Sultan Abdulhamid II decided to develop Ottoman relations with the Empire of Japan, who came to the throne in 1876,  which was on the rise in the Far East. These relations, which commenced with a visit by the training ship ‘Seiki’ in 1878, developed rapidly and were further strengthened when the Meiji emperor gave the sultan the Japanese Order of the Crysanthemum, the empire’s highest honor, in return for which the sultan gave him a ‘Murassa Nişanı’ of the first degree. It was following the visit of the Meiji emperor’s uncle, Prince Komatsu, in September 1887 that Abdulhamid II made the decision to send a ship to Japan.
The Ottoman Ship in Japan The Frigate Ertuğrul 1890
The Ottoman Ship in Japan The Frigate Ertuğrul 1890
The vessel chosen was the frigate Ertuğrul. Despite objections raised on the grounds that it was old and in disrepair, the 79-meter vessel set sail from Istanbul on July 14, 1889, with a crew of 609 under the command of Commodore Osman Bey. The ship eventually reached Tokyo’s harbor of Yokohama at the end of a lengthy voyage that was intended to take three months but ended up taking eleven due to a series of accidents and other setbacks.
The Ottoman Ship in Japan The Frigate Ertuğrul 1890The Ottoman Ship in Japan The Frigate Ertuğrul 1890
The crew of the Ertuğrul presented the honors and gifts they had brought to the Emperor Meiji to great acclaim. After a stay of more than three months at Yokohama, they set sail on the return voyage. But on September 16 a strong wind blew up, turning into a typhoon towards evening. Around 9:30 that night the ship struck the Funagora Rocks at the eastern tip of the island of Oshima off the southern tip of Japan’s main island and was dashed asunder. Upwards of five hundred sailors were killed in the disaster. The 69 sailors and officers who were saved were treated by the people of Oshima and later returned to Istanbul on the vessels Hiyei and Kongo.
The Ottoman Ship in Japan The Frigate Ertuğrul 1890The Ottoman Ship in Japan The Frigate Ertuğrul 1890
Despite this tragic ending, the sailors of the Ertuğrul had successfully completed their mission. And the frigate Ertuğrul, which had set out with the purpose of furthering relations between the two countries, became the cornerstone of Turkey-Japan friendship.
The Ottoman Ship in Japan The Frigate Ertuğrul 1890