Japanese cruiser Matsushima

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The French-built Matsushima, flagship of the Japanese Navy in the Sino-Japanese War.
Career Japanese Navy Ensign
Name: Matsushima
Ordered: 1886 Fiscal Year
Builder: Société Nouvelle des Forges et Chantiers de la Méditerranée, La Seyne-sur-Mer, France
Laid down: 17 February 1888
Launched: 22 January 1890
Completed: 5 April 1892
Fate: Sunk after accidental explosion, 30 April 1908
General characteristics
Class and type: Matsushima-class cruiser
Displacement: 4,217 long tons (4,285 t)
Length: 91.81 m (301 ft 3 in) w/l
Beam: 15.6 m (51 ft 2 in)
Draft: 6.05 m (19 ft 10 in)
Propulsion: 2-shaft reciprocating; 6 boilers; 5,400 hp (4,000 kW), 680 tons coal
Speed: 16.5 knots (19.0 mph; 30.6 km/h)
Complement: 360
Armament: • 1 × 320 mm (13 in) Canet gun
• 12 × 120 mm (4.7 in) guns
• 6 × 47 mm guns
• 2 × 37 mm guns
• 9 × 1-pounder guns
• 4 × 360 mm (14 in) torpedo tubes
Armor: Deck: 50 mm (2 in)
Turret: 300 mm (12 in)
Gun shield: 100 mm (4 in)

Matsushima (松島?) was the second vessel of the Matsushima-class protected cruisers of the Imperial Japanese Navy. Like its sister ships, (the Itsukushima and Hashidate) its name comes from one of the three most famous scenic spots in Japan, in this case, the Matsushima archipelago near Sendai in Miyagi prefecture.


Forming the backbone of the Imperial Japanese Navy during the First Sino-Japanese War, the Matsushima-class cruisers were based on the principles of Jeune Ecole, as promoted by French military advisor and naval architect Emile Bertin.

The Matsushima was built by the Société Nouvelle des Forges et Chantiers de la Méditerranée naval shipyards in France.

The Japanese government did not have the resources or budget to build a large battleship navy to counter the heavier vessels of the Chinese navy; instead, Japan adopted the radical theory of using smaller, faster warships, with light armor and small caliber long-range guns, coupled with a massive single 320 mm (12.6") Canet gun. Matsushima differed from her two sister ships in that the 320 mm gun was mounted abaft the superstructure, rather than forwards. The design eventually proved impractical, as the recoil from the huge cannon was too much for a vessel of such small displacement, and the reloading time on the cannon was impractically long; however, the Matsushima-class cruisers served their purpose well against the poorly-equipped and poorly-led Chinese fleet.

Service life

The Matsushima arrived in Sasebo on 19 October 1892, As part of its shakedown cruise, from June - November 1893, the Matsushima, Takachiho and Chiyoda made a 160-day, 7000 nautical mile cruise off the shores of China, Korea and Russia.

After the start of the First Sino-Japanese War, the Matsushima was the flagship of Admiral Itoh Sukeyuki. It played a central role in the Battle of the Yalu River, where an ammunition explosion killed 90 crewmen, more than half of the Japanese casualties during the battle. During the battle, the Matsushima got off only 4 rounds of her 320 mm cannon, the Itsukushima 5 rounds, and the Hashidate 5 rounds. Of these shots, it appears that only one was a direct hit on any ships in the Chinese fleet. The Matsushima saw subsequent action in the attack on Weihaiwei.

The Matsushima was among the Japanese fleet units that took part in the invasion of Taiwan in 1895, and saw action on 3 June 1895 at the bombardment of the Chinese coastal forts at Keelung.

After the end of the war, the Matsushima was reclassified as a 2nd class cruiser on 21 March 1898. Prince Arisugawa Takehito (1862-1913) was later appointed captain, followed by Uryū Sotokichi.

From 3 May 1898 to 15 September 1898, the Matsushima was assigned to patrolling the sea lanes between Taiwan and Manila, during the period of heightened tension between Japan and the United States during the Spanish-American War.

In 1900, the Matsushima escorted Japanese transports to China during the Boxer Rebellion.

In 1902, the Matsushima was dispatched to Minami Torishima, in response to American claims that the island was US territory.

In 1903, the Matsushima made the first of its long distance navigational training voyages, visiting Southeast Asia and Australia. It would later repeat this voyage in 1906, 1907 and 1908.

Officers of the Matsushima.

During the Russo-Japanese War, the hopelessly obsolete Matsushima and her sister ships were assigned to the 5th squadron of the reserve 3rd Fleet, together with the equally outdated ironclad battleship Chin'en under the command of Admiral Shichiro Kataoka. It was present at the blockade of Port Arthur, the Battle of the Yellow Sea and the final Battle of Tsushima. Later assigned the Japanese 4th Fleet, it was part of the flotilla that provided protection for the Japanese invasion of Sakhalin.

On 30 April 1908, while on a training cruise for the Imperial Japanese Naval Academy, an accident in the ammunition storage locker of the Matsushima caused a massive explosion, which sank the vessel while in route in the Pescadores islands off of Taiwan, with loss of 207 of her 350 member crew.

A memorial to the Matsushima-class ships in general, and the Matsushima in particular is located at the temple of Omido-ji in Mihama, Aichi prefecture. The memorial contains one of the Matsushima's 320 mm shells, weighing 450 kg, and standing 97.5 cm tall.



  • 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

fr:Classe Matsushima it:Matsushima (incrociatore) ja:松島 (巡洋艦) zh:松島號巡洋艦 ru:Мацусима (бронепалубный крейсер)