What is the Mietsu Naval Dock?

Where is the Mietsu Naval Dock located?

Mietsu Naval Dock was situated along the river and straddles the current towns of Morodomi-cho and Kawasoe-machi in Saga City. At the end of the Edo Period, this district was known as Mie—and because the port was in Mie, it was called Mie-no-tsu, “the port in Mie,” which is how it acquired the name Mietsu. This port spread out about 600 meters along the western side of the current Hayatsue River.

The different sections of Mietsu Naval Dock and their functions

The Small Boat Dock Section
This area managed the Japanese-style ships owned by the Saga Clan until the naval dock was built. The Ofunate-Keikosho Naval Academy, which was where the building of the naval facility first started, was established here.
The Training Grounds Section
Graduates of the Nagasaki Naval Training Institute became instructors and taught the people of the Saga Clan such skills as navigation, surveying techniques, and shipbuilding.
The Shipbuilding/Repair Docks and Metal Working Section
This area was used for maintaining and manufacturing parts that were necessary to repair Western-style boats. The site was also equipped with a dock to bring up boats when they needed repair.

The oldest dry dock in Japan

Mietsu Naval Dock is considered an invaluable site for understanding the process by which Japan began implementing Western ship technology and working independently towards modernizing the country’s naval skills.

Western docks are usually built using stone and bricks, but the dock at the Mietsu Naval Dock was constructed by applying traditional Japanese techniques that utilize wood, dirt, and funakugi, nails used for building Japanese ships. The dock at the Mietsu Naval Dock is the oldest existing one in Japan that was built for repairing Western-style ships.

What is a dock?

A dock is a facility for building and repairing ships.
Usually, the water in the dock is drained out with a large pump;
however, there was no such machinery available at the time the dock was built. So, the dock at Mietsu Naval Dock utilized the tides of the Ariake Sea, which has the biggest difference in tide levels of any body of water in Japan. A ship would be brought into the dock at high tide, and the water would drain naturally with the ebbing of the tide.

Note: The photo is a full-scale panel of the dry dock. The actual size of the discovered dock was immense, with a length of approximately 60 meters and a width of approximately 20 meters.

Why did the Saga Clan build such a dock?

The Japanese ships owned by the Saga Clan at the time had an overall length of about 20 meters, but the steam warship, Denryūmaru, imported from the Netherlands during the end of the Edo Period, had a total length of 45 meters. This size made it too large to be maintained and repaired in the Small Boat Dock Section. That is why they decided to build a dock for repairing large-sized Western-style ships at the Shipbuilding/Repair Docks and Metal Working Section at the southern end of the site.

Mietsu Naval Dock, preserved underground

Since the embankment structure of the dock at the Mietsu Naval Dock is made from wood, it is at risk of deteriorating from dryness if weathered above ground in the open air.

Thus, the remains of the dock were reburied to protect it from weathering, and cannot be seen.

And so, the Tsunetami Sano Memorial Museum began offering the Mietsu Time Cruise. It uses CG images and VR (virtual reality) equipment to let visitors see what the Mietsu Naval Dock was like at the time it was in use.

The third floor of the museum also offers a Mietsu Naval Dock Information Corner with panels, visuals, and replica models for visitors who wish to acquire more detailed information on the site.

Mietsu Naval Dock (Tsunetami Sano Memorial Museum)

Address :
446-1 Oaza-Hayatsuetsu, Kawasoe-machi, Saga-shi, Saga,Japan 840-2202
Telephone :
0952-34-9455
Hours :
9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Closed :
Mondays (closed on the following day if Monday falls on a holiday or substitute holiday), December 29 – January 3

Access from <Saga Station Bus Center>

  • ・ 40 minutes from JR Saga Station on the Saga City Bus Hayatsue Line 5-minute walk from the Tsunetami Sano Memorial Museum Iriguchi bus stop

Saga City Transportation Bureau

Access from <Saga Airport>

  • ・ 10 minutes by taxi or rental car from Kyushu-Saga International Airport

Kyushu-Saga International Airport

Access from <Fukuoka>

  • ・ 30 minutes from Nishitetsu Yanagawa Station via the Nishitetsu Bus Oki-shin Line 5-minute walk from the last stop, Hayatsue bus stop.

Access by <car>

  • ・ 40 minutes from the Saga-Yamato IC on the Nagasaki Expressway
  • ・ 20 minutes from the Okawa-Higashi IC on the Ariake Engan Road
  • ・ 40 minutes from the Miyama-Yanagawa IC on the Kyushu Expressway

Note: If using a map or car navigation system, look for “Mietsu Naval Dock” or “Tsunetami Sano Memorial Museum.”