ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

The Ugly Pagoda Mast Warships

Updated on July 5, 2020
Mamerto profile image

Mamerto Adan is a feature writer back in college for a school paper. Science is one of his many interests, and his favorite topic.

When you are in need, it’s okay to resort to anything. And that’s exactly what the Imperial Japanese Navy did during the 1930s. Back then, they need to further strengthen the capabilities of their existing navy. But there was a problem. The Washington Naval Treaty was still on effect back then, and the result was the “Battleship Holiday” for the Japanese. Although Japan was allied to US, UK, France and Italy, there was a brewing naval arms race between the postwar allies. Between 1916 to the 1919, the US already armed itself with 50 modern battleships. The Imperial Japan on the other hand was gunning for an “eight-eight fleet program,” (Hachihachi Kantai) which stipulated that the navy should have eight modern battleships, and eight armored cruisers. But thanks to the Washington Naval Treaty, battlefield constructions were limited for the affected nations, Japan included among them.

With the restrictions on the battlefield constructions, Japan then resorted to other means to gain an advantage over other navies. This includes upgrades on existing warships. The Imperial Japanese Navy simply reconstructed and modified their assets to improve their performance in sea combat. The result was a towering superstructure which was not exactly appealing to the eye.

The Pagoda Mast

Close-up of the Fuso's Pagoda Mast.
Close-up of the Fuso's Pagoda Mast.

The Imperial Japanese Navy wanted their ships to be well equipped, and they did so through the addition of a superstructure to house extra equipment, and as lookouts.

Firstly, it started with a tripod mast, which is a superstructure set on three columns. With an existing tripod mast as the base, they then added platforms, additional lookouts, and shelters. In this case, these additional structures were stacked on the top of the other. As a preparation for night battles, powerful searchlights were added to the now towering mast.

And the resulting shape was said to resemble a pagoda temple, which earned its name. It was mentioned earlier that aesthetically, the protruding mast was not a pretty thing to look at. And yes, it’s the ugliest thing ever built on a ship.

How People Reacted

The battleship Hyuga showing its Pagoda Mast.
The battleship Hyuga showing its Pagoda Mast.

Western sailors and naval architects mocked these awkward looking protrusions, and it earned the sarcastic nickname “Christmas Tree.” Though the name Pagoda Mast sounds great to the ear, the actual shape never resembled the artistic temples of the east. For one thing those masts were shapeless hunks of metals being stacked on each other. And if that’s the case, it seemed that it was stacked carelessly, like a pile of school notebooks being left on a messy desk.

Then there was the fact that Pagoda Masts never had a straight profile. Among the mess of superstructures, the middle part seemed to bulge out. It gave the outside appearance of structural instability and unstable weight. Or simply let us put it this way; it got an awkward shape. And now that we speak of instability, the ugly and hulking mass of steel sticking out of a sleek fighting ship simply don’t look right. Later we will discuss on whether the Pagoda Mass had any effects on the ship’s performance, but any ships carrying this visually horrendous superstructures makes for an ugly scenery.

With its messy metallic exterior and badly shaped profile, the overall appearance of a ship with a Pagoda Mast was a floating shanty town.

Enter the Battleship Fuso

The Battleship Fuso.
The Battleship Fuso.

The presence of the Pagoda Mast did messes up the ship’s aesthetics. Yet it was applied to many of the Imperial Japanese Navy warships during the Battleship Holiday. The Kongo-class battlecruisers were rebuilt to be equipped with the protruding masts. The same can be said to the battleship classes Ise, Fuso, and Nagato. And the lead ship of the Fuso class, the Fuso became remarkable for its oversized Pagoda Mast, making it a particularly ugly warship among its peers.

First commissioned in 1915, she never had any engagements in World War I, and her initial assignment was to patrol the coast of China. The Fuso did assist the survivors of the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923. Back then she looked like any typical battleship, until a series of modernizations gave her improved armor, propulsions, and that protruding abomination known as the Pagoda Mast.

And when it comes to the Pagoda Mast, she got an extra-large one. Her oversized superstructure towered at 130 feet above the waterline.

Though she never saw actions during the First World War, she fought during the Battle of Leyte where she was severely damaged by US warplanes. Eventually, a torpedo possibly from the destroyer USS Melvin finished her off and eyewitnesses even claimed that she broke in half, though some accounts claimed that she sank intact.

In 2017, her wreckage was discovered, and being in one piece confirmed that she never broke during the end of her life. And as for her hulking Pagoda Mast, it snapped off as she sank, and it lies somewhere away from the hull.

Questions on the Weight

The searchlight of the USS Missouri.
The searchlight of the USS Missouri.

And now, there was a question whether this ugly superstructure ever had effects on the ship’s performance. Take note that it was described as “top heavy” by western sailors. But despite of their awkward appearances, these superstructures were actually very light for their sizes. And battleships sporting these masts don’t seemed to have any stability issues, as was demonstrated when Fuso fought. What’s more, these superstructures were unarmored unlike the rest of the ships.

The practical purpose of the Pagoda Masts was to provide more platforms for equipment in their warships. The towering superstructures could house optics and searchlights, crucial during night operations. But searchlights began to lose their importance after an introduction of a new weapon by the Allies.

In the early 1940s, radars technology was developed, and now they could see the enemy better than before. And with these new means of detection, the Allied could now aim and shoot enemy warships, even in poor visibility like in nighttime operations.

And with that, the Pagoda Mast with their mounted searchlights lost their purpose. The giant mast could even give the ship’s position to the enemy, by increasing its radar signature.

Similar Technology

Yet it was interesting to note that western navies also employed large superstructures for their ships. Before the Second World War, the Royal Navy had a Queen Anne’s Mansions style conning tower on their warships. While the US Navy adopted their Tripod Mast.

Yet they never reached the scale of the oversized Pagoda Mast, which dominated most of the ships.


1. Baker, A. D., III (1989). "Battlefleets and Diplomacy: Naval Disarmament Between the Two World Wars". Warship International.

2. Friedman Norman (2008). "Naval Firepower: Battleship Guns and Gunnery in the Dreadnought Era." Seaport Publishing.

3. Jentschura, Hansgeorg; Jung, Dieter; Mickel, Peter (1977). "Warships of the Imperial Japanese Navy, 1869–1945." Annapolis, Maryland,United States Naval Institute

4. Skulski, Janusz (1998). "The Battleship Fuso. Anatomy of the Ship." London: Conway Maritime Press.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • Danny Fernandes profile image


      5 weeks ago from India

      Yes though it looked awkward, it served the Japanese navy purpose of stacking equipment.

      Chinese had more superior shipbuilding technology even in earlier times.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)