What is shown in the photo is the training ship named “NIPPON MARU”. She was built in 1930 for training cadets and she served this purpose for 54 years until her retirement in 1984. She took a total of 11,500 cadets for voyages and sailed 45.4 times around the earth (1,830,000 km in total) during her service time.
The use of the pronoun “she” or “her” when referring to ships intrigued me. Based on the data I gathered and some research, there are two main reasons:
1. Based on the language history, ships are called “navis”, which is a feminine noun in Latin.
2. Looking at its figurative meaning, most of the sailors were men, and the ship served as some kind of a mother that protects the sailors while sailing in the sea. In addition to that, there are some more various hypothesis. For example, Aesthetics. Normally, ships were decorated beautifully to be pleasing to the eyes. Just like women, who spend tons of money for beatification, such as fashionable clothes and cosmetics. Both are high-maintenance. Another example is in familial relationships. Men steer ships, so they call the ships their partners. So do husbands or head of the family with their wives, where they steer the family’s directions in life.
Currently, due to contemporary influence, people gradually began calling a ship as “it” instead of a “she”.
In Japan, our nouns are not gender-sensitive, meaning no feminine or masculine nouns. But there is a word “姉妹都市(a sister city)” – a cooperative political agreement between two cities. But society began to question it’s fairness and raised issues relating to discrimination, like, why don’t they call it a ”兄弟都市(a brother city)”. And because of that, it was eventually changed to a more gender-neutral term, which is now, ”友好都市（a friendship city）” or ”親善都市(a goodwill city)“.
For me, differentiating between masculine and feminine nouns can be quite bothersome. It doesn’t matter for me whether they are showing male or female characteristics. However, humans are complex creatures. Our feelings and emotions tend to be very complicated. We cannot expect the same feelings and emotions between the two genders as they share the same complexities and differences.
So I understand that many words have been associated to either a masculine or feminine pronoun. Our emotions can’t be simplified, haha!