An Irishman's Diary
At 8am on a freezing cold winter’s day there’s a big queue outside Titanic Belfast. Asian, Hispanic and Muslim visitors huddle together as they peer in through the windows in anticipation of the wonders within.
Since opening in April of this year, the centre hosted tourists from more than 111 countries (including Nepal, Qatar and Belize) by November, and although a figure of 400,000 visitors was optimistically hoped for in the centre’s first year of operation, eight months on and Titanic Belfast is soon to clock up its 600,000th customer.
If the figures have greatly exceeded expectations it’s due to the international appeal of the Titanic story. There may have been only 28 different countries represented on board the ill-fated voyage, but it can appear that almost every country has some connection – however remote – with ship/passengers/crew/survivors.
Since its opening, artefacts, photographs, letters and memories are being sent to the centre to flesh out and illustrate all the stories behind the great drama of the voyage. But one passenger – a Masabumi Hosono – has nothing beside his name, even though his story is one of the most perversely tragic.
Hosono was a 42-year-old Japanese civil servant who boarded the ship as a second class passenger – he had been in Europe working for the Japanese ministry of transport and was taking the long way home via the US.
On the night of April 14th, 1912 as the ship began to sink he watched from the deck as all the lifeboats filled up quickly with women and children.
As he wrote later than night: “I tried to prepare myself for the last moment with no agitation, making my mind up not to do anything disgraceful for a Japanese person. But I still found myself looking for a possible chance of survival”.
As Lifeboat 10 prepared to sail, an officer shouted out “Room for two more”. Mindful of the “women and children” rule, he pointed this out to the women around him but they were all staying on board with their husbands – still hopeful that the ship wouldn’t actually sink. It was only after a man beside him jumped into Lifeboat 10 and a ship’s officer urged him to take the last place that Hosono acted.
When rescued by the RMS Carpathia, he began writing down in a letter to his wife what had happened on the night and how he had survived.