Mitsui OSK Lines
Mitsui OSK Lines was formed in 1964 as a merger between the OSK Lines (Osaka Shosen Kaisha) and the Mitsui Steamship Company. OSK Lines dated from 1884 and Mitsui had been formed in 1876. OSK concentrated on local route's in the first years, being a combination of 55 small ship operators. Later on, the company also started to offer services to Korea, China and even further to India and the US westcoast. The company also offered a passengerline to South America from Kobe, although the main Japanese passengerline was the NYK Line, offering more and far larger passengerliners to Europe, America and the rest of Asia. It was not untill 1938 that OSK launched their first pair of larger passengerships, the Argentina Maru and the Brazil Maru. The ships measured something less from 13.000 tons and were sailing the South America route untill war started in 1941. Both ships were sunk during the war, Brazil Maru in 1942 nand Argentina Maru in 1945. Nice to know, maybe, is that the name 'Maru' that is often placed at the aft end of a ships name means 'circle' in Japanese. The reason it is used in shipnames is most commonly thought because it also represents the protective 'circles' of a castle, its walls. As ships are seen as Castles Of The Seas, the circle (Maru) protects it and all who sail them from the hostile outside. Another protection myth comes from the divine Hakudo Maru, who came down to Earth and taught humans to built ships. The Castles Of The Seas office of course prefers the first and most common explanation.
Mitsui, although founded in 1876 as a transport company for coal had set up its own shipping division in 1898. From 1933 onwards, the shipping department became the Mitsui Line, becoming a seperate company in 1942 as Mitsui Steamship Company. Passengershipping was not a real focus for the line and of course the waryears were devastating for the newly established company. Both Mitsui and OSK made great losses in ships, personell and name. After the war, the companies tried to built themselves up again, with changing success. In 1964, japan re-organized all shippinglines and a few large groups were created. In this new structure, Mitsui and OSK merged into Mitsui OKS Lines, or MOL Lines. Especially for the struggling Mitsui Lines, this came at the right moment.
Mitsui OSK still concentrated on freight instead of passengers, although in 1953 OSK had started up an emigrantroute from Japan to South America, firstly at a profit but in 1962 it only carried 2000 emigrants per year. To change tides, this three-ship division was re-organized as Japan Emigration Ship Company one year later and finally re-emerged as Mitsui OSK Passengerline (MOP) in 1970. After this date, cruising became its main objective and for this, the company bought the Brasilian ship Rosa de Fonseca and brought her into service as Seven Seas in 1975. This can be seen as the starting point for today's cruiseservices under the Mitsui OSK flag. In 1977, the ship was re-named Nippon Maru. Its cruisedivision may not be large, but in the years from 1961 onwards, when NYK Lines sold their last passengership, Mitsui OSK was the only Japanese company offering a cruiseservice.
As everywhere else in the world, passengers started to demand a higher standard throughout the years and the Nippon Maru, although comfortable, wasn't up for the task anymore at the end of the 1980's. The ship had a tonnage of just under 10.000 and had been built in 1961. When the company wanted to keep a share in the cruiseindustry, they simply had to invest in new tonnage. In 1988, the company launched their first purpose-built cruiseship from the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Yards at Kobe under the name of Fuji Maru, a 23.000-ton modern ship. At the same time, a second order was placed for a 22.000-ton ship from the same yards. Instead of what would be logical, this was not a sistership to Fuji Maru but a ship of totally different design. With her introduction in the end of 1990, she recieved the name of Nippon Maru, actually the thirth time this name was used for a ship of the line, and of course this meant that she was replacing the former ship with the same name. The old ship was sold to Indonesia and finally scrapped in 1998.
Next to the cruiseservice, MOL also operates several ferryroute's in japan, as well as coastal services. Sadly, I was unable to find a website for the line's passengeroperations, so when there is one, I'd be glad to recieve a link via the contactform.