Ertugrul, launched in 1863, was a sailing frigate of the Ottoman Navy. While returning from a goodwill voyage from Japan in 1890, she encountered a typhoon off the coast of Wakayama Prefecture, subsequently drifted into a reef and sank. The maritime accident resulted in the loss of 533 sailors, including Admiral Ali Osman Pasha. Only sixty-nine sailors and officers survived and returned home later aboard two Japanese corvettes. The event is still commemorated as a foundation stone of Japanese-Turkish friendship. Wikipedia.
The story of how Japanese villagers came to the aid of Turkish sailors shipwrecked off the coast of Wakayama in 1890
Review of "Kainan 1890"
I was fortunate enough to see a screening of "Kainan 1890" in Japan recently, and I must say that it was a thoroughly uplifting experience. The joint project of the Japanese and Turkish governments tells the story of the ill-fated Ertugrul, a Turkish frigate carrying an Ottoman envoy that was sunk in a typhoon off the coast of Wakayama, Japan. It focuses on the villagers of Kushimoto who risked their lives and gave all of their meager resources to save the crew members who survived the wreck, as well as recover bodies from the wreckage.
I'm not here to critique the acting or the production values of the film, which were adequate if not outstanding. The importance of the film lies in its message. Cynics will probably say that the film is overly melodramatic, and to an extent, I would have to agree. However, I found that the honest human emotions conveyed throughout the film overpowered the cynic in me, and I felt genuinely moved by the story. What cannot be denied is that this one act of humanitarian kindness laid the foundation for a friendship between two very distant countries that flourishes to this day, and had very real reciprocal consequences nearly a century later when Turkey came to the aid of Japanese nationals. So there is a big emotional payoff in the coda of the film, which came as somewhat of a surprise, since I had been expecting a story that focused only on the shipwreck itself. What goes around comes around (in a very good way here).
In a time where movies tend to focus on escapism, violence, explosions and spectacle, this story stands out as a positive example of how individual actions can make a difference in the way that countries perceive each other and lay the groundwork for friendly relations. It's the kind of lesson that needs to be talked about more in an age where terrorism and religious violence are casting an increasingly long shadow around the world.
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