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The Tragic Tale of Masabumi Hosono: Titanic's Sole Japanese National

Masabumi Hosono Was Better Dead Than Alive After Surviving Titanic


Photo credit: History/ Universal Images Group via Getty Images.

On a dreadful, cold night in April 1912, a 42-year-old Japanese bureaucrat made a decision that would destroy his character, ruin his career, and shame his family for generations to come:  He had made the decision to live.


Masabumi Hosono (1870 - 1939) was the sole Japanese national on Titanic.  He had completed a study of railway systems in Russia and was starting his trip home to Japan through London and Southhampton.  Mr. Hosono worked as a civil servant with the Japanese Transit Ministry and had purchased a second-class ticket on the luxury ocean liner.


Hosono was among the passengers rescued from RMS Carpathia. Photo credit: Bettmann/ Getty Images.

On the night of April 14 at approximately 11:40 p.m., Titanic during her maiden voyage struck an iceberg in the North Atlantic Ocean. The ship went into mass hysteria and chaos and Mr. Hosono, being a foreigner, was mistaken for a third-class passenger and instructed to remain below deck.


Eventually, he made his way to the main deck and found the lifeboats being loaded and lowered.  Women and children were loaded first into the remaining lifeboats leaving "every man was for himself".  Mr. Hosono had already made peace that he would go down with the ship, but in a moment of Divine Intervention, he heard an officer call out for two more passengers to join in a remaining lifeboat.


After witnessing a man jump in front of him, Mr. Hosono quickly followed with a leap of his own into the safety of the boat, negatively changing his life forever. Once on board the rescue ship Carpathia, he wrote an account of his horrifying experience on Titanic letterhead that he had previously folded and kept in his pocket. Mr. Hosono wrote, "I myself was deep in desolate thought that I would no more be able to see my beloved wife and children, since there was no alternative for me than to share the same destiny as the Titanic. But the example of the first man making a jump led me to take this last chance."



While on board the Carpathia, Mr. Hosono wrote an account of his experience on Titanic letterhead.


After surviving the ill-fated trip of Titanic, Mr. Hosono returned to Japan, but his life was far from peaceful:  Due to cultural traditions of placing honor before the individual, he was ostracized, instead of celebrated, for surviving the sinking of the grand ship.


For many decades, Mr. Hosono would face accusations of being a dishonorable coward, bringing much shame to his country, his family, and to himself.


To make matters worse, his job with the Transit Ministry was terminated, but due to his expertise, he was later hired back three months later as a contractor. Mr. Hosono lived out the rest of his life as a recluse and never spoke about his experience on Titanic. He passed away of natural causes in 1939.


After the release of James Cameron's film Titanic in 1997, Mr. Hosono's letter was finally published and left much compassion in the hearts of the public. This cleared his family of the decades of dishonor and restored the family name.


Survivors of the RMS Titanic in one of the ship's collapsible lifeboats, just before being rescued by the Carparthia on April 15, 1912. Photo credit: Universal History Archive/ Getty Images.


References:


1.  News, D. (1997, December 30). Japan never forgave one survivor. Deseret News. https://www.deseret.com/1997/12/30/19354253/japan-never-forgave-one-survivor


2.  Wells, M. (n.d.). The tragic tale of Masabumi Hosono, the Japanese titanic survivor who was ostracized for not going down with the ship. Business Insider. https://www.businessinsider.com/titanic-japanese-survivor-ostracized-story-history-2023-8


3.  Taylor, J. (2023). Masabumi hosono. RMS Titanic:  The True Story, 32.


   



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