Contents Tourism – USS Missouri, ‘the Mighty Mo’

In the next of my posts on contents tourism (if you don’t know what contents tourism is, please see my post about Tanigawa and Ichi-no-kurasawa), I would like to write about my visit to the USS Missouri, known as ‘the Might Mo’ in 2011.

As I wrote in my ‘postcard’ on the International Journal of Contents Tourism site…

The ‘Mighty Mo’, the USS Missouri, has a special place in history as the location where Japan’s surrender ending World War Two was signed. But it is also a location of interest to those involved in ‘contents tourism’ and can now be accessed at the museum at Pearl Harbor, Hawai’i. It features in the film Under Seige (Davis 1992), although many scenes were filmed on other ships and in Battleship (Berg 2012), when it had to be moved for its scenes by tugs as its own engines are no longer usable. It also features in the video of Cher’s hit ‘If I Could Turn Back Time’.

The ship itself is beautiful. Although battleships represent the destruction that mankind can bring on each other, there is something about the shape of battleships that I have always loved. Perhaps having the name Hood and the association with HMS Hood.

I was in Hawai’i for a conference. It was a crazy trip. Flying out from the UK, I was on the move for around 24 hours… and arrived in Hawai’i only around 9 hours after I left Cardiff. As I was there for a conference, and despite numbers being slightly lower than planned due to it coming soon after the Great East Japan Earthquake (‘3/11’), there were still around 4,000 people and it was a very busy conference and I didn’t have much spare time. But I did manage to fit in two things. One was a visit to the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center. The other was to Pearl Harbor.

For most people I suspect the focus of a trip to Pearl Harbor is the visit to the museum and memorial for the USS Arizona. I did these. The museum, I thought was excellent, giving me a much better understanding of the events in 1941 (my father was actually in the US when the attack happened, news coming through during half-time of a rugby game, which was not then continued). But, for me, the highlight was the Mighty Mo.

As someone who has studied and taught Japanese history for (at the time) around 22 years, I should have been excited about the visit because of the link with Japan’s history. This was the ship where Japan’s surrender was signed on 2 September (my father’s birthday). The spot where this happened has a memorial…

I went on a tour of the ship. I was particularly moved about the story relating to a kamikaze attack (the dent created by the plane hitting the ship) is still visible. I was touched that following the death of the pilot, some of the Missouri crew spent time sewing together a Japanese flag and then giving the pilot a proper sea burial (you can also find additional information about this in posts by the USS Missouri’s Facebook page, for example).

The dent created by a kamikaze attack

But, in many respects, as I referred to in my ‘postcard’ for International Journal of Contents Tourism site, some of the joy of visiting the ship was due to its part in Under Siege, and to a lesser degree Cher’s video… we’ll gloss over Battleship. I know much of Under Siege was filmed on another ship, but it was the Mighty Mo where the story took place. It is that version of the Might Mo when I think of the ship, not the active ship during WWII, its role in the surrender of Japan, its active roles in subsequent conflicts, or its other media appearances. Regardless of the story of the film (or quality), I like to celebrate the Mighty Mo as a beautiful ship and star of a movie, rather than as a weapon (as with ‘the Mighty Hood‘).

Having finished touring the ship, I did the obligatory visit to the souvenir shop. Got a great T-shirt there. But this T-shirt led to a faux-pas near miss on my part, when one time I was wearing it as walking past a right wing group near Shimbashi station. As I remembered the role the ship had played in Japan’s past, I decided it better to alter my route and cover up rather than cause any antagonism.

Wearing my Mighty Mo T-shirt back in 2011

See my other posts relating to Contents Tourism, by clicking here.

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