• 2021.11.09
  • National Day
It’s not a name you hear much is it. In Spanish it’s “Día Nacional.” It refers to the most important day of the year for the country, a day worthy of commemoration, and many countries have set aside these days as national holidays. They are often the country’s independence day, the monarch's birthday, a patron saint's day or the like. In Japan, the Emperor's Birthday is considered the national day, not Kenkoku Kinenbi (National Foundation Day).

Spain's national day is October 12, which is now called Día de la Fiesta Nacional (National Day).
One of the reasons why this date was chosen is that it was the day in history when Columbus, who had the backing of the Kingdom of Spain, arrived on an island off the coast of the Americas in 1492. In the past, the word "discovery" was used, but recently people have started using the term "arrival" or "encounter" instead, so as to avoid giving expression to a supercilious Western viewpoint. I wrote in detail about that in my article "Columbus Day," so please take a look.

It was a modest fleet of only three sailing ships that embarked on this historic voyage. The flagship was the Santa Maria, the largest ship in the fleet at about 30 meters long (a type of ship called a nao or carrack) and had a crew of 39, including Columbus. The next two were smaller caravels, the Pinta and the Niña, with crews of 25 and 20 respectively.

Photo 1: The three ships that first sailed west on a voyage to explore the route to India and Zipangu (Japan).

The fleet left Spain from the Andalusian port town of Palos. Six days later, early on the morning of August 3, 1492, it arrived in the Canary Islands, in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Africa. They repaired the Pinta’s rudder, which had been damaged early on, took on food and water, and the crew undertook drills before departing once more a month later on September 6.

Incidentally, these islands in the Atlantic Ocean enjoy a perpetual summer and are well known not only as a resort destination for sightseers, but also for their production of bananas, pineapples, and other subtropical fruits not available on the European continent. They also served as a supply base for Japan's deep-sea tuna longline fishing fleet, which at its peak in the 1970s numbered as many as 500 Japanese-flagged vessels calling at the port each year. It has also been a port of rest and relaxation for sailors since Columbus’ time.

Columbus and his fleet departed the Canary Islands from Gomera Island after its one-month stay. On the fleet’s 37th day at sea, October 12, it arrived at Guanahani Island at the eastern end of the Bahamas in the Caribbean Sea, achieving the initial aim of finding a new western route to India and the golden land of Zipangu. Meaning, right from the very start, Columbus did not have the idea of “discovering” a new continent in mind.

The shipowner and map-maker Juan de la Cosa, who provided the Santa Maria, the flagship of the fleet, actually sailed with Columbus on his first two voyages and in 1500 made the first map of the world ever to include all four continents, but he did not mark the land the fleet finally arrived at as “America.” That land was first recognized as a new continent and given the name America seven years later, in 1507, on a world map made by a German geographer.

Photo 2

Photo 3

Photo 2 shows the first world map ever showing four continents. It was drawn on parchment by Juan de la Cosa and is part of the collection of the Naval Museum, Spanish Navy Headquarters, in Madrid's World Heritage zone. Photo 3 is an outline of that map. The green area on the left across the ocean is part of the American continent, but it is not marked as such and at the time was called the Indies. That name could be the origin of names like Indiana State in the US, and Indiana Jones.

Photo 4

Photo 5

Photo 4: The sign at the entrance to the Naval Museum shows the Santa Maria. Photo 5 shows a reconstructed model made in 1992 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the arrival in America, which is on display at the museum. The Santa Maria was a type of sailing ship called a nao and was owned by Juan de la Cosa, the map-maker I mentioned before. It had been called La Gallega because she was built in Galicia, but when she became the flagship of Columbus' voyage, she was renamed the Santa Maria after the town where her owner lived, El Puerto de Santa María (the Port of Santa Maria), on the Atlantic Ocean coast. When she became the flagship of Columbus' fleet, she was renamed the Santa Maria after her owner's home town, El Puerto de Santa María (Santa Maria Harbor) on the Atlantic Ocean. Incidentally, the map I mentioned before was also made there.

On the Santa Maria’s first exploratory voyage, she ran aground near the island of Hispaniola, which is now shared by the Republic of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, late at night on December 24, 1492. After the start of the New Year, on January 4, Columbus switched to the Niña and on the way back home, stopped in at the Azores and Lisbon before finally sailing back into the port of Palos on March 15, which he had left 225 days before. With the "discovery" of the new route, preparations for the next voyage had already begun, and for the second voyage, a large fleet of 17 ships with 1,500 people aboard was put together in just over six months. The fleet sailed out of the port of Cádiz on September 25, 1493. Columbus made a total of four voyages, but until he died, he thought he had arrived in Indies, not the New World.

Patrizia Margherita, the Knowledge World Network reporter based in Genoa mentioned in an article that there is a water park in Italy’s Liguria region, where Columbus is from. The park is called Le Caravelle and you can ride a caravel ship there. When I looked into it, I found out you can ride a Santa Maria in Japan too. Osaka Aqua Bus Ltd. has a replica of the Santa Maria, a sightseeing sailing ship about twice the size of the original Santa Maria, that does 45-minute cruises around the top sightseeing spots in the Osaka Bay area, offering a simple way to have a Columbus experience.

Photo 6: The majestic sight of the Santa Maria sailing around Osaka Bay.

The stallholders selling snails, churro, and snapping fresh shrimp who appeared in June's article, "Andalusian Deep-Fried Foods” (https://kc-i.jp/en/activity/kwn/yamada_s/20210621/) are from this historic port town, El Puerto de Santa María (the Port of Santa Maria). Columbus' flagship in his first voyage was probably fitted out in this town, and while the port that the second fleet left from was described as “the port of Cádiz”, the only "port" in the Gulf of Cádiz region is the Port of Santa Maria, so in reality the fleet may have actually left from here.

Photo 7

Photo 7 shows the port in 1567. On the left are 10 galleys in the Spanish Navy, and on the right appear about 10 nao and caravel ships used by the navy and for trade, which gives a glimpse of the importance of the port for the navy and commerce.

Photo 8

Photo 8 shows a map of the Gulf of Cádiz in the early 17th century. It gives you an idea of the locations of Cádiz and Port of Santa Maria relative to one another, and their sizes.

A volcano erupted on the island of La Palma in the Canary Islands on September 19 and lava flows have continued even to this day, a month later (October 18). More than 2,000 houses and other buildings have already been swallowed up, more than 7,000 residents have evacuated, and there are no signs yet of the volcano’s show of power diminishing. I pray that the eruption will settle down as soon as possible.


  • Susumu Yamada
  • JobSpanish and Japanese Translation

It’s been almost 37 years since I received a residence permit and work permit from the Spanish government and paid my first tax and social insurance premiums. Now that I’m at that age where I will soon go and register at the senior human resources center, I’m grateful to have this opportunity to introduce you all to this country that has taken care of me these many years.

View a list of Susumu Yamada's

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