My Favorite Yacht

My Favorite Yacht

This is a tale of our castaways


Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip that started from this tropic port aboard this tiny ship.”1 I love the Gilligan’s Island theme song because it perfectly describes the story of the Yahlen and its crew in Ebirah Horror of the Deep (ゴジラ・エビラ・モスラ 南海の大決闘, 1966, aka, Godzilla vs The Sea Monster). Perhaps the most important Godzilla motif is the missing ship at sea. In his first appearance Godzilla attacked at least seventeen ships. Boats have always been a big part of Godzilla from Eiko Maru in 1954 to the Glory Maru in 2016. I have many favorite seafaring vessels in Godzilla movies such as the Queen Coral and Sunflower. But my all time favorite boat is the Yahlen.

In films, ships big and small can be heroes and villains just like the human characters. A ship can function as an agent to move a story along its plots. And sometimes a ship is a main character like the Pequod in Moby Dick (1851) and the Nautilus in the novel Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (1870). There are so many great movie and television ships such as the Argo, the Love Boat, the U.S. Minnow, the Orca, the Poseidon, the Titanic, the Spacecruiser Yamato, and more. An argument can be made for the Yahlen in Godzilla vs The Sea Monster is one of them.

“Yahlen” (ヤーレン号) is the name of a yacht anchored at Hayama Yacht Harbor in Hayama, Kanagawa-ken, Japan (50 Horiuchi, Hayama, Miura District, Kanagawa 240-0112, Japan).2 It is a fairly large, medium-class 30-meter ship.3 It’s sail number is 145. The Yahlen is a beautiful yacht and typical of its time. From the movie the hull material appears to be wood. The Yahlen resembles the Concordia and Sparkman & Stephens yawl from the 1930s. “A yawl is a two masted, fore and aft rigged sailing vessel with the mizzen mast positioned abaft (behind) the rudder stock, or in some instances, very close to the rudder stock” (Source: Wikipedia). By this definition the Yahlen is a yawl.

Left: Miniature yacht at Toho Studios (Photo source: The Chronicle of Japanese SFX Movies 日本特撮映画図鑑 p 44); Right: A recreated general yacht diagram

However, it is not known who exactly it belongs to until later while on board a radio news announcer named the American James Conway as its owner. Mr. Conway was planning to cross the Pacific on his yacht explaining why the Yahlen was fully stocked with food. But our film’s protagonist, Ryota had another plan. His brother Yata was lost at sea and thought to be dead but not according to a psychic. Ryota is in need of a ship and enters a dance contest promising a yacht to the winner. But too late to win, his two new friends, Ichino and Nita, drive him to Yacht Harbor in Hayama to check some yachts. Like a match made in heaven, the Yahlen is the apple of Ryota’s eye. The three enter the boat and run into “an armed” robber and safecracker, Yoshimura (Akira Takarada), who was hiding on board. Little did they know, Ryota set sail across the Pacific to find his brother.

  • gallery-item
  • gallery-item
  • gallery-item

The tragic course of the Yahlen can be seen charted in the top left corner (northwest side of Letchi Island) on various Ebirah Horror of the Deep maps with a blowing storm cloud or the giant claw of the sea monster.

The Yahlen, like all great iconic ships before it, is on an ill-fated one-way journey. Weeks into their journey, “the weather started getting rough, the tiny ship was tossed. If not for the courage of the fearless crew, The [Yahlen] would be lost, the [Yahlen] would be lost.”6 But the storm was just an ominous sign of things to come. A gigantic pincer appears out of the storm waves scooping up and crushing the Yahlen. Later, our heroes learn it was the giant irradiated lobster Ebirah who capsized and wrecked the Yahlen. Nevertheless, her mission was accomplished. The Yahlen has done its job by delivering its crew upon the shore of the South Pacific Island of Letchi, where the story continues. She made it but not in one piece. Having fed them and saved them, the Yahlen sacrificed for them sinking to the bottom of the sea. Like the S.S. Minnow, the Yahlen carried its crew to “the shore of an uncharted desert isle.”6

Yachts, storms and monsters (ヨットと嵐と怪獣と (M6))

Director Jun Fukuda select composter Masaru Sato to score the film bringing a lighter sound than that of Akira Ifubuke.7 He created three memorable tracks to the Yahlen and her story: Transportation by Yahlen I (ヤーレン号に乗ってI); Transportation by the Yahlen II (ヤーレン号に乗ってⅡ); and Yacht and Hurricane and Monster (ヨットと嵐と怪獣と). Godzilla vs The Sea Monster soundtrack is is representative of its time. The opening tracks blend so perfectly moving from one scene to the next aboard the Yahlen. The go-go of the endurance dance contest speeds up the movie typo moving our heroes along their journey. The dance track reminds me so much of the 60’s Batman tv show and Gilligan’s Island. The first and second Yahlen tracks are so relaxing and inviting, slowing down the tempo until the storm and the monster appear. I often go to sleep with just the movie audio playing in the background.

  • gallery-item
  • gallery-item
  • gallery-item

Above (Slider): Aho Dori from Matango (1963) and Yahlen miniature as seen in Godzilla vs Hedorah (1971); Left: The yacht scene in the Toho studio. The yacht has been cut in half to take close-ups of the performers (Photo source: The Chronicle of Japanese SFX Movies 日本特撮映画図鑑 p 122); Middle: Wooden Yahlen Miniature painted black (Source: Toho Champion Festival Perfection, p.173); Right: Toho’s miniature model of the yacht Yahlen (Photo Source)

As can be seen in Ebirah, Yahlen was a real ship, but it was recreated on Toho’s stage and background projection screen for create the scenes of the cast on board. Three years earlier in Matango (マタンゴ 1963), a similar story is told of a storm, the Tokyo yacht Aho Dori with its passengers were shipwrecked on a foggy island where they were mutated into mushrooms after eating some. I believe the Aho Dori and the Yahlen are the same yacht because they both have the 145 sail number. In the U.S. release, at the beginning footage of Ebirah’s attack on the Yahlen was used for Ebirah’s attack on Yata’s ship. For such scenes a miniature of the Yahlen was created. This miniature can be seen moored in the harbor set in Godzilla vs Hedorah (1971).8 It is believe to still exists in a Toho warehouse with one side painted black.9 Below the Yahlen’s route charted into the Ebirah’s pincer on a storyboard along with Godzilla’s track across Letchi Island map.

  • gallery-item
  • gallery-item

Ehirah Horror of the Deep storyboard (Images courtesy of )

Although I have no desire to sail or take a cruise, my affinity for boats and ships has grown exponentially because of Godzilla movies. The history and life of Japan are shaped by ships and the sea. And they are an important part of Godzilla movie history too. I watched Godzilla vs The Sea Monster many times growing up. It may have been the first Godzilla movie I saw. But only now do I have a great appreciation for the Yahlen. I love the movie’s human story and its boat story just as much.


1 5 6 Gilligan’s Island theme song lyrics Gilligan’s Island is an American sitcom created and produced by Sherwood Schwartz. The show’s ensemble cast features Bob Denver, Alan Hale Jr., Jim Backus, Natalie Schafer, Tina Louise, Russell Johnson and Dawn Wells. It aired for three seasons on the CBS network from September 26, 1964, to April 17, 1967. (Source: Wikipedia)

2 ゴジラ大辞書, p 287

3 Source:

4 Source: Movie Connection] 『ゴジラ・エビラ・モスラ 南海の大決闘』

7. Wikipedia: Ebirah Horror of the Deep

8. Toho Champion Festival Perfection 2014, p.164, “Toho Champion Column Diversion of Props Seen in His Champion Festival” 東宝チャンピオンまつりパーフェクション (「東宝チャンピオンコラム チャンピオンまつりに見るプロップ流用」), p. 164

9. Wikipedia: ゴジラ・エビラ・モスラ 南海の大決闘

Feature image is a modification of the The Great Wave off Kanagawa (Japanese: 神奈川沖浪裏), a woodblock print by Japanese ukiyo-e artist Hokusai, created in late 1831 during the Edo period of Japanese history.