Within sight of Yokosuka Naval Base sits a Japanese naval legend, the IJN battleship Mikasa. It was the hero of the Russo-Japanese War of 1905, is at Mikasa Park in Yokosuka. For military buffs, this is a must-see museum near Tokyo.
The 15,380-ton ship sits in concrete, pointing towards Tokyo Imperial Palace. Nearby is a statue of Admiral Heihachirō Tōgō. He commanded the fleet from Mikasa during the battle.
While preserved as a memorial ship in 1925, IJN Mikasa was in a derelict condition at the end of World War 2. What we see today is thanks in part to the efforts of Admiral Chester Nimitz. It was through his actions in the 1950s that the ship was saved.
This time was my second visit to the ship. The last time I went was in 2012. A few things were different, but they were superficial. For the most part, it was the same.
As you make your way through the ship, you will experience a part of naval history. You can see some of the crew’s battle stations, radio, and chartrooms, along with the armored bridge. Where Russian shells hit the ship are marked. There are plaques on the bridge where commanding officers stood during the battle. It gives you an idea of how things might have happened.
You’ll also get an idea of how battleship ship crews lived during those times. The ships might have been powerful, but conditions were basic. Some sailors often slept and ate around their guns. Life aboard would have been very tough.
Below the decks is a museum. Of course, most of it concerns the Battle of Tsushima in May 1905. The display is complete with a diorama with moving model ships and sound effects. It’s a pity that the narration is in Japanese only. You can also see uniforms, the original bow crest of the Mikasa, medals, and ship models (even modern ones). There are some wall and audio displays about other early twentieth-century Japanese histories. But, there is nothing about World War 2.
And you can play on some naval simulators. This was new to me. I got to play Admiral Togo for a short time. The games are in Japanese, but you will work them out regardless of language problems as they are simple.
There is a Japanese film on the main deck in a theatre. It shows some battle sequences that don’t need an interpreter! And watching it is an excellent chance to rest after exploring the ship.
I enjoyed my trip to see IJN Mikasa. While the guns are replicas, the rest of the ship is real. It gives you a good idea of what ship crews (of any country) faced in those days. Life must have been very hard during rough seas or other harsh conditions.
Historians might remember Mikasa only for its one day of glory in the Sea of Japan in 1905. But in Japan, it is a respected part of their history from more than a century ago. And a trip to it might give you some insight into important Asian history.
IJN Mikasa was a battleship built in the late 1890s. Named after Mount Mikasa in Nara, it was the only ship of its class. Admiral Heihachirō Tōgō chose it as his flagship for the Russo-Japanese War of 1904–1905. Together, they fought at Port Arthur’s Battle, at Tsushima, and in the Yellow Sea.
Mikasa sank at her moorings in Sasebo after a fire and magazine explosion six days after the war ended. 251 died due to the accident. She was then refloated, reconstructed, and repaired. During World War I, she did coast-defense duties.
The ship assisted Japanese intervention in Siberia during the Russian Civil War. In 1921 she then became a coastal defense ship. Her career came to an end in 1923, following the Washington Naval Treaty of 1922. The treaty required it to be scrapped.
But, the Japanese government wanted to keep it. They made requests, and the treaty’s signatory countries agreed. Mikasa became a memorial ship with her hull encased in concrete.
The ship was in poor condition in the immediate post-war period due to years of neglect. In 1955, Philadelphia businessman John Rubin wrote a letter about it to the Japan Times. This led to a new restoration campaign. The battleship reopened in 1961.
Where is IJN Mikasa?
The closest train station is Yokosuka-Chuo on the Keikyu Main line. Leave via the east exit. It is a fifteen-minute walk to Mikasa Park and the ship. Here is a Google map for you:
- March and October – 9 am to 5 pm;
- April to September – 9 am to 5:30 pm, and;
- November to February – 9 am to 4:30 pm.
- You can board the ship up until thirty minutes before closing time.
Other photo spots near Mikasa
- Yokosuka naval base
- Mikasa Park has cherry blossoms in spring
Memorial ship Mikasa is an excellent place for military buffs to visit. It can teach you about life at sea and naval warfare of the early twentieth century. And the crew are a lovely bunch of men, and some speak English too! You can see Mikasa’s website here.
And one more thing before I forget! Are you into World of Warships? That might be another reason to visit Mikasa. Mikasa is one of the battleships featured in the game!
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