Mitzushima Port Ship Factory

After the weekend on Shodoshima we caught the ferry to Okayama and then drove in heavy rain to Mitzushima Port, a fairly industrial area that I had visited once before and had discovered this huge SANOYAS ship factory which I wanted to revisit with my field recording gear. After a bit of research I found a hotel called the Kurashiki Beach side Hotel and while it was beside the sea it was also right beside the ship factory, and was originally built for the factory. Thanks to that existing connection we were able to go on a 30 minute free guided tour of the factory, with strict instructions we had to stay in the van – ship factories being fairly dangerous places. But it gave me a chance to see everything close up, take some photos and basically do a recce for recording.

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(aerial photo ex the Sanoyas site)

You can see the factory from miles away due to the pair of huge cranes, and to give some idea of scale thats a full size container freighting ship to the right of the following photo…

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To build a ship takes 2.5 years and they start with the rear as that is the most complex part, housing the engine & steering as well as all the living spaces etc… Those two Goliath cranes can lift 800 ton, while the older jib crane can lift 240 tons!

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The rest of the ship is constructed in sections and then those cranes move the sections into position where they are welded together. Interestingly the maximum width of the ship is dictated by the width of Panama Canal…

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On the two big cranes the small angular part sticking out the side is where the driver works…

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Both cranes were busy when we visited, and when one of them moved along the huge tracks it made me blink my eyes – the scale just seemed unreal!

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After the tour we checked out of the hotel and I rigged up my mics and found a location on the exterior of the perimeter of the factory. I started off recording in quad but it felt a bit too wide and I was getting too much of the wharf activity behind me into the omni mics, so I ditched those & got my KTek Boom out and managed to mount it quite stably on top of the Manfrotto tripod: how to listen over walls!

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I listened via headphones from inside the car, and it sounded gorgeous: occasional big resonant metal hits, distant hammering and all sorts of other diffuse sound. After capturing maybe 45 minutes of material we went for a drive around the area – the factory seemed to be surrounded by chemical factories

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As with some of the steel factories I tried to record in Osaka it was hard to get close to activity, but we managed to find a few legitimate spots to record from…

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Its maybe a strange form of tourism and obviously not for everyone, but I loved spending the day here. I would so LOVE to have access to record inside the factory, when we first drove on to the factory grounds we drove by someone doing some large scale welding: massive showers of sparks were pouring down & the sound was incredible. But as with any factory safety is paramount & there really isn’t much incentive to waste time guiding some gaijin sound recordist around! I was very happy just to see some of what goes on & to record some of the activity… Will post some sounds, but probably not until I get home

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