+
upworthy
Education

How the Titanic's only Japanese passenger was shamed for surviving and won back his honor

Masabumi Hosono was subjected to what the Japanese refer to as "mura hachibu," or social ostracism, after jumping on a lifeboat.

Masabumi Hosono, titanic, history

Masabumi Hosono, with his handwritten account of the Titanic tragedy

On the cold, fateful night of April 14, 1912, hundreds were spared a watery demise as they clamored onto the too-few lifeboats that accompanied the sinking Titanic on its one and only disastrous voyage.

Among the survivors was Masabumi Hosono, a 42-year-old civil servant and second-class passenger from Tokyo—and also the only Japanese passenger onboard.

Hosono would escape death that night, but his life would be forever changed, and not for the better. In many ways, he never escaped the Titanic’s curse.


A firsthand account of his experience reads like a tragic tale.

Hosono had been working on a long-term assignment in Russia for two years and was eager to return home to his beloved wife and children. In 1912, Hosono appeared to have received his wish—his assignment had ended, and he was able to leave Russia. Not only that, but he was able to travel back in style aboard the prestigious RMS Titanic on her maiden voyage.

So, after hopping over to London and buying a fresh new suit, Hosono joined the other passengers to marvel at the “Queen of the Ocean.”

In his writings, Hosono recalls the Titanic’s grand views, “enticing aromas,” and “lively music,” but what he treasured most of all was the thought of seeing his family again.

“With every golden sunrise, I was closer to home.”

Masabumi Hosono

A photo of Masabumi Hosono taken in 1912

Wikimedia Commons.

Then, just after midnight on April 14th, Hosono received a knock on his door. He was told to put on a lifebelt and head to the boat stations. As he made his way to the boat deck, Hosono was told to return to the lower part of the ship, despite his repeated attempts to inform the crewmen that he was traveling second class.

Finally, Hosono was able to slip past two talking guards and get to the ship deck, where he saw women and children being put into the lifeboats. Realizing he would have to go down with the ship, he prepared himself to “die an honorable samurai death.”

But then, an officer yelled, “Room for two more!” and Hosono saw another gentleman hop on. Knowing this was the only way to ever see his family again, he followed the man’s “bold example.”

As he helped row the small boat away from the chaos, Hosono had already begun to sense there would be consequences to his decision.

We rowed at least two hundred feet away from the sinking vessel. From our position, I clearly saw the Titanic as it broke apart, then plunged beneath the waves. As the frightful shrills and cries from the drowning met my ears, I bowed my head in silence. Sobbing and weeping engulfed our small boat. Women and children were worried about the safety of their husbands and fathers. And feeling depressed and miserable, I worried what would become of me in the long run.

titanic sinking

"Untergang der Titanic," as conceived by Willy Stöwer, 1912

Wikimedia Commons

Hosono’s suspicions were correct. After being rescued and put up in New York, he was labeled a coward, accused of disguising himself as a woman and made the target of cruel jokes, later being dubbed by an American newspaper as the “Lucky Japanese Boy.”


Back home, the repercussions were even harsher. According to Metropolis Japan, the sweetness of reuniting with his family was cut short for Hosono after he was found guilty of nonconformity to the “women and children first” principle and of evading an honorable death. Because of this, he was subjected to “mura hachibu”—the Japanese term for social ostracism.

He was bombarded with hate mail, and he would have lost his career had it not been for his qualifications. Numerous times, he was urged to commit suicide by the media—all for not embodying the samurai spirit, especially at a time when Japan was eager to impress the West with impressive displays of patriotic self-sacrifice and fervent nationalism, Metropolis Japan reported.

Stigma followed Hosono for the rest of his life, forcing him to live in shame as a recluse and forbidding discussion of the Titanic in his home until his death from natural causes in 1939.

Hosono’s handwritten pages detailing his tumultuous ordeal remained hidden in a book at the bottom of a drawer until 1997, when his family published his writings. That's when Matt Taylor, an American researcher and Titanic scholar, noted how his letter contradicted other stories at the time, which mistook him for another Asian man on a different lifeboat, who was accused of acting "ignobly." Rather, Hosono helped save his fellow passengers by rowing them to safety.

The discovery immediately "restores his honor and credibility," Taylor told the AP.

And to this day, Hosono’s gut-wrenching narration, written on Titanic stationery, remains one of the most expressive and detailed accounts of the anguish experienced by the passengers of the blighted vessel. Without it, a part of the story would be lost forever.

Hosono was portrayed by the media as a self-serving coward, but in truth, he was a man thrown into an impossible moral predicament, whose only sin was having a love for his family that outweighed any patriotic loyalty or societal expectation of chivalry. When seen through the eyes of compassion, knowing that we all fear what awaits us beyond that final goodbye, knowing that if given the opportunity, many of us would do the same to reach our dear ones, his decision seems anything other than disgraceful.

As Hosono wrote: “On that cold and terrifying April night, in a single moment, I seized an opportunity. And I chose life.”

A pitbull stares at the window, looking for the mailman.


Dogs are naturally driven by a sense of purpose and a need for belonging, which are all part of their instinctual pack behavior. When a dog has a job to do, it taps into its needs for structure, purpose, and the feeling of contributing to its pack, which in a domestic setting translates to its human family.

But let’s be honest: In a traditional domestic setting, dogs have fewer chores they can do as they would on a farm or as part of a rescue unit. A doggy mom in Vancouver Island, Canada had fun with her dog’s purposeful uselessness by sharing the 5 “chores” her pitbull-Lab mix does around the house.

Keep ReadingShow less
Representative Image from Canva

Let's not curse any more children with bad names, shall we?

Some parents have no trouble giving their children perfectly unique, very meaningful names that won’t go on to ruin their adulthood. But others…well…they get an A for effort, but might want to consider hiring a baby name professional.

Things of course get even more complicated when one parent becomes attached to a name that they’re partner finds completely off-putting. It almost always leads to a squabble, because the more one parent is against the name, the more the other parent will go to bat for it.

This seemed to be the case for one soon-to-be mom on the Reddit AITA forum recently. Apparently, she was second-guessing her vehement reaction to her husband’s, ahem, avant garde baby name for their daughter, which she called “the worst name ever.”

But honestly, when you hear this name, I think you’ll agree she was totally in the right.

Keep ReadingShow less

A woman looking at her phone while sitting on the toilet.


One of the most popular health trends over the last few years has been staying as hydrated as possible, evidenced by the massive popularity of 40-oz Stanely Quencher cups. The theory among those who obsess over hydration is that, when you pee clear, you’ve removed all the waste in your body and are enjoying the incredible benefits of being 100% hydrated. Congratulations.

However, according to Dr. Sermed Mezher, an NHS doctor in the UK, peeing clear isn’t always a sign of being healthy.

Keep ReadingShow less

A beautiful cruise ship crossing the seas.

Going on a cruise can be an incredible getaway from the stresses of life on the mainland. However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t an element of danger when living on a ship 200-plus feet high, traveling up to 35 miles per hour and subject to the whims of the sea.

An average of about 19 people go overboard every year, and only around 28% survive. Cruise ship lawyer Spencer Aronfeld explained the phenomenon in a viral TikTok video, in which he also revealed the secret code the crew uses when tragedy happens.

Keep ReadingShow less
Joy

Kudos to the heroes who had 90 seconds to save lives in the Key Bridge collapse

The loss of 6 lives is tragic, but the dispatch recording shows it could have been so much worse.

Representative image by Gustavo Fring/Pexels

The workers who responded to the Dali's mayday call saved lives with their quick response.

As more details of the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse in Baltimore emerge, it's becoming more apparent how much worse this catastrophe could have been.

Just minutes before 1:30am on March 26, shortly after leaving port in Baltimore Harbor, a cargo ship named Dali lost power and control of its steering, sending it careening into a structural pillar on Key Bridge. The crew of the Dali issued a mayday call at 1:26am to alert authorities of the power failure, giving responders crucial moments to prepare for a potential collision. Just 90 seconds later, the ship hit a pylon, triggering a total collapse of the 1.6-mile bridge into the Patapsco River.

Dispatch audio of those moments shows the calm professionalism and quick actions that limited the loss of life in an unexpected situation where every second counted.

Keep ReadingShow less
Joy

Yale's pep band had to miss the NCAA tournament. University of Idaho said, 'We got you.'

In an act of true sportsmanship, the Vandal band learned Yale's fight song, wore their gear and cheered them on.

Courtesy of University of Idaho

The Idaho Vandals answered the call when Yale needed a pep band.

Yale University and the University of Idaho could not be more different. Ivy League vs. state school. East Coast vs. Pacific Northwest. City vs. farm town. But in the first two rounds of the NCAA basketball tournament, extenuating circumstances brought them together as one, with the Bulldogs and the Vandals becoming the "Vandogs" for a weekend.

When Yale made it to the March Madness tournament, members of the school's pep band had already committed to other travel plans during spring break. They couldn't gather enough members to make the trek across the country to Spokane, Washington, so the Yale Bulldogs were left without their fight song unless other arrangements could be made.

When University of Idaho athletic band director Spencer Martin got wind of the need less than a week before Yale's game against Auburn, he sent out a message to his band members asking if anyone would be interested in stepping in. The response was a wave of immediate yeses, so Martin got to work arranging instruments and the students dedicated themselves to learning Yale's fight song and other traditional Yale pep songs.

Keep ReadingShow less