The Normanton Incident (ノルマントン号事件)

The Normanton Incident refers to an event that occurred when the Normanton, a cargo ship of British registry, ran aground and sank off the coast of Kii Province(Cape Shiono-misaki, Kushimoto Town, Higashimuro County, Wakayama Prefecture) on October 24, 1886.


Those on board the sunken Normanton included Britishers, Germans, Chinese, Indians and Japanese, and almost all the Caucasian crew, such as Britishers and Germans, survived the accident, while all 25 Japanese passengers were killed (all of the Indian crew members were also killed.)
Furthermore, the surviving crew members had fled from the ship on lifeboats, which then created a sensation triggering speculation that the captain might have left the Japanese passengers without giving them proper evacuation guidance. The racism that was spreading in Western countries (the white community) at that time seems to have underlain it.

In fact, the inspection was blocked by the unequal treaty, which made it impossible to reach an acceptable solution, and Captain John William Drake and all the other British crew members who testified at the trial as follows were acquitted.
`Although the crew told the Japanese passengers to board the lifeboats, they stayed inboard and refused to leave the ship, which left the crew no choice but to give up on them (There were no attendants who could speak Japanese because the Normanton was a cargo ship.)'
After that, the Japanese government under pressure from a public backlash protested against it, and the case was retried and only the captain was sentenced to three months in prison.

Japan itself could not bring them to court for trial at that time because certain foreigners were enjoying extraterritorial rights in Japan (what is formally known as consular jurisdiction). Since then, the movement to abolish the unequal treaty had grown. It went down in history as the incident which made the Japanese keenly realize the unjustness of consular jurisdiction.

The Song of the Sinking of the Normanton

A song titled `Song of the Sinking of the Normanton' was written after the incident. The song originally consisted of 36 verses but more verses were added after the case was closed, whose number resulted in 59.

The song was sung using the melody adapted from a song titled `Battotai' (a drawn sword squad). Incidentally, neither the songwriter nor the composer is unknown.

[Original Japanese]