1871: The Completion of a Lighthouse in Japan

October 5, 1871

Work was completed on a lighthouse built on the Pacific coast of Honshu, the largest and most populous of Japan’s islands. This navigational aid was the original version of Irōzaki Lighthouse. That lighthouse was specifically built in the town of Minamiizu, which is located on Cape Irōzaki (a headland on the southernmost point of the Izu Peninsula).

Irōzaki Lighthouse was among the first of 26 lighthouses in the Land of the Rising Sun that were designed and built by Scottish-born engineer Richard Henry Brunton (1841-1901) during the early years of the Meiji era. This era in the history of Imperial Japan was defined in large part by that empire’s steady shift from a mostly insular feudal society to a modern and more outward-looking world power. As a key component of these major reform efforts, the Meiji government commissioned Brunton to help create lighthouses that would better enable foreign ships to sail to and from Japan safely.

Due to the large number of maritime accidents off the coast of the Izu Peninsula at that time, the Meiji government gave high priority to the construction of a lighthouse in the region. Brunton’s version of Irōzaki Lighthouse was octagonal and built out of wood. This version was the 10th western-style lighthouse to be completed in Japan.

The original version of Irōzaki Lighthouse remained in operation for more than six decades. On November 14, 1932, it was destroyed during a powerful wind storm in the area. This lighthouse was replaced the following spring by a reinforced concrete structure (pictured above) at that same site.

The current version of Irōzaki Lighthouse is still in service today. It is operated by the Japan Coast Guard.

Photo Credit: アラツク (licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license at https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/)

For more information on lighthouses in Japan, please check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_lighthouses_in_Japan

Additional information on Richard Henry Brunton is available at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Henry_Brunton

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