Letter from Murakami Shunzō to Saito Makoto

Japan's first Antarctic exploration, the Japanese Antarctic Expedition of 1910‒12, led by Lieutenant Shirase Nobu (1861‒1946), left Japan in November 1910 aboard the Kainan Maru. The expedition was a major undertaking that entailed huge expense, and the sponsors struggled to raise all the funds required strictly from private donations. Presented here is a letter that Murakami Shunzō (1872‒1924), the full-time executive secretary of the Antarctic Expedition Supporters' Association and founder of the Seiko Zasshisha publishing company, wrote to Navy Minister Saito Makoto (1858-1936) when the Shirase team left Wellington Harbor in New Zealand in March 1911. The letter appeals for government-subsidized supplies for the expedition. Shirase’s team was aboard the smallest ship to attempt to reach Antarctica at that time – one only about half as long as Amundsen’s Fram and less than half the length of Scott’s Terra Nova. The lack of government funding and support delayed Shirase’s departure, and his reputation was eclipsed by those of Amundsen and Scott. Nevertheless, Shirase’s expedition landed on the Antarctic, reached 80°05’ south latitude, and returned to Tokyo in June 1912. All members of the expedition survived.