Friday, 11 May 2012

Miike, Japan

In 1902, construction began on Miike Port on the Ariake Sea, a body of water known for extreme tidal variations. Work was completed and the dock basin flooded in March 1908. With a ship channel extending 1,830 meters out to sea and lock gates to maintain the water level of the ship dock at 8.5 meters or more, the new port was equipped to handle 10,000-ton vessels and their cargo. The port gate consisted of double doors, each 12.17 meters wide, 8.84 meters tall, 1.20 meters thick, and produced by Thames Civil Engineering Co. At the points of contact, they were made of a special dense hardwood resistant to water and insects, which had been imported from South America. A variety of related facilities were built in conjunction with the port’s opening, including the Nagasaki Customs Miike Branch and Mitsui Minato Club, where ships’ officers were entertained. When the Miike Coal Mine Industrial Railway was extended as far as Miike Port in 1905, the port became part of an integrated system encompassing coal extraction, rail transport, and marine shipping. To this day, Miike Port continues to play an important role as an industrial port. The Modern Industrial Heritage Sites in Kyushu and Yamaguchi

On arrival at Miike, the pilgrim could not but admire the skill and enterprise displayed by the Mitsui Co. in the development of a flat shore, with shallow water and extensive mud banks, into a magnificent wet dock and half-tide basin, the latter 127 acres in area from which two parallel breakwaters, each 9,000 feet long from the dock gates, form a channel having a minimum depth of 18 feet at L.W., M.S.T.

The dock gates are a fine piece of engineering, maintaining a minimum depth of 28 feet within the dock, which latter is 32 acres in area.

The entrance is 66 feet wide, each gate weighs 90 tons and is operated by hydraulic power. Sydney Shadrach Kemp Leaves from the Diary of a Pilgrim: September 24th, 1917: A trip to Miike

Blue Funnel ships stopped to refuel here in the 1920’s. It is not recorded that Lowry‘s ship stopped here on his the Far East voyage in 1927. Lowry may have been told about the port and its myriad of brothels.  Joe Passalique has contracted syphilis in the brothels of port in ‘Goya The Obscure’ 272. One of the crew of the Oedipus Tyrannus in the novel Ultramarine says; "reminds me of the time in Miki when-" (Pg. 47); the brothels occur again in Under The Volcano; " The bunkers, loaded at Miki - a black coaling port calculated to fulfill any landsman's conception of a sailor's dreams, since every house in it was a brothel, every woman a prostitute, including an old hag who did tattos" (Under The Volcano Pg. 167). This is confirmed by Hugill; “Miike must be the only place in the world where the seamen had to walk through the brothel area to get out of the dock gates!” Stan Hugill Sailortown Pg.335. In the 1920’s, the main street had many bars such as the Blue Funnel Bar, the Lighthouse, the Ship Bar, the Korean Hotel, and the Benisusume Cabaret, all geared to please the visiting seamen. There was “a sort of Museum of Anatomy, with crude pictures outside and cruder wax figures within” Stan Hugill Sailortown Pg. 336. The museum echoes the one in Dairen visited by Dana Hilliot in Ultramarine Chapter 3; and the one Lowry visited  in Paradise Street, Liverpool.

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