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June 20, 1899, Nonubiki Maru leaves Nagasaki for the Philippines loaded with rifles and ammunition.

Nunobiki Maru (布引丸, literally, Drawn Fabric) was a Japanese steamship known mainly for her attempted delivery of arms, most notably powerful Murata rifles, from Japan to the Philippines, a key event in Japanese-Filipino relations during the Philippine-American War.

Mariano Ponce (

In 1899, Filipino diplomat Mariano Ponce gained the aid of Chinese revolutionary Sun Yat-sen in finding a way to procure arms. Sun sympathized with the Filipino cause during the Philippine-American War and may have seen the Philippines as a staging point for his revolution in China.

On 20 June 1899, the ship sailed off from Nagasaki. The delivery was composed of 10,000 rifles, 6,000,000 rounds of ammunition, a single fixed cannon, 10 field guns, 7 field glasses, pressing machines for gunpowder and ammunition, and other military supplies.

Yaroku Nakamura was instrumental in the delivery of arms to the Philippines. (

In order to avoid the American blockade, the ship was supposed to anchor off Taiwan first before arriving in the Philippines. However, she foundered in a typhoon between Taihoku and Shanghai, and the ship was lost on 21 July 1899. Nunobiki Maru was foundered when she was 110 km (60 nautical miles) from the Saddle Islands at the mouth of Yangtze River. Despite the sinking of the Nunobiki Maru, Nakamura pressed on for a second delivery which included 2.5 million rounds of ammunition. However, the remaining crew of the Nunobiki Maru revealed the purpose of the cargo. This resulted in a diplomatic dispute between Japan and the United States.

The second delivery never went through. Meanwhile, after the disaster that struck Nunobiki Maru, Miyazaki expressed his suspicion that Nakamura’s intentions were driven more by profit than altruism, and came to state to Sun that the arms were defective and that ship herself might have been in bad condition when she set sail. In addition, after the incident, it became more difficult to deliver arms out of Japan.

Golden Island, on The Yang-Tse River, China (LMS, 1869, p.64) (

After the second shipment attempt failed, Ponce gave the arms to Sun who believed that if his revolution in China was to succeed, aiding the Philippines in return would be made easier. Sun would later be credited with the founding of Republic of China and the collapse of dynastic China.

The Japanese contributed little to the Filipinos in its war against the Americans. The Japanese officers arrived at a time when regular warfare was proving impossible, and no substantial shipments of weapons ever arrived. The Japanese government, not willing to alienate the Americans, gave no formal support to Aguinaldo’s government or the nationalist cause.


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