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Home / CRUISING THE PAST / CANADIAN PACIFIC’S “EMPRESS OF RUSSIA” FEATURED IN FAMOUS 1933 JAPANESE FILM – Scenes of the EMPRESS OF RUSSIA sailing from Yokohama in the 1930s

CANADIAN PACIFIC’S “EMPRESS OF RUSSIA” FEATURED IN FAMOUS 1933 JAPANESE FILM – Scenes of the EMPRESS OF RUSSIA sailing from Yokohama in the 1930s

This is the first in a series of steamships and cruise ships from the past featured in films or television.

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These are scenes of Canadian Pacific’s liner EMPRESS OF RUSSIA leaving Yokohama, Japan, from Shimizu Hiroshi’s MINATO NO NIHON MUSUME (Japanese Girls at the Harbor) filmed in 1933. Until security restrictions in the 1990s, there was an entire ritual for a ship’s departure or sailing. Passengers had visitors aboard for farewell parties. When the ship sailed, passengers threw streamers to their friends dockside. A band on the pier would play national favorites or such songs as “Now is the Hour” or “Aloha” when ships left Honolulu, Hawaii. Customs such as this have disappeared along with passenger lists, souvenir menus, officers tables, the ship’s betting pool, horse racing, skeet shooting, etc. Now cruise lines have napkin folding classes!

The film… MINATO NO NIHON MUSUME (Japanese Girls at the Harbor) portrays the evolving relationships of two young women as fate takes them down different roads. Sunako and Dora, two schoolgirls attending a Christian school in the East-meets-West port city of Yokohama, pledge their eternal friendship to each other, but their lives begin a long spiral downward and apart after they meet westernized gangster Henry.

One of the undisputed masters of Japan cinema, Shimizu Hiroshi (1903-1966) made well over 100 films in his career, ranging from children’s films to lighthearted comedies to stories from the fringe. His outstanding cinematic achievements match that of contemporary great and lifelong friend Ozu Yasujiro, though the latter has eclipsed him in recognition. Shimizu Hiroshi is particularly well known for his children’s films, such as Children in the Wind (1937), but his steady stream of output for Shochiku from the 1920s to 1950s yielded a far wider selection of films, many of which have been sadly lost to time. One of Shimizu Hiroshi’s most representative silent films, Minato no Nihon Musume (Japanese Girls at the Harbor) (1933, B&W, 72min).

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The Empress of Russia arriving in Victoria, BC, Canada, on her maiden voyage from the Orient on June 7, 1913.

Empress of Russia was built for Canadian Pacific by Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering of Glasgow, and was launched in 1912. She made her maiden voyage, Liverpool-Suez-Hong Kong on 1 April 1913. She entered Canadian Pacific’s transpacific service. Her first Hong Kong-Nagasaki-Vancouver trip in May 1912 set a speed record of 8 days, 18 hours, 31 minutes, which would stand for nine years. he was requisitioned for use as an Indian Ocean armed merchant cruiser in 1914 and was stationed at Aden in 1915 to guard the entrance to the Red Sea. She was returned to Canadian Pacific in 1916, but was again requisitioned, as a troop ship, in 1918.

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First Class public rooms aboard the Empress of Russia.

She resumed her duties in Canadian Pacific’s transpacific service after being refitted in 1919, and made a total of 310 voyages. She was again requisitioned as a trooper in 1940, one of a very small number of merchant ships to see duty in both World Wars. (Her sister, Empress of Asia, was another.) In September 1945, however, she was destroyed by fire during her post-war refitting at Barrow, and was broken up there.

We wish to thank “John” for contributing material and bringing this film to our attention.