Kushimoto is a small coastal town on the southern tip of the Kii Peninsula in Wakayama Prefecture. The town’s main attractions are its beautiful coastal scenery and several interesting museums.
The Turkish Memorial and Museum is one such museum, dedicated to an accident at sea in 1890, when a Turkish ship, the Ertuğrul, crashed off the shores of Kii Oshima. Oshima Island is located 1 mile away from Shiono Point, the tip of the Kii Peninsula. Survivors from the ship were cared for by townspeople until they could be safely sent back to Turkey. The incident marked the beginning of a deep friendship between Japan and Turkey. As a matter of fact, Kushimoto is designated as the official Town of Japanese-Turkish Friendship.
The Ertuğrul, was built in the Taşkızak Shipyard in Constantinople (modern day Istanbul) and was launched on October 1863. It was a three-mast wooden ship, measuring 260 ft. long and 51 ft. wide. She sailed to England in 1864, where she was fitted with steam engines and state of the art machinery, including electrical lighting.
The ship set sail from Constantinople on July 1889 and arrived in Yokohoma on June 1890. While in Yokohama, Admiral Osman, who commanded the Ertuğrul, and the officers were received by the Emperor. Concluding a three month stay in Japan, the Ertuğrul set sail from Yokohama for Constantinople at noon on September 15, 1890.
On Sept. 16, 1890, the sailors encountered a typhoon, which pushed the Ertuğrul onto rocks off the beach of Kushimoto where it essentially disintegrated.
At the site of the accident, 533 sailors, of whom fifty were officers including the commander Admiral Osman, lost their lives. Local residents of Kushimoto, however, managed to help rescue 69 of its sailors and officers, who were later returned to their homeland on Japanese warships.
In February 1891, a cemetery was established for the 150 bodies recovered from the sea and a memorial was built near the lighthouse. In 1974, the Turkish Museum was established, in which a scale model of the ship, photographs and statues of the sailors are on exhibition.
The event is commemorated every five years on the day of the accident in Kushimoto, with the participation of high-level officials from both Turkey and Japan.
In 2008, the underwater excavation of artifacts from the area where the Ertuğrul went down began. The relics that were brought up are currently on display in both Kushimoto and in Istanbul.