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What's in a name

What’s in a name

11.11.17

Have you ever wondered why the Japanese word “maru” (丸) is included in Japanese boat names. This naming convention is evident when watching Godzilla movies. In Gojira (1954), there is the “Eiko Maru” (栄光丸) and the “Bingo Maru” (備後丸). There was the “Orion Maru” in Mothra (1961). And recently, in Shin Godzilla (2016), there is Goro Maki’s pleasure boat, the “Glory Maru.”

The Japanese word “maru” (丸), meaning “circle,” is often attached to Japanese ship names. The name maru is said to to secure celestial protection for the ships so named. There are several reasons suggested for this naming convention: Ships were considered floating castles and the mar or circle was the ship’s wall and defense around it. Maru may express the adoration a sailor had for his vessel. The term may also suggest the completeness of the ship as “a small world to its own.” Then there is the myth of the celestial being Hakudo Maru who came to earth and taught men to build ships. So his name is attached to ships so as to secure protection for safe passage. Maru also suggests making a complete circle from home to destination and back again. This nomenclature is still used today with commercial and private ships. (Source: Wikipedia).

Unfortunately, ship voyages in Godzilla movies were not so lucky and did not end well. In fact, Godzilla was created because of an infamous Japanese tuna boat called the “Daigo Fukuryu Maru” (第五福龍丸), also known as the “Lucky Dragon No 5.” I would argue that Godzilla actually represents its crew who embarked on that fateful voyage on March 1, 1954, into the Biki Atoll during Hydrogen Bomb testing by the United States. Godzilla like them was exposed to this radioactive fallout. Such fictions ships should remind moviegoers of the crew of that fateful voyage and the origin and meaning of Godzilla. Here is some history and fiction about that “Maru” that started it all.

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