Port of Sasebo
Review and History

The Port of Sasebo lies on the western shores of Kyushu, Japan’s third largest island, in Nagasaki Prefecture on the Omura Bay. Located in an area known for its natural beauty, the Port of Sasebo boasts an excellent natural harbor that grew in the late 1800s as a naval base. The popular Saikai National Park is located within the city. In 2005, over 258 thousand people lived in the Port of Sasebo.

The Port of Sasebo is a busy fishing and commercial port, and it is home to shipbuilding and related industries that dominate the local economy. The Sasebo Heavy Industries Company Ltd. shipyard is located next to the naval base.

Port History

Until the beginning of the Meiji period, the Port of Sasebo was a small fishing village of 800 houses ruled by the Hirado clan during the Edo period. The Sasebo Naval District was created in 1886 after Admiral Togo Heihachiro selected it for its naturally-protected deep-water harbor and strategic location near China and Korea. Nearby coal fields also contributed to the decision.

The Port of Sasebo Naval District was the Japanese Navy’s most important port during the First Sino-Japanese and Russo-Japanese Wars. It continued to be a major base through the end of World War II. The Navy built the Sasebo Naval Arsenal and major shipyards as part of the base facilities.

Designated a city in 1902, Sasebo City was greatly damaged by World War II bombing. During World War II, the population swelled to about 300 thousand with the growth of the shipbuilding industry. When the war ended, the Port of Sasebo was a re-entry point for Japanese soldiers returning home. After the war, the United States Navy took the base over, and some of the base is still shared by the US and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force.

During the Korean War, the Port of Sasebo was the main launching station for US and United Nations troops and the shipping center for millions of tons of fuel, trucks, tanks, and ammunition. At the time, as many as 20 thousand Americans lived in the Port of Sasebo, and the port saw up to 100 warships a day.

The Port of Sasebo also supported the US Navy’s Seventh Fleet during the Vietnam War. In the middle 1970s, it was the Naval Ordnance Facility, and visits from the fleet decreased significantly. However, in 1980, Seventh Fleet ships made the Port of Sasebo once again their overseas port.

The Port of Sasebo was important for logistics during Operation Desert Shield/Storm during the early 1990s when it was a supply point for ordnance and fuel.

Today, the Port of Sasebo’s Mikawachi district has a great reputation for its 400-year-old pottery manufacturing industry. In the recent past, the Port of Sasebo has become a favorite resort town for tourists from Japan and East Asia. The Saikai Pearl Sea Resort near the Saikai National Park and the Huis Ten Bosch at the waterfront, a reproduction of 17th Century Holland streets, are popular tourist areas. The Huis Ten Bosch contains a six kilometer canal where boats are decked with flowers of the season, and the district holds many amusements, restaurants, lodgings, and traveler amenities.

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