Take a tour of the 114-year-old Japanese battleship Mikasa

The Japanese battleship Mikasa is 114 years old, and the only pre-dreadnought battleship left in the world. It's now a museum ship near Tokyo. Here's an inside (and outside) look.

Geoffrey Morrison
Geoffrey Morrison is a writer/photographer about tech and travel for CNET, The New York Times, and other web and print publications. He's also the Editor-at-Large for The Wirecutter. He has written for Sound&Vision magazine, Home Theater magazine, and was the Editor-in-Chief of Home Entertainment magazine. He is NIST and ISF trained, and has a degree in Television/Radio from Ithaca College. His bestselling novel, Undersea, and its sequel, Undersea Atrophia, are available in paperback and digitally on Amazon. He spends most of the year as a digital nomad, living and working while traveling around the world. You can follow his travels at BaldNomad.com and on his YouTube channel.
Geoffrey Morrison
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IJN Mikasa

The battleship Mikasa. Embedded in the pier, it still looks impressive for a 114-year-old ship. You can see the crossroads of naval design, with aspects from the ships from the late 1800s, and some that would continue into the 20th century.

For the full story behind the tour, check out Japan's 114-year-old battleship Mikasa: A relic of another time.

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From behind it doens't look nearly as much like a 20th century fighting vessel. The doors and deck are part of the Admiral's cabin.

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On board

Climb the stairs and the first thing you see are two of the Mikasa's four 12-inch guns. Having big guns like these on a turret was a fairly new invention.

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Rear deck

The restoration work throughout the ship is impressively done. I'm pretty sure this isn't a 114-year-old wooden deck, for instance.

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View forward

Here's one of the main examples of how ship designs changed. Newer battleships have walkways along the edge of the ship, with the superstructure taking up the rest of the space. Here the center is more like a sailing ship, with wide open deckspace between various above-deck rooms.

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Radio radio

A Type 36 Wireless Telegraph, state of the art for its day. It could transmit about 80 nautical miles or 150km.

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Loading cannons

A few crewmen loading one of the 6-inch guns.

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Port side

Along both sides of the ship these 3-inch guns were semi-protected. You could see some of the last vestiges of sailing ships here; these seeming like the broadside cannons of old.

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Big guns

Conversely, these could have been taken from a far more modern battleship. Big guns in a turret.

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When secured to (and becoming part of) the dock, the Mikasa pointed north toward the Imperial Palace out of respect for their Emperor.

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In a way it's like looking at a Model T. You can draw the line from there to the Ford Focus, but the specifics are obviously a lot older. For instance, check out the Iowa or Missouri.

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Rooms on deck

The two main rooms on the upper level were, I believe, once the crew mess (the signs were in Japanese). Today both show historical videos about the ship.

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Upper deck

Stacks and air intakes. The "roof" on the left is the area above the 3-inch guns. Additional guns would have been here, along with life boats (as we'll see later).

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Well-sheltered during battle, the sailors driving the ship didn't have much of a view out, but then, they didn't need it.

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At the top of the ship was the bridge (left) and chart room (right).

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When not in battle, there were far better views from up here. The copper tubes connected the bridge to other important parts of the ship, like the engine room. Just shout and your voice would bounce its way down. This is still common on many more modern ships, since it's simple and works without power.

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Chart room

The location and course of the ship would be charted here. The rows of material on the top left are flags for semephore.

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Bigger ships

While I was there, a massive cargo ship was getting loaded with row upon row of new cars. They drive them on, and they don't drive slowly.

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Topgallant forecastle

Above the bridge, offering nearly unobstructed views, the Admiral would send orders for his fleet.

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Range Finder

This bizarre-looking device is a coincidence rangefinder.

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From here it could be any boat of its era, which is interesting since newer battleships look like war machines from every angle.

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Round room

Note the bunker under the stairs.

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The mirror image to the bunker near the bow, minus the controls of course.

Pretty sure this was used for more than just storage of a fire extinguisher.

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View out

Not that the person steering needed to see out, but this is the view through the slits.

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Rear navigation

"Captain, we don't seem to be moving."

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Main deck

Downstairs from the upper deck, the Main deck has an entirely different feel.

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Though some of the cabins have been restored, most of this deck has been converted to museum space.

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On one hand, you're in a museum, on the other... there's the end of a 6-inch gun.

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Because there are no more engines (and no more engine room), this room was set up with images and a video about the massive reciprocal steam engine. The Mikasa had about 15,000 horsepower, which could push it through the water at 18 knots.

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Though the open gate was tempting, I was told all that's down below was a few storage rooms.

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Accommodating accommodation

The furniture is far more lush than other ships I've been on, save the Warrior.

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Dinner for many

This is one of the biggest rooms on the Main deck. Officers would eat here, as you probably guessed.

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No roll

It's a nice touch that the edge of the bed has a high lip so the men wouldn't roll out in high seas.

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This is certainly one of the more stylish bathrooms I've seen on any naval vessel.

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Admiral's sleeping chamber

Though the other officers certainly had nice digs, the Admiral had the nicest, of course.

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Captain's saloon

This was basically the captain's office.

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Admiral's saloon

Where the Admiral and his staff held meetings and held official meals. It was where Rear Admiral Nebogatoff offered his surrender after the Battle of the Sea of Japan.

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Admiral's cabin

As you'd expect, the Admiral's cabin is the nicest on the ship.

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Office and more

Generally this is where the Admiral would do his paperwork.

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Out for a stroll

He could also step out onto his private deck at the rear of the ship. This would definitely not exist on a modern warship.

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The galley for the officers and staff.

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The center of the Main deck is dedicated museum space. The crest you see in the center is the original from the Mikasa.

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Displays and artifacts

There are also maps and descriptions of the different battles the Mikasa was in, as well as other artifacts from the era.

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Famous ships

In prime position, there were three models of three famous historical museum ships. The Mikasa, the Constitution, and the Victory (which I toured last year).

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A ship not at sea

The Mikasa is an important link from a historical standpoint between the iron-clad sailing and steam ships of the 1800s (of which there are a few still surviving) and the modern warships of the 1900s (of which there are many available to tour). Very cool to see.

For the full story behind the tour, check out Japan's 114-year-old battleship Mikasa: A relic of another time.

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