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  • Sunk: 16 Sept 1890, Kii Ôshima

The Ertuğrul was an Ottoman ship which traveled to Japan in 1890 carrying an official diplomatic mission from the Ottoman Empire, and which was shipwrecked on Kii Ôshima (Wakayama prefecture) shortly after departing Tokyo for its return journey.

The story of the shipwreck, and of the rescue of nearly 70 members of the crew by the villagers of Kii Ôshima, is the subject of the 2015 Turkish/Japanese film Ertuğrul 1890.



Official Japanese relations with the Ottoman Empire began in 1878, when Sultan Abdul Hamid II sent the training ship Seiki to Japan, on a goodwill mission. Prince Komatsu Akihito and his princess paid a formal visit to Constantinople in September 1887, to bestow the Order of the Chrysanthemum upon the Sultan; in return for this visit, the Sultan decided to send a new goodwill mission to Japan in 1889-1890, to present the Ottoman Medal of High Honor to the Emperor.

The Ship and its Final Voyage

The 2,344 ton, 79-meter Ertuğrul was already an old ship in 1889. Though some in the Ottoman government or navy reportedly expressed concerns about the viability of the journey, the Ertuğrul was selected, and set sail on July 14, 1889, with a crew of 609 under the command of Commodore Osman Bey.

The journey from Turkey to Japan was expected to take three months, but lasted eleven, due to various setbacks and difficulties. However, after the mission finally arrived safely in Yokohama, the official diplomatic events and interactions went smoothly. The heads of the mission were received in audience by the Meiji Emperor, and various formal greetings, gifts, and honors were exchanged. The mission remained in Yokohama for three months. Some of the ship's officers expressed concerns about the makeshift repairs made on the journey to Japan, and suggested they stay longer in Yokohama to perform proper repairs; meanwhile, Japanese officials advised the Ottomans to delay their departure in order to avoid typhoon season. Nevertheless, despite these warnings and concerns, the Ertuğrul departed for home on September 15, 1890.

The following day, the ship encountered a typhoon, and after the crew struggled against the winds and waves for some time, around 9:30pm the ship was dashed up against the rocks just off the coast of the island of Kii Ôshima, and broke apart. Roughly 500 sailors died, either in the storm, or by drowning, exposure, or injuries following the shipwreck. However, 69 men were rescued by the villagers of the island, and were provided food, clothes, shelter, and medical attention for some time.

The survivors were eventually taken to Kobe aboard Japanese and German vessels, where they received additional medical treatment from the Emperor's personal physician, and a team of thirteen Imperial Household nurses.

In the end, the men were returned to Constantinople aboard the Imperial Japanese Navy ships Hiei and Kongô, departing Kobe in October 1890, and arriving home the following January.


The shipwreck of the Ertuğrul remained in place until 2007, when joint Turkish-Japanese excavations began. An exhibition of objects recovered from the wreck traveled to several Turkish cities in 2010 or 2011.

A museum and monument for the incident stand on Kii Ôshima today.

A 2015 film, known as Ertuğrul 1890 in Turkey and Kainan 1890 (海難1890) in Japanese, relates a somewhat dramatized version of these events. The film ends with an account of the 1985 incident in which the Turkish government, and Turkish Airlines, worked to evacuate some 300 Japanese citizens from Tehran (just prior to an Iraqi invasion, and Iraqi imposition of a no-fly zone over Iran), when the Japanese government, Japan Airlines, and the Japan Self-Defense Forces were unable to do so.


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