Now Reports

Mietsu Naval Dock

A Dock Built to Compete with Foreign Powers
During Japan’s period of isolation, when the only foreign countries permitted to trade with Japan were the Netherlands and China, soldiers from the domains of Saga and Fukuoka spent nearly 200 years standing guard at the port of Nagasaki, the sole gateway to Japan at that time. The Saga Domain was particularly wary of Western powers making inroads into Asia, so to ensure Japan could compete against such opponents, it set up a forge for casting iron cannons and a facility for manufacturing and repairing Western-style steamships.


In 1858, the Saga Domain built the Ofunate-Keikosho Naval Academy in Mietsu at the site of a small boat dock for the purpose of spreading the knowledge and skills acquired at the Shogunate’s Nagasaki Naval Training Institute to the other samurai of the Saga Domain. This marks the origin of the Mietsu Naval Dock.

This aerial photograph showing the location of the Mietsu Naval Dock along the Hayatsue River. In the background, is the Ariake Sea.


Mietsu Naval Dock: Zones and Functions
• The Small Boat Dock Section: Site of the Ofunate-Keikosho Naval Academy before the Mietsu Naval Dock was built. The old land features can still be seen to this day.

• The Training Grounds Section: Site where samurai of the Saga Domain learned about navigation, surveying techniques, and shipbuilding. At its peak, more than 300 samurai trained here.

• The Shipbuilding/Repair Docks and Metal Working Section: Site used for maintaining and manufacturing the parts required to repair Western-style boats. There was also a dock used to bring in boats when they needed repair. The remains of Japan’s oldest western-style dry dock are preserved underground here.

Excavation revealed wooden timber used in the repair docks.


Features of the Mietsu Naval Dock
At the time, the Japanese-style ships owned by the Saga Domain were about 20 meters long, but the Denryūmaru, a steam warship purchased from the Dutch, was 45 meters long, making it too large for the Small Boat Dock. The Mietsu Naval Dock was built for the purpose of repairing large Western-style ships like this one. The dock was built with wood and dirt, using traditional Japanese building techniques, and it was designed to take advantage of a unique aspect of the Ariake Sea, namely, a six-meter difference between the high and low tides.


This entire area has been turned into Sano Memorial Park, which houses both the Mietsu Naval Dock, a historical site considered to be the origin of modern technology in Japan, and the Tsunetami Sano Memorial Museum, which is dedicated to the man who not only oversaw the construction of the Mietsu Naval Dock, but also founded the Japanese Red Cross Society.
The remains of the dock have been left buried for preservation purposes.


Top Three Things to See at the Mietsu Naval Dock
1. See how Japan came to acquire a western-style navy at the end of the Edo period
2. See the fusion of western and existing Japanese technologies
3. See how the dock’s creators harnessed the natural power of the Ariake Sea

Mietsu Scope

Click on photo to view panoramic view

Mietsu Naval Dock: Great for walking when the weather is good. Visit points of interest while listening to audio guidance. When you look through the Mietsu Scope, you’ll find in front of you a panoramic view of the Mietsu Naval Dock as it looked about 160 years ago.

• Rental counter: Mietsu Scope Reception Desk, 2nd floor, Tsunetami Sano Memorial Museum
• Hours available: 9:00~16:30
• You will need to present a driver’s license, passport or other form of identification to borrow a Mietsu Scope.
• Languages available: English, Korean, Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese, Japanese


Mietsu Dome Theater

On the first floor of the Tsunetami Sano Memorial Museum, you can watch a powerful five-minute video on the 6 m-diameter Dome Theater about the story of the Saga Domain and the construction of the Mietsu Naval Dock. (Subtitles are available in English, Korean, Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese and Japanese.)

You can also try out an Oculus Rift virtual reality headset at the counter in front of the Dome Theater. Here, you can view grand 360° images of the bustling Mietsu Naval Dock as it looked 160 years ago.


Mietsu Naval Dock Time Cruise: See the World Heritage Site that Once was Here!
A smartphone app that lets you compare the past and the present of the Mietsu Naval Dock. A QR code at the Information Desk on the third floor of the Tsunetami Sano Memorial Museum also offers access to the app.


Mietsu Naval Dock
• Open: 9:00~17:00 (Mietsu Scope rental until 16:30)
• Closed: Mon. (or next day if Mon. falls on a hol.), year-end hol. (12/29 ~ 1/3)
• Free entrance (separate fee for some exhibitions)
• Tsunetami Sano Memorial Museum
446-1 Hayatsuetsu, Kawasoe-machi, Saga
• Official Web:

• Kyushu-Saga International Airport → 10 min. by taxi or car rental
• Tenjin, Fukuoka → ride the Nishitetsu bus (Oki-shin Line) from Nishitetsu Yanagawa Sta. and get off at the last stop, Hayatsue bus stop (30 min. ride). 5-min. walk from there.
• By car → 40 min. via Saga-Yamato IC on the Nagasaki Expressway

Other Places to Visit

Hungry? Try a Mietsu Naval Dog!
The 60-cm Mietsu Naval Dog is about 1/100 the size of the actual Mietsu Naval Dock. Only five dogs are available every day, so act fast! (¥1,480) It is modeled after the Ryōfūmaru, Japan’s first fully operational steamship. Also available in a single-serving size (¥500).

Dai Dai Cafe
• 11:00~19:00
• Closed: Tue.
470 Hayatsuetsu, Kawasoe-machi, Saga (1 min. walk from Tsunetami Sano Memorial Museum)
• 080-3980-0232


Enjoy a wide range of local specialties!
Choose from a large selection of delicious Saga souvenirs, including locally brewed sake in Arita ware and dried eel goby from the Ariake Sea.

Mietsu Miyage Hosu Mosu Kamosu
• 10:00~17:30
• closed: Irregular
470 Hayatsuetsu, Kawasoe-machi, Saga (1 min. walk from Tsunetami Sano Memorial Museum)
• 0952-37-1817


Chikugo River Lift Bridge Souvenir Shop
Here you can purchase more local goods, such as locally harvested seafood and seaweed and Saga’s own Sagahonoka strawberries. Don’t forget to check out the local seasonings, specialties, box lunches, and prepared foods.

Hashi-no-eki Doronpa
• 9:30~18:00
• Closed: 12/31 ~ 1/3
214-4 Tameshige, Morodomi-cho, Saga
• 0952-47-5209

Saga Prefecture
Saga City
Published: Jan 30, 2018 / Last Updated: Feb 2, 2018