Japanese battleship Mikasa

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Mikasa in Yokosuka, Japan in 2005.
Career IJN Ensign
Ordered: 26 September 1898
Builder: Vickers, Barrow-in-Furness, United Kingdom
Laid down: 24 January 1899
Launched: 8 November 1900
Commissioned: 1 March 1902
Decommissioned: 20 September 1923
Status: Transformed as a memorial ship
General characteristics
Displacement: 15,140 tons
Length: 131.67 metres (432.0 ft) LOA
Beam: 23.23 metres (76.2 ft)
Draft: 8.28 metres (27.2 ft)
Propulsion: Two Shaft Reciprocating VTE steam engine; 25 boilers, 15,000 shp (11,190 kW)
Speed: 18.25 knots (33.8 km/h)
Range: 7,000 nautical miles (13,000 km) @10 knots (19 km/h)
Complement: 860

Mikasa (三笠?) is a pre-Dreadnought battleship, formerly of the Imperial Japanese Navy, launched in Britain in 1900. She served as the flagship of Admiral Tōgō Heihachirō during the Battle of the Yellow Sea on 10 August 1904, and the Battle of Tsushima on 27 May 1905 during the Russo-Japanese War. Currently, she is preserved as a museum ship at Yokosuka. Mikasa is the last remaining example of a pre-dreadnought battleship anywhere in the world. She was named after Mount Mikasa in Nara, Japan.


File:Battleship Mikasa from JFS1906 Cropped.png
Plans showing Mikasa as originally built, from Jane's Fighting Ships 1906-07.
File:Mikasa 12 inch 40 cal gun turret right elevation.jpg
Turret layout for original 12 inch 40 calibre guns

Following the 1894–1895 First Sino-Japanese War, and the forced return of the Liaodong Peninsula to China under Russian pressure, Japan began to build up its military strength in preparation for further confrontations. In particular, Japan promulgated a ten-year naval build-up program, with the construction of six battleships and six armored cruisers at its core.

One of these battleships, Mikasa, was ordered from the Vickers shipyard in Barrow-in-Furness, United Kingdom at the end of 1898, for delivery to Japan in 1902. She took three years to complete, at the great cost of £880,000 (8.8 million yen).

That same year Japan also secured diplomatic and strategic support, by concluding the 1902 Anglo-Japanese Alliance with the world's strongest naval power. The United Kingdom shared Japan's wish to contain Russian expansionism in the Far East, especially to protect its interests in China and India.

A state of the art battleship

File:Japanese battleship Mikasa.jpg
Mikasa as she appeared in 1905

At the time of her delivery, Mikasa was a state of the art vessel of the pre-dreadnought era, achieving an unprecedented combination of firepower and protective strength. She was adapted from the Royal Navy's latest Majestic class design, with increased displacement (15,140 tonnes against 14,900), improved speed (18 knots against 17), slightly stronger armament (two more 6 inch guns), and much stronger armour: she kept the same armour thicknesses but used high performance Krupp armour, around 50% stronger compared to the Harvey armour used by the Majestic class.

Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905

Admiral Togo on the bridge of the Mikasa, before the Battle of Tsushima in 1905.

Her main guns, grouped in armoured turrets in a central position, allowed for the rest of the ship to be evenly protected with the heavy Krupp protective steel plates. Thanks to this design, Mikasa was able to withstand a large number of direct hits: she received around twenty hits during the Battle of the Yellow Sea on 10 August 1904, and around thirty hits during the Battle of Tsushima, with only limited damage. The firepower and the longer range of the guns of Mikasa were also fully exploited by highly trained and effective Japanese gunners.

At Tsushima, Mikasa led the combined Japanese fleet into one of the most decisive naval battles in history. The Russian fleet was almost completely annihilated: out of thirty eight Russian ships, twenty one were sunk, seven captured, six disarmed, 4,545 Russian servicemen died and 6,106 were taken prisoner. On the other hand, the Japanese only lost 116 men and three torpedo boats. But note that the Japanese navy was a highly professional organisation based upon the British Royal Navy; by contrast the Russian navy was ill prepared to fight and crewed largely by landsmen, not seamen. Admiral Togo, the 'Japanese Nelson', himself spent several years with the Royal Navy in Britain.

Historical significance

The performance of the Japanese fleet was observed and analysed by Western powers, and played an important role in the definition of the next generation of battleships (the Dreadnoughts), since the conflict "confirmed the greater efficiency of heavy guns and the importance of long-range gunfire." ("The Battleship Dreadnought" Conway Marine).

Sinking and reconstruction

The new 12" 45-calibre forward guns following the reconstruction, as seen today

Shortly after the peace treaty with Russia was signed, Mikasa sank after a fire and magazine explosion took out a section of hull while in harbor at Sasebo on 11 September 1905. The accident killed 339 crewmen, or approximately three times the number killed in combat during the war and injured some 300 more. The ship settled in 11 metres (36 ft) of water. Extensive efforts were made to salvage the ship, and after repeated attempts, she was refloated on 8 August 1906 and towed to Maizuru Naval Arsenal for repairs.

After two years of repairs which included the replacement of her badly corroded 12-inch 40-calibre main guns by newer longer and hence much more powerful 12-inch 45-calibre guns, Mikasa was recommissioned and restored to active service in 1908.

Late career

However, she soon became obsolete following the development of the dreadnought battleships, and was derated to a second class battleship, then to a third class battleship, and on 1 September 1921, to that of a first class Coastal defence ship.

Mikasa ran aground while patrolling in dense fog in the Askold Channel off the coast of Russia during the Japanese Siberian Intervention in the Russian Civil War on 16 September 1921. She was recovered with the assistance of the Fuji, Kasuga, Yodo, and repaired at Japanese occupied Vladivostok. After her return to Maizuru, her active deployment was terminated, and she was placed in the mothball fleet.

Mikasa was decommissioned following the Washington Naval Treaty of 1921 and scheduled for destruction. However, at the request of the Japanese government, each of the signatory countries to the treaty agreed that the Mikasa be preserved as a memorial ship. On 12 November 1925, Mikasa was put on display in Yokosuka, Japan.

During World War II Mikasa was bombed during various air raids by the USAAF. Following Japan's defeat, the American occupation forces confiscated Mikasa and dismantled her guns, leaving her in very poor state.


A preservation movement resumed in 1958, with United States participation through financial support and the direct involvement of Admiral Chester Nimitz. Restoration work was completed on 27 May 1961, at a cost of 180 million yen. A substantial quantity of the missing parts and fittings were provided from the Chilean Navy battleship Almirante Latorre, which was being scrapped in Japan at the time.

The tourist brochure given to visitors boarding the Mikasa describes the ship as one of the "Three Great Historical Warships of the World", together with Victory in Portsmouth, UK, and Constitution in Boston, USA.

In England, at Barrow-in-Furness where Mikasa was built, there is a street of local shops on Walney Island named Mikasa Street.


See also



  • Memorial Ship Mikasa. Yokosuka: The Mikasa Preservation Society. 
  • Howe, Christopher. The origins of Japanese trade supremacy. Development and Technology in Asia from 1540 to the Pacific War. ISBN 0-226-35485-7. 
  • The Battleship Dreadnought. Conway Marine. ISBN 0-85177-895-X. 
  • Kowner, Rotem (2006). Historical Dictionary of the Russo-Japanese War. Scarecrow. ISBN 0-8108-4927-5. 

External links

Coordinates: 35°17′07″N 139°40′28″E / 35.285229°N 139.674385°E / 35.285229; 139.674385

de:Mikasa (Schiff) es:Mikasa (acorazado) it:Mikasa (nave da battaglia) he:מיקאסה ja:三笠 (戦艦) pl:Mikasa pt:Mikasa (navio) ru:Микаса (броненосец)