Why do Japanese ships have “maru” affixed to their names? (1)

The Maru Ship: Japanese ship names often end with “maru”

日本語は英文の下にございます。/ Japanese translation will be below the English text.

This is the first of the five posts on: Why do Japanese ships have “maru” affixed to their names?
(1) Japanese Ship Names Often End With “Maru”
=> (2) “Maru” is a Symbol of Perfection
=> (3) “Maru” in the Names of Other Things
=> (4) How to Fend Off Your Baby From Demons
=> (5) Modern Japanese Ship Names and “Maru”



1. Japanese ships have names with "maru" on the end
2. What does "maru" mean?

1) Japanese ships have names with “maru” in the end

The photo is a Japanese cruise ship named “Kaiwomaru”.

[Click to enlarge / 画像をクリックすると拡大します] An example of a “Maru Ship” / 「マル・シップ」とも呼ばれる日本の船

“Kaiwo” means “Sea King”, and “Maru” means a circle.

Did you know that, likewise, the names of a number of Japanese ships have the word “maru” on the end?

The presence of “maru” in Japanese ship names is well-known outside Japan, too. Some even call Japanese ships “Maru Ships” referring to the common suffix.

When you have an opportunity to visit a port in Japan, take a look at the ship names.

You will recognize “maru” easily in Romanization, and if it’s written in all Japanese, look for the Chinese character “丸” on the end. That is the character we pronounce “maru”.

Here are some examples (usually there is no hyphen before “maru”):

An image of a maru ship called Nipponmaru
[Click to enlarge / クリックすると拡大します] Nippon-maru, a retired training ship being repaired. Photo by Agency for Cultural Affairs/ 補修中の練習船日本丸、文化庁
  • Konpira-maru (“Konpira” is a god known as a protector of sailors)
  • Kanrin-maru (“Kanrin” means harmonious mingling of a lord and his subjects. This was the first ship which crossed the Pacific Ocean and sailed to San Francisco at the end of the Edo Era.)
  • Kachidoki-maru (“Kachidoki” means shout of victory)
  • Sarubia-maru (Salvia is a flower name)
  • Iroha-maru (“I-ro-ha” are the first three characters of hiragana people used to learn, an equivalent of “ABC” of English alphabet)
  • Asahi-maru (“Asahi” means the morning sun)
  • Riodejanero-maru (“Rio De Janeiro”), etc, etc…

2) What does “maru” mean?

The practice of adding “maru” to a ship name has been around for centuries. An older example:  Ninna-ji (a temple in Kyoto) keeps a document written in 1187 which refers to a ship called Bandoh-maru that they owned at that time.

But what does this “maru” exactly mean? The first meaning we think of is “a circle”.

Then why is it affixed to ship names? And why did the practice last for a such long time?

These questions have been the subject of research since the Edo Era (1603-1868), and there is no proven or established explanation for it.

However, it’s fun to compare different theories and just wonder, too. So, we would like to share them with you.

Please continue reading: => ”Maru” Is A Symbol of Perfection

[End of the English post]




1. 日本の船名の末尾には「まる」が多い
2. 「まる」とは何か
An image of a "maru ship"
[Click to enlarge / クリックすると拡大します] Another “maru ship” / マル・シップの別の例

1. 日本の船名の末尾には「まる」が多い








An image of Hikawa-maru, another "maru ship"
[Click to enlarge / クリックすると拡大します] The Hikawa-Maru at Yokohama Port / 横浜港の氷川丸


2. 「まる」とは何か






続きはこちら => 「まる」は完全の象徴


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