoes
was taken away by a foreigner.

She rode on a ship from Yokohama pier
taken away by a foreigner.

I imagine right now she has become blue-eyed
living in that foreigner’s land.

Every time I see red shoes, I think of her
And every time I meet a foreigner, I think of her.

When she misses Japan where she was born
I imagine she stares at the blue sea
and asks the foreigner if she can go home.”

Hikawa Maru

Hikawa Maru, nicknamed the “Queen of the Pacific,” is a luxury passenger liner that operated on Yokohama – Vancouver – Seattle route between 1930 and 1960.

Now a museum, Hikawa Maru is docked at Yamashita Park, Yokohama.

Quick Facts

  • Launched on 30 September 1929
  • Maiden voyage on 13 May 1930
  • Speed: 18.5 knots (34.3 km/h)
  • Capacity: 331 passengers
  • Art deco interiors
  • Notable guest: Charlie Chaplin
  • Converted to a hospital ship during the Second World War
  • Helped Jewish refugees escape the Holocaust
  • Crossed the Pacific Ocean over 250 times carrying 25,000 passengers and cargo

The Ship

Hikawa Maru liner docked at Yamashita Park, Yokohama

Hikawa Maru

Hikawa Maru and pigeons resting on the anchor's chain

Hikawa Maru and pigeons resting on the anchor’s chain

The ship's chimney and one of the life boats

The ship’s chimney and one of the life boats

Window to Yokohama

Window to Yokohama

Hikawa Maru wheel and instruments

The ship’s wheel and instruments

Hikawa Maru wheelhouse and Shinto altar

Hikawa Maru – the wheelhouse and Shinto altar

Hikawa Maru ship instrument

Anchored!

The Interior

The artdeco interior of Hikawa Maru

The artdeco interior of Hikawa Maru

Hikawa Maru restaurant

The restaurant

Hikawa Maru first class dining room

The first class dining room

Hikawa Maru nursery

The nursery

Tourist class apartment

Tourist class apartment

Hikawa Maru first class apartment

First class apartment

The Engines

Hikawa Maru engine room

Hikawa Maru engine room

Hikawa Maru engine room

Engine room

Hikawa Maru engine room

Engine room

Hikawa Maru phones

Phones

Hikaru Maru data

Hikaru Maru data

Location
  • Yokohama, Yamashita Park. No. 1 exit of Motomachi-Chukagai Station on the Minato Mirai Line.
Map

2 Comments on “The Queen of the Pacific: Hikawa Maru

  1. I have just read your post, with great pleasure and interest! In 1953, my family and I boarded the Hikawa Maru in Seattle for the voyage to Yokohama as one of a group of other families, each of which had a Fulbright Scholar in attendance. In our case, it was my dad. My mother chronicled the experience, day by day in her diary, and again in letters sent to my grandparents in the states. My father did the same via camera.

    In 2014 I returned to Japan and visited the ship in what was an emotional but fantastic experience. To my delight, my father’s Kodachrome slides of the ship’s interior could have been taken in 2014, so little had changed.

    Thank you for your excellent post detailing the ship and its history. I’ve enjoyed it immensely.

    • Thank you, Ann. It is a pleasure to meet one of the voyagers of Hikawa Maru. I am really enjoying your blog, just starting browsing through the letters and the photos of the past. Heartwarming stories!

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