Japanese cruiser Azuma

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Azuma in 1905
Azuma in 1905
Career Japanese Navy Ensign
Name: Azuma
Ordered: 1896 Fiscal Year
Builder: Saint-Nazaire shipyards, France
Laid down: March 1898
Launched: 24 June 1899
Completed: 28 July 1900
Fate: Scrapped 1945
General characteristics
Type: Armored cruiser
Displacement: 9,307 long tons (9,456 t)
Length: 131.5 m (431 ft 5 in) w/l
Beam: 20.94 m (68 ft 8 in)
Draught: 7.21 m (23 ft 8 in)
Propulsion: 2 shaft Reciprocating Vertical Triple Expansion (VTE) engines
24 Belleville boilers
17,000 shp (13,000 kW)
1275 tons coal
Speed: 20 knots (23 mph; 37 km/h)
Range: 7,000 nmi (13,000 km) at 10 kn (12 mph; 19 km/h)
Complement: 644
Armament: • 4 × 203 mm (8 in) guns
• 12 × 152 mm (6 in) rapid fire guns
• 12 × 12-pounder rapid fire guns
• 12 × 57 mm (2 in) rapid fire guns
• 5 × 450 mm (18 in) torpedo tubes
Armour: Main belt: 88–170 mm (3.5–6.7 in)
Upper belt: 125 mm (4.9 in)
Deck: 62 mm (2.4 in)
Barbette, Turret, Casemate, Torpedo room: 150 mm (5.9 in)
Conning tower: 75–360 mm (3.0–14 in)

Azuma (吾妻?) was an armored cruiser of the Imperial Japanese Navy, designed and built in France. The name Azuma comes from an ancient name for Japan in general, and the Kantō region of eastern Japan in particular.


The Azuma was one six armored cruisers ordered to overseas shipyards after the First Sino-Japanese War as part of the "Six-Six Program" (six battleships-six cruisers) intended to the backbone of the Imperial Japanese Navy. Almost all of the orders were placed with shipyards in the United Kingdom, but for political and diplomatic reasons, the Azuma was ordered from France and her near sister ship, the Yakumo was ordered from Germany.

Design and armament

Although the basic design for all six cruisers in this program was essentially the same (utilizing Armstrong-type 8-inch (200 mm) guns and with desired speed of 20-21 knots), each shipyard had considerable freedom to modify the details of the design. In the case of the Azuma, the French shipbuilder used a long, relatively narrow hull with high freeboard, and gun turrets front and back. The boiler room was separated into two compartments, with the aft boiler room located behind the second smoke stack. This gave the Azuma a distinctive silhouette, as there was thus a large gap between the first two and the third stack. The Azuma used 24 Belleville boilers, which were considered very advanced for its day. A major innovation was the use of a forced draft device on the smokestacks which enabled the stacks to draw fresh air and exhaust smoke simultaneously. Contemporary British (and German) warships used a separated air inlet located near the deck, which later proved problematic in combat, as there was a tendency to draw fire as well as debris from combat into the engine room. After the lessons of the Russo-Japanese War, this type of forced draft device became standard for most warships.

The main armament for the Azuma was a pair of twin-mounted 203 mm, 45 caliber guns of a new design in fore and aft turrets. The turrets were capable of 150 degree rotation left and right, and the guns could be elevated to 30 degrees, giving the guns a range of 18,000 meters. The secondary side-mounted 152 mm, 40 caliber guns had a range of 9,140 meters, and could fire at the rate of five shells per minute (up to seven per minute for a very skilled gun crew). The Azuma was also equipped with a ram.

However, despite these advancements and innovations, the long hull of the Azuma later proved to be a great inconvenience for the Japanese navy, as no dry dock existed in Japan capable of handling its length, and its Belleville boilers tended to leak steam at high pressures.

Service record

The Azuma served an important role in the Russo-Japanese War, and was commanded by Captain (later Admiral) Yashiro Rokuro in the Battle off Ulsan 9 February 1904, as well as the Battle of the Yellow Sea and the crucial Battle of Tsushima.

After the war, the armored cruisers were rapidly removed from front line service. The Azuma was re-assigned to a training role, and due to its large size was used for oceanic navigation training.

In 1918, during World War I, the Azuma was returned briefly to combat-ready status, and was assigned to convoy escort duty in the Indian Ocean between Singapore and the Suez Canal as part of Japan’s contribution to the war effort under the Anglo-Japanese Alliance. Afterwards, the Azuma was returned to the training fleet and was based out of Maizuru; however, despite being re-designated a 1st class Coastal Defense Vessel on 1 September 1921, it remained moored to the dock.

Very obsolete by the start of the Pacific War, the Azuma was re-designated a practice auxiliary vessel on 1 July 1942, and was demilitarized on 15 February 1944. It was scrapped in 1945.

The anchor from the Azuma is preserved on the grounds of Nogi Jinja in Tokyo.

Other ships named Azuma

The armored cruiser Azuma should not be confused with the earlier ex-Confederate ironclad ram, also named Azuma, or with the transport vessel Azuma-maru of the Pacific War.



  • Evans, David. Kaigun: Strategy, Tactics, and Technology in the Imperial Japanese Navy, 1887-1941. US Naval Institute Press (1979). ISBN 0870211927
  • Howarth, Stephen. The Fighting Ships of the Rising Sun: The Drama of the Imperial Japanese Navy, 1895-1945. Atheneum; (1983) ISBN 0689114028
  • Jane, Fred T. The Imperial Japanese Navy. Thacker, Spink & Co (1904) ASIN: B00085LCZ4
  • Jentsura, Hansgeorg. Warships of the Imperial Japanese Navy, 1869-1945. Naval Institute Press (1976). ISBN 087021893X
  • Schencking, J. Charles. Making Waves: Politics, Propaganda, And The Emergence Of The Imperial Japanese Navy, 1868-1922. Stanford University Press (2005). ISBN 0804749779

External links

ja:吾妻 (装甲巡洋艦) pl:Azuma