Sunday, April 15, 2012

100 Years Ago Today the Titanic Sank and There Was a Japanese Survivor! Here's His Story

There is no disaster story that has captured the imagination and fascination of the world over this last century more than the sinking of the Titanic. Not the Hindenburg Disaster or even the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. Perhaps it is man's fascination with the unknown that lurks at the bottom of the cold deep ocean...

Over at the Japan: It's a Wonderful Rife is an extremely fascinating story of a Japanese man named Masabumi Hosono. Not only was he the only Japanese person on the Titanic, he was a survivor.  

Japan: It's a Wonderful Rife tells the story of 100th Anniversary of the Titanic Disaster and the Lone Japanese Survivior:

Born in Niigata-ken in 1870, Hosono Masabumi (surname first) graduated from Tokyo Higher Commercial School, and worked briefly for  Mitsubishi before getting a job with Japan's Ministry of Communications in 1897.
In 1906, he graduated from the Russian department of the Tokyo School of Foreign Languages and, in 1910, was sent to Russia to research the Russian railway system.

Titanic at Belfast April 1, 1912
Our story begins now. It was on his way back from this trip and after a short stay in London that on April 10, 1912 he boarded the RMS Titanic to return home wearing some decent clothing purchased in London. I state this so you know that he did not look like a peasant - that he looked reasonably well-to-do.   
On April 14, at 11:40 p.m., just four days into its maiden voyage, the badly nicknamed "unsinkable" Titanic struck an iceberg while traveling near top speed and began taking on water.
Commonsense dictates that when a boat is sinking, it's a good idea to get off it. That's what Hosono tried to do. But, on three separate occasions, the ship's crew told hm to go back to the lower levels of the ship.
Back in those days, it was women and children first - but only if you had a first or second-class ticket and had white skin.

Luckily for him, Hosono was able to get on a lifeboat and save himself so that he could return to Japan and see his wife and children again. 

Titanic lifeboats on way to Carpathia

But his story does not end there. While the western press criticized hundreds of men for surviving the sinking of the Titanic while several hundred women and children died, Hosono was spared... But not in Japan. In Japan, a country just coming off the end of the era of the samurai and a society steeped in feudalism, Hosono, would find shame and actually lose his job because he survived.

Instead, the worst criticism came from Japan itself, who felt he had  broken two inglorious Japanese taboos. Remember, this was 1912, and the samurai had only been dissolved maybe 30 years earlier.
  • He had chosen life  over an honorable death. 
  • He had chosen life over death in public. 
Read more about this incredibly interesting story and the what eventually became of Masabumi Hosono when he returned to disgrace in Japan at It's a Wonderful Rife blog: 100th Anniversary of the Titanic Disaster and the Lone Japanese Survivior  

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