As we share a love of the style, in some respects it’s no surprise that my mother and I should be experiencing Art deco at the same time. Given that we’re living thousands of miles apart however, it is a bit of coincidence that we happened to be onboard Art deco influenced ships at the end of 2011; she on the Costa Concordia, me on the Hikawa Maru. An eclectic artistic and design style, Art deco began in Paris in the 1920s and flourished internationally throughout the 1930s and into the World War II era. The style influenced all areas of design, including architecture and interior design, industrial design, fashion and jewelry, as well as the visual arts such as painting, graphic arts and film. At its best, art deco represented elegance, glamour, functionality and modernity. Although many design movements have political or philosophical beginnings or intentions, art deco was purely decorative.
A tale of two (floating) cities
In late December 2011, my mother and her partner boarded the Costa Concordia for a jaunt around the Mediterranean. Since retiring, they’ve been going on two on three cruises a year. Quite apart from getting to see places that they might otherwise not, they enjoy the luxury of not worrying about anything for a couple of weeks at a time. That said, they were slightly nervous about this particular cruise as it was very reasonably priced. However, they had an absolutely fantastic voyage even passing close to a certain Italian Island called Isola del Giglio! You can imagine their surprise when watching the BBC News on January 13 they saw their cabin sticking up out of the ocean at the wrong angle after the hull of the Costa Concordia was ripped open close to the island!
It’s hardly surprising that I survived my very short visit aboard the Hikawa Maru given that it’s permanently berthed in Yokohama, but I’m extremely grateful that my mother was not on board the Costa Concordia when it hit that rock! She’s not too unhappy about it either!
The Costa Concordia
Named and christened by supermodel Eva Herzigova to symbolize peace and harmony between European nations, the interiors were modeled in a range of European styles including Irish Gothic, Belgian Art deco, Austrian Baroque and Italian Post Modern. Built to resemble a grand hotel, the Costa Concordia also sports a three-story theatre, 13 bars, two huge poolside video screens, a jogging track and three pools, including the largest enclosable pool on any liner in the world.
The Hikawa Maru
The Hikawa Maru was built in Yokohama and launched September 1929, making her maiden voyage from Kobe to Seattle May 1930. Often referred to as the Queen of the Pacific, she was famous for her stunning art deco interiors and splendid food. Charlie Chaplin and Kano Jigoro (founder of Judo) are amongst the ship's more notable early passengers.
The Hikawa Maru was later used, before Japan's entry into World War II, to help Jewish refugees escaping the Nazis. When Japan entered the war, she became a hospital ship, and as a result, ultimately survived the Allied campaign against the Japanese merchant fleet. For the two years following the war, she was used by the US to repatriate troops. The Hikawa Maru was returned to Japan in 1947 and carried cargo between Japan and the US till being taken out of service in 1954.
Following a refit she returned to carrying passengers across the Pacific, however, the service was finally terminated in 1960 due to falling passenger numbers - air travel had begun to take off! In 1961, the Hikawa Maru was permanently berthed at Yokohama and became a floating youth hostel and museum. In 2006, the museum was closed and restoration began in 2007. The Hikawa Maru was reopened to the public in May 2008, the vessel's 78th birthday.