Just outside Hiroshima, Japan, in the town of Kure, there’s an odd sight: a submarine almost as long as a football field, up on stilts. Amid the buildings with no water in sight, the sleek black and red shape couldn’t look more out of place.

It’s the Akishio, a former submarine of the JMSDF, or Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force. Decommissioned in 2004, it was converted to a museum ship as part of a larger JMSDF Maritime Museum.

If that weren’t enough for the area, across the street is the Kure Maritime Museum which, among other interesting objects and displays, houses an amazing 1/10th scale replica of the massive Yamotobattleship. It was the largest battleship ever built, and was sunk by American bombers in World War II.

Here’s a full tour.

JMSDF Akishio and the ‘Whale of Iron’ Museum

It takes about and hour and a half to get to the port city of Kure from Hiroshima, if you’re taking public transport. The beached sub is about a 10 minute walk from the Kure train station. Follow the elevated walkway (through a mall) and you nearly walk into it.

Most museum submarines are either in the water or adjacent to the water in a drydock. The Akishio is one of the few on supports well above the waterline, and set back from the shore.

It allows a great look at the underbelly of the boat, something that’s a bit challenging when the sub’s in the water.

The Maritime Museum, of which the Akishio is a part, is an interesting look at the history of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force and the roles they’ve filled in the six decades they’ve been in service. Much of it is mine clearing, something they’ve gotten so good at, they’ve assisted other navies (including the US) around the world.

The Akishio itself is a fairly small sub, smaller than even the Oberon-class, and nowhere near the displacement of something like the Redoutable, and makes for a short tour. An entrance cut in the starboard side gets you into the crew quarters, then you work your way forward through the galley, mess, and eventually the bridge. It was fascinating, though, not least for seeing all the labels in Japanese. On the bridge, a docent played alarm klaxons over the loudspeakers, I think just because he thought I’d find it cool (he was correct).

‘Yamoto’ Museum

Across the street, the Kure Maritime Museum has the nickname “Yamato Museum” after the most famous part of its collection. I’ve toured the Iowa and Missouri, both huge ships, and the Yamoto was even bigger. Behind the museum there’s jetty that is a 1:1 scale of the forward portion of the Yamoto to give an even more realistic sense of scale.

Elsewhere in the museum there are artifacts from the long history of Kure as port and naval base, including a Type 62 Zero and more.

From bows to sterns

Only the most diehard submarine fans are going to make the trek to Kure, at least those that weren’t already headed to central Japan. While the Akishio itself isn’t as cool of a tour as other sub museums around the world, it is unique, being the only one from the JMSDF. The attached museum, and the adjacent Kure Maritime museum all combine for a great day out.

In his alternate life as a travel writer, Geoff does tours of cool museums and locations around the world including nuclear submarines, medieval castles, iconic music studios and more. You can follow his exploits on Twitter and Instagram, and on his travel blog BaldNomad. He also wrote a bestselling sci-fi novel. Got a tour-worthy spot you think he should check out? Let him know!


The Whale of Iron: Inside the JMSDF Akishio submarine and the Kure Maritime Museum – CNET