A living museum. HIJMS (His Imperial Japanese Majesty`s Ship) Mikasa was laid down in 1899 and launched in 1900. Built and commissioned at Vickers Shipyard in England and upon her transfer to Japan was included in the Imperial Navy`s Fleet. Mikasa gained great fame during the Russo-Japanese of 1904-1905, where she served as the flagship of the fleet under the command of Admiral Heihachiro Togo (1848-1934).
The war at sea finally ended following the the Battle of the Sea of Japan (also known as the Battle of Tsushima Strait). It resulted in an amazing victory for the Japanese naval forces which were led by Admiral Togo and Mikasa and ended in complete disaster for Russia losing almost their entire fleet and 4,545 dead and 6,106 captured. Japanese losses were comparitively light, losing three torpedo boats and only 116 dead. Following the war she sank as a result of a magazine explosion while in Sasebo which caused great loss of life (much more than she suffered during the entire war). She was refloated and repaired and eventually transferred to Reserve Fleet in 1912 engaging in coastal defense and surveillance.
The end of her service to Japan came in 1922 with the Washington Naval Conference. HIJMS Mikasa was named to be scrapped as a result of the Conference. However, Japan did apply to have the ship given a special exemption so it could become a memorial ship. In February 1924, HIJMS Mikasa Preservation Society was established with Admiral Togo becoming its honorary president. After much work, the ship was fixed at its present location, with her bows pointed towards the Imperial Palace in Tokyo.
At the end of World War II, Mikasa had its bridges, masts, guns, funnels and other structures removed by the Occupation Forces leaving the ship in a completely devastated condition.
From 1955 onwards, work was done to restore the Memorial Ship Mikasa. Donations were gathered from within Japan, and the U.S. Navy`s Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz and U.S. Navy also cooperated with support from the Japanese government led to the restoration being completed on May 27, 1961 (the anniversary of the Battle of the Sea of Japan).
Today you can still board this great ship. It is in excellent condition and it will give you a good idea what life was probably like at sea during the early twentieth century. The decks are covered with weapons (the twelve inch cannons mounted in the turrets are just enormous). Both sides of the ship are just lined with cannons (6 inch and 3 inch cannons). On the lower decks there are many displays that will give you insight to what happened during the sea battles of that war. And there are also displays that will tell you about the events that led to the outbreak of war between Japan and Russia. Many of them also have explanations in English.
Mikasa is situated in a lovely location. Set in concrete, right on the water in the beautiful Mikasa park (a great place for a picnic) which is right next to the naval base at Yokosuka. If you are in the area, you shouldn`t miss seeing this amazing museum. Walking from bow to stern, seeing everything that the ship has to offer will take you quite a few hours.
If you are a member of a tour group, Captain Greg K. Kouta (JMSDF Ret) is available to guide you around the ship Monday to Friday (9.30am to 5pm). Captain Kouta is an excellent guide and an expert about the Russo-Japanese war. Just make sure to ring the ship on 046-822-5408 before you arrive to make sure of his availability.
And finally, a little piece of trivia, two of the captains that served on Mikasa are the great-grandfathers of Princess Masako, the wife of Crown Prince Naruhito, heir to the throne of Japan. The ship has its own English website, which is can be seen here.
How to get to Mikasa
The ship is located in Mikasa park and about a fifteen minute walk from Yokosuka Chuo Station which is on the Keikyu Main Line. You can get the train from Shinagawa station in Tokyo, and it takes about forty-six minutes to Yokosuka Chou Station. We have a Tripline Map here to guide you from the station to the Mikasa (just make sure you leave via the East Exit):
General admission for adults is 500 yen. For those over 65 it is 400 yen (but you will need some form of identification). Those of high school age it is 300 yen and for those in junior high school or younger, entrance is free.
Best time to go
Visiting the ship can be done all year round. However, if you do visit in winter just make sure to wear something warm.
How long would you expect to spend there?
Due to its large size (remember it was a real battleship), looking over the Mikasa could easily take a whole morning or afternoon.