Hikawa Maru Museum Ship Photography Guide

Hikawa Maru and Yamashita Park rose garden
Hikawa Maru seen from the Yamashita Park rose garden.

Hikawa Maru is a museum ship moored at Yokohama’s Yamashita Park. It once carried passengers across the Pacific Ocean to Canada and the United States. This beautiful boat had a thirty-year career that spanned from 1930 to 1960. It saw and did a lot. For photographers, it might be the perfect place for their next Japan travel destination.

The ship’s history is incredible. It started as a passenger/cargo ship working the Yokohama, Seattle, Vancouver route. Jewish refugees sailed it to Canada and the United States, fleeing Nazi persecution. In World War Two, it was a hospital ship ferrying injured servicemen back to Japan. After the conflict, she returned to her original role.

Hikawa Maru first class ship dining room
Hikawa Maru's first-class dining room.

Hikawa Maru is a superb floating museum. It is in its original passenger/cargo ship configuration. Much has been preserved. You can see what shipboard life was like half a century ago. Several third-class and first-class cabin interiors are visible through glass doors. And you can even learn about crew lifestyles.

The exhibit area has a section with vignettes of ship life. There are plaques about ship life and experiences.  The crew, passengers, doctors, nurses, and soldiers wrote them. Some are enlightening. A few are sad. Others are memorable. You can learn much.

The old-world charm of the ship will attract many photographers. The dining salon and social hall have so much art deco in them. They are beautiful. I can imagine crossing the Pacific Ocean in classic luxury.

Ship third class cabin
A third-class cabin.

I highly recommend it. The location is superb. It’s not far from Tokyo, and entry is cheap. If you are into ship photography, much is waiting for you. I wish I had more space here to show photos.

Minato Mirai port skyscrapers
The port view from the upper deck.

Did you know Hikawa Maru carried Charlie Chaplin to Japan? It did, and he certainly had some adventures there. You should Google his story. Right-wingers were going to kill him at a tea party with Prime Minister Inukai. Luckily, he skipped that because he wanted to see a sumo tournament.

Hikawa Maru first class social area
The first-class social room.

Why is the ship good for Japan travel photography?

As I already mentioned, the location is partially responsible. Within walking distance are many great places for more photos:

  • Berrick Hall
  • Chinatown
  • Harbour View Park Observatory
  • Marine Tower
  • Nippon Maru (another museum ship)
  • Yokohama Bay Bridge
  • Yokohama Foreign Cemetery
  • Yokohama International Passenger Terminal
  • Yokohama Landmark Tower
  • Yokohama Port
  • The ship itself! It is an iconic piece of Japanese history.

This is only a partial list. There is so much more. I wish I could list it all. Have a look at Google Maps and other internet resources for more.

What can you photograph on the Hikawa Maru?

  • Art deco decorations
  • Bridge
  • First-class dining saloon
  • Passenger cabins 
  • Outside are Yamashita Park, the port, the harbor, and the Minato Mirai’s skyscrapers

Are there any photography problems on the ship?

  • Many areas on the ship lack light for good photography. They can also be cramped. Fast lenses and wide angles might be good.
  • No tripods allowed.
  • Passenger cabins are locked, but some have glass doors so you can see inside.

Where is Hikawa Maru?

Address: Yamashita Park, Yamashita-cho, Naka-ku, Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan

Here it is on a Google Map:

Closest Train Station:

Motomachi-Chukagai on the Minatomirai Line. Use Exit 4. (It’s about one hour from Tokyo Station).

Entry costs

¥300

Opening hours

  • 10 am to 5 pm (with last admission at 4:30 pm)
  • The ship is closed every Monday. It is open on public holidays but closes the following day.

A Brief History of the Hikawa Maru

  • Built in 1930.
  • Until WW2, she ran regular routes between Yokohama, Vancouver, and Seattle.
  • She had two sister ships named Hei Maru and Heian Maru. Their names come from famous Shinto shrines.
  • Mines damaged her three times when she was a hospital ship in WW2.
  • She resumed cargo-passenger ship services on the Seattle route in 1953. 
  • The ship retired in 1960 after making 254 voyages across the Pacific Ocean. It also carried more than 25,000 passengers. 
  • Since 1961, the ship has been at Yokohama’s Yamashita Park. 
  • The ship became an Important Cultural Property in 2016.
ship first class cabin
A first-class cabin.

Wrapping up

The Hikawa Maru is a great museum ship. It has a history that goes back to the 1930s. You can see how people made ocean voyages in the old days.

But for us, it is about the photography. The ship is a true beauty both inside and out. Outside, Yokohama has many other places to visit within walking distance. The Hikawa Maru is great for your Japan travel photography.

childrens playroom
The first-class childrens' playroom.

What Fujifilm camera gear did I use for these ship photos?

  • Camera Body: Fujifilm X-T3
  • Lenses: XF 16-55mm F2.8 R LM WR and the XF 10-24mm F4 R OIS

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