A piece of Japanese history returns home after decades in Wisconsin

CREATED Dec. 12, 2013 - UPDATED: Dec. 12, 2013

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  • Photo courtesy of the Wisconsin Maritime Museum

MANITOWAC - The staff at the Wisconsin Maritime Museum is packing up and shipping a giant model ship overseas this week.

"This is a Herculean task," said museum CEO Rolf Johnson.  "It's tough to move a model of that size and weight."

The model is an exact replica of the Hikawa Maru, a Japanese ship built in 1930.  The museum is sending it back home to its namesake, the Hikawa Maru Museum in Japan.

"This thing is enormous," Johnson said.  "It's eleven feet long and weighs 1,700 lbs.  It's an example of an architecturally accurate ship model.  It's gorgeous."

Models, like the one at the Maritime Museum, were built to help promote the luxury ocean liners, according to Johnson.  When World War II began, the Hikawa Maru model was seized by the Canadian government.

"In the 1950's, the model was sold to a gentleman in Vancouver who then sold it to a man in Iowa," Johnson explained.  "He displayed this beautiful ship model in his car dealership."

The model was eventually donated to the Maritime Museum in 1979.

Now, more than 70 years later, it will return to Japan.

"There are some model-makers in the area who are sad (to see the Hikawa Maru go)," Johnson admitted.  "But most understand she needs to be back in Japan."