Some of Japan’s best known and closest international relationships are with China, Korea, and America among others. But one of Japan’s longest international allies, is Turkey. Their relationship goes back to 1890 when a ship from the Ottoman Empire, the Ertuğrul, sank around the tip of Kii Peninsula in Kushimoto. The Kashinozaki Lighthouse served a beacon of hope for the survivors of the Ertuğrul and eventually came to symbolize the friendship between Turkey and Japan.
Ottoman Frigate Ertuğrul
In 1889, a Turkish ship led by Osman Pascha headed to Japan on a diplomatic voyage of good will, as the Japanese Imperial family had visited Istanbul. Pascha had a warm welcome and were embraced as official foreign guests. He was even able to have an audience with Emperor Meiji. After three months, Pascha and his crew made ready to leave the county. However, they could not have known that a typhoon was brewing at sea. As their ship neared the Kashinozaki Lighthouse, the typhoon hit the Ertuğrul forcing it to run aground, utterly destroying it. A few of the crew scaled the cliffs near the lighthouse and begged the locals for help. Despite the immediate response of the people in Kii Oshima Island, only 69 people were saved while 589 people died.
After the incident, the people of Kii Oshima earnestly cared for the Turkish survivors and retrieved all the dead bodies from the ocean. Far away in Tokyo Yamada Torajiro caught wind of what had transpired and began to collect donations for the victims and went to Turkey himself offer it to Abdul Hamid II.
In return for all this kindness, Turkey aided Japan during the Iran-Iraq War over a hundred of year later. When Iraq announced they were going to shoot down all Iranian airplanes within 24 hours. Countries scrambled to get their citizens out of Iran, but Japan could not get any planes to save their own people. At the last moment, it was Turkey who willingly offered planes to evacuate the Japanese people stuck in Iran.
Kashinozaki is on the tip of Kii Oshima Island. The closest station to Kashinozaki is Kushimoto Station. From the station, Kashinozaki is 30 minutes away by bus. However, most people just take a car to get there, as there is only a handful of bus service a day.
Around Kashinozaki is beautiful free park a few Turkish shops.
On Ertuğrul Street, you will see there is a Turkish Museum. While it is a quite small museum, it exhibits some of the wreckage of the Ertuğrul excavated from the nearby ocean. From the museum, you can see the rock that tore the Ertuğrul to pieces.
Moreover, near the museum is a monument to the Ertuğrul. Surprisingly, the town holds a commemoration ceremony every five years with a representative from the embassy of Turkey!!
The Kashinozaki Lighthouse that played such an important role in the sad story of the Ertuğrul was built by the English architect, Richard Henly Brandon, who is known as the “Father of the Lighthouse” in Japan. He built many lighthouses throughout the country and the Kashinozaki Lighthouse is the first lighthouse with rotating lens built in Japan.
Unfortunately you cannot go into the lighthouse as it is still in use, but you can walk around the outside of the lighthouse for free! From the top of the lighthouse, you can see the beautiful Pacific Ocean!!
An uncanny symbol of a bond between two nations, the Kashinozaki Lighthouse even today continues to remind us that human kindness can influence people’s actions, years after.