History of Aids to Navigation in Japan

(2)History of Aids to Navigation in Japan

According to old records,the origin of the present lighthouse in Japan dates back to the days when the present city of Osaka was known as Naniwa.
A guidepost known as the “mi-wo-tsukushi”, corresponding to the present light staff indicated the channel as a mark post for navigation.
The mark post is mentioned in the famous book of poetry, the“Man-Yo-Shu”.
ln the third year of the reign of Emperor Tenchi(664),soldiers were stationed at strategic points in Iki, Tsushima and Tsukushi,burning torches to protect the coastline as the locations were along the route of the vessels carrying envoys to China.
For the convenience of the envoys,the land marks were made clear day and night by smoke and fire.
In the Tokugawa era,an original Japanese lighthouse was built known as the light-hut or light base.
A hut was built on a foundation of stone and wood was burned in the hut as the light source.
In 1608,a man named Kichisaburo Hino who lived in the port of Fukura in Noto,built a light base in the port of Fukura. A wooden lantern with oil paper shades were placed on a stone hut,and oil was burned in the lantern as the light source.


This is the first lighthouse to use oil as the light source,and there were about 100 light bases at the end of the Tokugawa era.
In shrines and temples near the coastline,lamps kept burning all night served as light marks.
Such stone lanterns are still to be found.
In May,1866,the Tokugawa Shogunate signed a treaty with the United State of America,Great Britain, France and the Netherlands that the Government of Japan will provide all the ports opened to foreign trade with such lights,buoys or beacons as will be necessary to secure the safe navigation of vessels to the ports.
Accordingly,8 lighthouses and two light vessels were provided.
However,as the Japanese Government did not possess the technology to build lighthouses of the western standard,the government acquired the necessary equipment and requested assistance in recruiting an engineer to build the lighthouses.Shortly after,the Tokugawa Shogunate collapsed,and the project was taken over by the new Meiji Government.


Thus,on January 1st,1869,the first western style lighthouse was built in Kannonzaki on the Miura Peninsula,and the light of western civilization was introduced to Japan. The lighthouse was constructed under the supervision of a French engineer,Verny Francois Leonce.
 Three other lighthouses,the Nojimazaki,Shinagawa,and the Jogashima lighthouses were also built by French engineers.
Henceforth,British engineers headed by Richard Henry Brunton were responsible for the construction of lighthouses.
Brunton opened his office in Yokohama,built workshops and engaged in the construction of lighthouses,lightships,buoys and repairs of various facilities.
Before his return to England in 1876,Brunton constructed 26 lighthouses,and two lightships.
Lighthouses at Shiriyazaki and Kinkazan were completed after his departure.
Experienced British operators were stationed at these lighthouses with Japanese trainees to get acquainted with the work.
Thus,from the early stages of aids to navigation,with the development of economic and marine activities,the number of aids to navigation has gradually increased with a wide range of facilities,such as the fog signal stations and tidal stream signal stations.


ln the early Showa period,radio beacon stations were established.
However before the opening of World War Ⅱ,aids to navigation consisted of merely 400 facilities.
During the war,a large number of lighthouses were destroyed as targets of attacks.
Restoration of aids to navigation was undertaken immediately after the end of the war,and completed in 1950.in 1948,the Maritime Safety Agency was established,and the aids to navigation service was placed under the new Agency.
By 1955,Japan recovered the economic standard of the pre-war days,particularly in the field of marine traffic and fishery industries.
The number of aids to navigation made outstanding increase with the number reaching approximately 5,500 facilities in March,1999.