The Story Behind The Ill-Fated Daigo Fukuryu Maru

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  • A nuclear tragedy occurred in Japan on March 1, 1954 when a Japanese tuna fishing boat called “Lucky Dragon No. 5” or “Daigo Fukuryu Maru,” in Japanese, was exposed to the nuclear fallout in the tropical North Pacific. It resulted in serious medical conditions which required immediate treatment. Let’s take a closer look at the boat’s ill-fated history.

    The Boat’s Early Days

    fukuryu maru fish

    Lucky Dragon No. 5 was built in March 1947 and was originally named Dainana Kotoshiro Maru. At this time, it was regarded as a bonito boat searching for medium-sized, ray-finned predatory fish. In 1953, it was remodeled into a tuna fishing boat where it moored in Yaizu Port of Shizuoka Prefecture. It also changed its name to Lucky Dragon No. 5 or the Fifth Lucky Dragon. It was able to undertake a total of five ocean voyages.

    The Final Voyage

    fukuryu maru boat

    The final voyage started on January 22, 1954, until March 4 of the same year. There were 23 crew members who were supposed to go fishing in the Midway Sea but most of their trawling nets were lost in the sea. They decided to change course near the Marshall Islands, an island country located near the equator. Here, they encountered the fallout from the Bikini Atoll on March 1, 1954.

    The crew was amazed by some sort of fine snow falling in the middle of the sea which lasted for three hours. Many of them scooped it with bare hands while one fisherman, Matashichi Oishi, even took a lick of it. He described it as gritty and having no taste.

    The Aftermath

    fukuryu maru museum

    The very night of the last voyage, all the crew started showing radiation symptoms. They then decided to sail home on March 2 and arrived on March 14. One of the crew died from the symptoms while the others needed to spend one year of treatment in the hospital. In the 1970s, it was decided that the boat was safe enough to be preserved. It was housed in Yumenoshima Park. The park also includes exhibits of the dangers of nuclear war.

    If you want to see the actual boat, you can go to Yumenoshima Park in Tokyo. There you can see Daigo Fururyu Maru Exhibition Hall which is just 5 minutes walk from the Dome.

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