Ertuğrul, 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 later home aboard two Japanese corvettes. The event is still commemorated as a foundation stone of Japanese-Turkish friendship.
On February 18 1865, she left Portsmouth to return home with two other ships of the Ottoman Navy, Kosova and Hüdavendigâr, visiting some French and Spanish ports on the way. After arriving in Istanbul, she anchored awhile in the Bosporus in front of the Dolmabahçe Palace and later took part in the campaign against the Great Cretan Revolution in 1866. Subsequently she was locked up in Golden Horn during the reign of Abdul Hamid II (1876-1909).
The initial route was designed to make various necessary stops on the way. The first stop was planned in Marmaris, and the next one in Port Said before the passage through the Suez Canal. A visit in Aden would follow the stay in Port Jeddah. Considering the seasonal winds, the ship would stop by at Port Pondicherry and Calcutta in India. After staying in Port Akabod and Port Singapore, she would carry on to Malacca by way of the Strait of Malacca. Proceeding to the north, the ship would stop by in Port Saigon and then in some docks in China to arrive in Hong Kong. Port Amoy and Shanghai would be the last stops before reaching Japan. Finally, after a stay in Port Nagasaki, the ship would arrive her destination in Port Yokohama. The return was scheduled in October of the same year.
The ship experienced some problems during her long journey. On July 26 1889, she entered the Suez Canal and ran ashore in Great Bitter Lake, destroyed the stern post and lost the rudder. After repairs, Ertuğrul set sail again on September 23. While sailing in western Indian Ocean, the ship took on water from the bow. The crew was unable to conduct the necessary repairs until they reached Singapore. Ertuğrul was repaired in Singapore and departed on March 22 1890. After a ten-day stop in Saigon, she arrived in Yokohoma on June 7 1890. The journey from Istanbul lasted around eleven months. Captain Ali Osman Bey was promoted to the rank of a commodore during the journey.
In Yokohama, Admiral Ali Osman Pasha and the officers were received by Emperor Meiji of Japan on June 13 1890. The gifts and the medal sent by Sultan Abdul Hamid II were presented to their intended recipients. Ali Osman Pasha was honored with the First Class Order of the Rising Sun, and Skipper Ali Bey with the Third Class Order of the Rising Sun. Other navy officers were also decorated with medals. Subsequently, Turkish officers were received by the Empress. On June 14 1890, young Prince Yoshihito Haru received the Turkish admiral. On the following days, many receptions, dinners and ceremonies took place.
During her stay of three months in Japan, Ertuğrul frigate lost twelve crew members to epidemic.
Despite all the efforts, the ship's disintegration was imminent and the only option was seeking sanctuary in a nearby port. They headed to Kobe, within of the ship, in the gulf beyond the Kashinozaki Cape with Oshima Lighthouse. Seawater breaking through finally extinguished one of the furnaces in the engine room. Almost immobile without main sails and sufficient propulsion, and having only the wind and the waves behind, Ertuğrul drifted towards the dangerous rocks at the eastern coast of Oshima Island. As the crew tried just to stop the ship before the rocks by emergency anchoring, the ship hit the reefs and fell apart at the first impact around midnight on September 18 1890.
At the site of the accident, around 533 sailors, of whom fifty were officers including the commander Admiral Ali Osman Pasha, lost their lives. Only six officers and sixty-three sailors survived. Six of the survivors were uninjured, nine severely wounded and the others with only lightly injuries. After the rescue operation, two survivors were taken to Kobe by Japanese ships, another two by a Japanese battleship and sixty-five by German gunboats. All the sixty-nine survivors were transported back to Istanbul aboard Japanese corvettes Kongō and Hiei, leaving Shinagawa, Tokyo in October 1890. The sultan accepted the officers of the Japanese battleships on January 5 1891 and expressed his appreciation for the relief operation by decorating them with medals
Ironically, this accident created a general sympathy in Japan for Turkish people and led to the establishment of a strong basis for which friendship between Turkey and Japan was to later flourish.
In February 1891, a cemetery was established for the 150 sailors recovered dead at the calamity, and a memorial next to it was built near the lighthouse in the town of Kushimoto, Wakayama. Emperor Hirohito visited the cemetery on June 3 1929, which was extended the same year. Turkey renovated the monument in 1939.
In 1974, a "Turkish Museum" was established, in which a scale model of the ship, photographs and statues of the sailors are on exhibition.
The event is being commemorated every five years on the day of the tragic accident in Kushimoto with the participation of high-level officials from Turkey and Japan.
In June 2008, Turkish president Abdullah Gül, visiting Japan officially, proceeded from Tokyo to Kushimoto to take part at a commemoration together with regional officials.