It's 132 meters long, 17.9 meters wide and weighs 8,311 tons. And it can be yours for free, so long as you promise to take good care of it.
Such was the recent SOS put out by Japan's Museum of Maritime Science, which is looking for someone to take over its pride exhibit: the 46-year-old Yotei Maru 2.
Formerly, the ship plied the Tsugaru Strait separating Honshu and Hokkaido, ferrying passengers and trains until 1988.
The ferry service between the cities of Aomori, in the prefecture of the same name, and Hakodate ended with the opening of the 54-kilometer-long Seikan Tunnel.
Now a floating exhibition, the vessel is moored beside the museum in Tokyo's Odaiba district.
The search for a caretaker began as the museum announced its closing, set for Sept. 30 and to be marked with a confetti-throwing bon voyage for the Yotei Maru 2 and members of its original crew. The farewell is only symbolic, as a final destination for the ship has yet to be found.
"The recent Great East Japan Earthquake has given us a chance to reconsider our facility," says Museum of Maritime Science representative Hiroshi Yamada, referring to the closure. "It's very much a Showa Era (1926-1989) relic and feels behind the times, especially when visitors see it against the new Miraikan Museum across the road."
The distinctly ship-shaped museum structure opened in 1974, funded by gambling profits from "kyotei" power boat racing--an aquatic counterpart to "keirin" bicycle racing. The Yotei Maru 2 was moved to the museum in 1996, after traveling to Italy by dry dock, where it served as the Japan pavilion at the 1992 Genoa Expo.
The museum's closing is not as final as the media has reported, says Yamada, who explains that the shuttering is actually a "renewal"--with no definite reopening date nor plans for the hundreds of scale ship models inside. The Antarctic research vessel Soya will remain open to the public and carry on the museum's name.
The ferry give-away drew inquiries from 51 interested parties, 35 of which threw their hats into the ring. The submission deadline is set for Sept. 30, with a decision on the ship's fate expected by mid-October.
Officially the offer is limited to corporations and groups within Japan, yet the Museum of Maritime Science is open to the possibility of the ship moving overseas. A kids' educational facility, a Russian or Chinese restaurant, or a floating lodge in either Myanmar (Burma) or Bangladesh are among the proposals under consideration.
Whoever takes it on will need deep pockets, since maintenance costs come to 30 million yen (about $390,000) a year.
The museum's main concern, says Yamada, is to ensure that the old ferry is maintained in a dignified setting and does not end up as scrap metal or used to make a political statement.
"It's possible, for example, that some group might paint a huge Hinomaru (rising sun flag) on her side and just sink her," says Yamada.
Why would anyone want to blow up an old ship?
The motivation for such as act can be gleaned from an auditorium-sized map at the soon-to-close museum building. The map, which covers the floor and shows the vast expanse of ocean surrounding the Japanese archipelago, including disputed islands over which Japan claims sovereignty.
Their ownership won't be solved as easily as that of the ship.
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