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Sasebo Naval District Headquarters circa 1930
Sasebo Naval District Headquarters circa 1930

Sasebo Naval District (佐世保鎮守府, Sasebo chinjufu) was the third of five main administrative districts of the pre-war Imperial Japanese Navy. Its territory included the western and southern coastline of Kyūshū, the Ryukyu Islands, Taiwan and Korea, as well as patrols in the East China Sea and the Pacific

Sasebo also contained the Sasebo Naval Arsenal, specializing mostly in destroyers and smaller warships; and its anchorage was one of the largest in Japan. The District encompassed anchorages at Imari and Hirado ports as well as the designated third echelon naval ports yokobu (要港部) of Takeshiki (Tsushima), Kagoshima, Kuji (Amami-Ōshima), and Wakamatsu (Gotō Islands)


The location of Sasebo 33°10′05″N 129°44′06″E / 33.168°N 129.735°E / 33.168; 129.735 (Sasebo, Nagasaki)Coordinates: 33°10′05″N 129°44′06″E / 33.168°N 129.735°E / 33.168; 129.735 (Sasebo, Nagasaki) facing China and Korea, and near the foreign treaty port of Nagasaki was recognized of strategic importance by the leaders of the early Meiji government and early Imperial Japanese Navy. In 1883, the then Lieutenant Commander Tōgō Heihachirō nominated what was a tiny fishing village as the ideal location for a naval base. With the formation of the navy in 1886, Japan was divided into five Naval Districts (海軍区) each with a headquarters (鎮守府). Sasebo was designated as the "Third Naval District" (第三海軍区, dai-san kaigunku), and its harbor was dredged, a breakwater constructed and docking, coaling and repair facilities for warships were established, and the military base was officially opened in 1889. To stress the importance of the base, Emperor Meiji made a personal inspection tour in 1890.

The base was connected to the rest of Japan by rail in 1898, and the Sasebo Naval Arsenal, which would eventually expand to become one of the largest shipyards in Japan for the construction of smaller warships, began operation in 1903. As with the other Naval Districts, Sasebo was intended to operate as independently as possible, and facilities included armories, production factories for torpedoes, naval mines and naval artillery (and associated ammunition), and also a naval hospital and training centers. In concept, the Naval District was similar to the United States Navy Sea Frontiers concept. the Naval District maintained a small garrison force of ships and Naval Land Forces which reported directly to the Guard District commander, and hosted detachments of the numbered fleets on a temporary assignment basis.

Sasebo was the closest ship repair facility for the Imperial Japanese Navy to the combat zones of the Russo-Japanese War and saw considerable activity during that conflict.

In 1920, the Japanese navy established an air wing and a wireless communications center in 1922. In 1934, the Tomozuru capsized off Sasebo with loss of most of its crew, and leaving behind serious questions about the basic design of many Japanese warships.

In 1941, base facilities were expanded considerably for the Pacific War. The base also hosted a major portion of the Japanese Special Naval Landing Forces. The Imperial Japanese Navy had some 60,000 people working in the dock yard and associated naval stations at the peak of World War II, outfitting ships, submarines and aircraft.

Most of the base was destroyed by American air raids on Japan on June 28, 1945. After the surrender of Japan, Sasebo was occupied by the U.S. Marine Corps' Fifth Division, and the Sasebo Naval District was formally abolished on November 30, 1945.

Part of the former base facilities is still in use by the United States Navy as the United States Fleet Activities Sasebo and by the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force. One of the former base structures is now a museum.

Order of Battle at time of the attack on Pearl Harbor

List of commanders

Commanding officers

No. Name Portrait Rank Term of Office
Start End
1 Akamatsu Noriyoshi
Akamatsu Noriyoshi.jpg
Vice Admiral 26 September 1887 27 June 1891
2 Abo Kiyoyasu
Abo Kiyoyasu.jpg
Vice Admiral 27 June 1891 12 December 1892
3 Inoue Yoshika
Fleet Admiral Viscount Yoshika Inoue.jpg
Vice Admiral 12 December 1892 20 May 1893
4 Aiura Norimichi
Aiura Norimichi.jpg
Rear Admiral 20 May 1893 13 July 1894
5 Shibayama Yahachi
Shibayama Yahachi.jpg
Rear Admiral

Vice Admiral (after 7 October 1897)

13 July 1894 8 October 1897
6 Aiura Norimichi
Aiura Norimichi.jpg
Vice Admiral 8 October 1897 19 January 1899
7 Tōgō Heihachirō
Tōgō Heihachirō.jpg
Vice Admiral 19 January 1899 20 May 1900
8 Samejima Kazunori
Kazunori Samejima 01.jpg
Vice Admiral

Admiral (after 18 November 1905)

20 May 1900 2 February 1906
9 Arima Shinichi
Arima Shinnichi.jpg
Vice Admiral 2 February 1906 22 November 1906
10 Uryū Sotokichi
Sotokichi Uryu.jpg
Vice Admiral 22 November 1906 1 March 1909
11 Arima Shinichi
Arima Shinnichi.jpg
Vice Admiral 1 March 1909 1 December 1909
12 Dewa Shigetō
Dewa Shigeto.jpg
Vice Admiral 1 December 1909 1 December 1911
13 Shimamura Hayao
Shimamura Hayao.jpg
Vice Admiral 1 December 1911 25 March 1914
14 Fujii Kōichi
Fujii Kouihi.jpg
Vice Admiral 25 March 1914 10 August 1915
15 Yamashita Gentarō
Yamashita Gentaro.jpg
Vice Admiral 10 August 1915 1 December 1917
16 Yashiro Rokurō
Vice Adm. Rokuro Yashiro.jpg
Vice Admiral

Admiral (after 2 July 1918)

1 December 1917 1 December 1918
17 Takarabe Takeshi
Takeshi Takarabe.jpg
Vice Admiral

Admiral (after 25 November 1919)

1 December 1918 27 July 1922
18 Tochinai Sōjirō
Tochiuhi Soujirou.jpg
Admiral 27 July 1922 1 June 1923
19 Saitō Hanroku
Vice Admiral 1 June 1923 5 February 1924
20 Prince Fushimi Hiroyasu
Prince Fushimi Hiroyasu.jpg
Admiral 5 February 1924 15 April 1925
21 Hyakutake Saburō
Saburō Hyakutake.jpg
Vice Admiral 15 April 1925 10 December 1926
22 Furukawa Shinzaburō
Shinzaburou Furukawa.jpg
Vice Admiral 10 December 1926 12 October 1928
23 Iida Nobutarō
Nobutaro Iida.jpg
Vice Admiral 12 October 1928 11 November 1929
24 Tosu Tamaki Vice Admiral 11 November 1929 1 December 1930
25 Yamanashi Katsunoshin
Katunoshin Yamanashi.jpg
Vice Admiral 1 December 1930 1 December 1931
26 Nakamura Ryōzō
Ryōzō Nakamura.jpg
Vice Admiral 1 December 1931 1 December 1932
27 Sakonji Seizō
Seizo Sakonji Close-up.jpg
Vice Admiral 1 December 1932 15 November 1933
28 Yonai Mitsumasa
Yonai Mitsumasa cropped.jpg
Vice Admiral 15 November 1933 15 November 1934
29 Imamura Nobujirō
Imamura Nobujiro.jpg
Vice Admiral 15 November 1934 2 December 1935
30 Hyakutake Gengo
Hyakutake Gengo.JPG
Vice Admiral 2 December 1935 16 March 1936
31 Matsushita Hajime Vice Admiral 16 March 1936 1 December 1936
32 Shiozawa Kōichi
Shiozawa kōichi.JPG
Vice Admiral 1 December 1936 1 December 1937
33 Toyoda Teijirō
Toyoda Teijirō.JPG
Vice Admiral 1 December 1937 15 November 1938
34 Nakamura Kamezaburō
Nakamura kamesaburō.JPG
Vice Admiral 15 November 1938 15 November 1939
35 Hirata Noboru
Noboru Hirata.jpg
Vice Admiral 15 November 1939 15 October 1940
36 Sumiyama Tokutarō Vice Admiral 15 October 1940 20 November 1941
37 Tanimoto Matarō
Tanimoto Mataro.jpg
Vice Admiral 20 November 1941 11 November 1942
38 Nagumo Chūichi
Chuichi Nagumo.jpg
Vice Admiral 11 November 1942 21 June 1943
39 Komatsu Teruhisa
Komatsu Teruhisa.jpg
Vice Admiral 21 June 1943 4 November 1944
40 Sugiyama Rokuzō
Rokuzou Sugiyama.jpg
Vice Admiral 4 November 1944 30 November 1945

Chief of Staff