The ferry sank during a severe typhoon in the Tsugaru Strait. The Toya Maru had already delayed departure when it set sail from Hakodate, but no sooner had it left the dock then the ship was forced to drop anchor in the harbor to try to ride out the storm. The tactic failed and, after the vessel drifted out to sea, it was dragged onto rocks. Its cargo of train cars broke loose and crushed passengers as water poured into the ship. It eventually capsized near the shore, killing up to 1,170 passengers and crew.