Historical Heritage of the Port of Akita

February 2012
By the Akita Port Office of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, the Public Relations Office of Akita City, Tsuchizaki Society of Historiography, Japan Society of Civil Engineering, Akita Prefecture, and others

Since ancient times, the port of Akita flourished as a major port on the shores of the Sea of Japan. It was often troubled by the sediment from Omono River and high waves from the Sea of Japan, which sometimes, changed the place and configuration of the waterway. For large steamships in the late 19th century, the sedimentation and changing waterway became a serious problem, since it was often impossible for large steamships to find a place to berth. In response to the local movement for the modernization of the port of Akita, the Furuichi wharf was constructed in 1885 under the guidance of Dr. Furuichi Kōi who was a civil engineer of the Ministry of Home Affairs. The Furuichi Wharf is the first wharf in the port of Akita, which is 667 meters long and 2.4 meters high. The port of Akita’s historical heritages are presented here. They pass on to us the achievements of the people who put in efforts toward the port’s development that continues to connect the Northern Tohoku region to the Sea of Japan and to the world.

Left Column: Selected Heritages of Civil Engineering
After the construction of the Furuichi wharf, the improvement of port facilities continued. The Hiroi Wharf was constructed in 1902 and the South Breakwater in 1935. The Hiroi Wharf and the South Breakwater were designated as selected heritages of civil engineering for conservation of civil engineering structures of historic importance.
1) Hiroi Wharf
Dr. Hiroi Isami, professor of engineering of Sapporo Agricultural College was invited from Otaru to construct the Hiroi Wharf in 1902. It is 1,036 meters long. The two photographs in black and white show the Hiroi Wharf under construction in 1900. The color photographs of the Hiroi Wharf were taken in 2007.
2) South Breakwater
The construction started in 1929 and finished in 1935. Made of reinforced concrete caissons, this breakwater is 816 meters long and 4 meters high.
The black and white photograph below, on the left, was taken just before the installation of caissons (boxes of reinforced concrete) and the one on the right was taken during the construction of the breakwater. The color photographs shown below were taken in 2007.

Right Column: A 268-Meter Breakwater made of Battleships
The port of Tsuchizaki was renamed the port of Akita when the town of Tsuchizaki Port was merged with the city of Akita, in 1941. Later that year, the War of the Pacific started, which caused serious damage to this port. On August 14, 1945, just a day before the end of the war, the Great Air Raid of Tsuchizaki destroyed the town and the port. After the war, the port was on the verge of abolition. Two dredger ships were sunk by the raid and there was no way to gather the sediment deposition in the port. Despite the lack of minimum equipment, wisdom of the residents restored the port facilities. They proposed to use old battleships to create a new breakwater. In 1947, the battleships, namely Destroyers Tochi and Take and Coastal Defense Ship Ikara, were sunken in the port to make the North Breakwater, which was 268 meters long, 6 meters high, and 8 meters wide. With occasional reparations, it was in use until 1975, when it was removed for the outer expansion of the port. The use of battleships as a breakwater epitomizes the transition from the time of war to that of peace, at the port of Akita. For 30 meters, a trace of the old North Breakwater remains at the foot of the new North Breakwater.
The black and white photograph below, on the left, shows the battleships used for the breakwater and the one on the right shows the port of Akita, in October 1968. The color photograph to the right shows the location, just off the shore, where the old North Breakwater was constructed with three battleships; at present, the Selion Port Tower stands in its place.
Coastal Defense Ship Ikara was 72.50 meters long and 9.10 meters high.
Destroyer Tochi was 92.15 meters long and 9.35 meters high.
Destroyer Take was 83.82 meters long and 7.93 meters high.