What happened to the Sunflower and Queen Coral?


Lately, I’ve been fixed on my childhood favorite Godzilla vs MechaGodzilla (1974). The recent Godzilla vs Okinawa event has captured my imagination. Okinawa has been my dream vacation destination and ultimate Godzilla place to visit for a long time. When I watch I notice details in the movie that I missed as a child but now interest me as an adult. The movie’s connection to Expo 75 and the history and culture of Okinawa are such examples. As I research these fascinating details, new ones emerge.

The Sunflower ferry from Godzilla vs MechaGodzilla (1974; 33:09)

The motto of Expo 75 was “The sea we would like to see” (海-その望ましい未来, Umi – sono nozomashii mirai). That didn’t quite work out for our heroes in Godzilla vs MechaGodzilla. In order to evade the aliens from the Third Planet of the Black Hole, Keisuke Shimizu and Saeko Kanaguso detoured their trip to Okinawa. They ditched the Sunflower ferry for the Queen Coral. But little did they know the sea would get rough until they arrived at their destination.

Shimizu:「このサンフラワー号からクイーン•コーラルに乗り換えて沖縄へ行くとは敵も考えちゃいないだろう」”The enemy wouldn’t even think of switching from this Sunflower to Queen Coral and going to Okinawa.” Kanaguso:「うまく裹をかいたってわけね」”You did it well.”

Growing up I didn’t realized that our heroes change of ferries. I assumed they stayed aboard the Sunflower. But when they disembarked at Okinawa, I missed the big words, “Queen Coral” in the background. But whatever became of the Sunflower and the Queen Carol?

In 1972, The Sunflower (さんふらわあ) and the Queen Carol (クイーンコーラル) were owned by Terukoku Yusen (照国郵船, now the Matrix Line), and operated by the former Japan High Speed Ferry (日本高速フェリー) shipping company.12 These were long-distance ferries known for their luxurious facilities. Unfortunately, in 1976, these lines discontinued due to the bankruptcy of Terukoko Yusen brought on by excessive shipping costs and recession. These routes were taken over by Japan Coastal Ferry (Blue Highway Line, 日本沿海フェリー(ブルーハイウェイライン) in 1990.

The iconic Sunflower trademark

Sunflower is one of Japan’s leading ferry brands and is the trademark of MOL Ferry. She is easily identified by the red morning sun emitting rays like a large flower on her hull resting on the sea’s waterline. The first Sunflower was built by Kawasaki Heavy Industries Kobe Factory and went into service in 1972. She was 11,312 gross tons, 185.0 meters long, 24.0 meters wide, 15.6 meters deep, and had a continuous maximum output 26,080 horsepower with a maximum speed of 25.5 knots. Her vehicle capacity was 84 (10-ton trucks, 208 passenger cars) and a passenger and crew capacities of 1,124 and 87, respectively. Her luxurious interior, restaurant theater, swimming pool and more set her apart from other ferries. Other ferries with her name were built that include the Sunflower 2, 5, 8, and 11 (two chimneys). The first Sunflower was removed from service and its flights reduced. She was moored at Kurushima Dokku and put up for sale.3

The first generation Sunflower「初代さんふらわあ」(Photo Credit:

In an interview with Brett Homenick, actor Masaaki Daimon, who played Shimizu, remembers taking the Sunflower to Okinawa. It was a three or four day journey, he recalls, during which they shot the movie. The night scenes aboard the ship were shot during the day and made night by a process called “tsubushi” which is involves adjusting the film’s exposure. He noted that they later dubbed over the scenes in the studio because there was music and singing playing nonstop on the Sunflower. And as expected, there were many people on the ship. So they were asked not to come near but many people watched the fight scene.4 Sunflower is a significant setting in the movie. Composter Masaru Sato gave the ferry its own standout track called “Sunflower” (さんふらわあ).

The Queen Coral ferry from Godzilla vs MechaGodzilla (1974; 45:45)

The Queen Coral was a luxury high-speed cargo liner built in Hayashi Kanesen Nagasaki Shipyard (林兼船渠長崎造船所) and in put into service in 1972. She was 130 meters long, 17.4 meters wide with a navigation speed of 23.0 knots.5 Initially, in 1972, she served on the Amami route to Yoronjima Chaka Port, but in December of the same year the route was extended to Okinawa Naha Port.6 In 1975, in order to transport tourists to Expo 75, the private rooms were increased and a large public space was added inside the ship. Her atmosphere was bright and fresh with images of a bright tropical sun, sky and sea, focusing on young people, female customers and honeymooners as well as passengers on their daily route. In 1977, she underwent refurbishment removing her outdoor pool. Later in 1982, she was moored and the New Queen Coral was launched. But the first Queen Coral returned to serve after she was sold in 1983, later to retire in 1986. She was sold abroad and became Queen Vergina with Waveray Shipping in Cyprus, Greece. She was sold to Moroccan Navigation in 1988 and then again to GNMTC in Libya in 1992. In 1998 she was moored in Valletta. Finally, the Queen Coral was sold to Turkey as scrap in 2004 and dismantled.7

The Queen Coral renamed as the “Hanaa” a few years before it was scrapped in 2004. (Photo Credit: Armand’s Rancho del lielo Blog)

Godzilla vs MechaGodzilla holds many interesting details. The same could be said for all the Godzilla movies that make life on the sea always precarious. Discovering these details draws me back to watch the movies over again as if I’m watching them for the first time.