Yokosuka - Battleship Mikasa and Navy Curry


Yokosuka has been known as the largest naval port in Japan and serves now as the most important naval base in Japan for both the United States Navy and the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force. Yokosuka is destined to be a major naval base, because it is located at the mouth of Tokyo Bay and vital for the defense of the capital. Already the Tokugawa Shogunate (1603-1867) started to build its defense facilities in the area of the present Yokosuka city, though they could not hinder Commodore Perry to penetrate into the depth of the Bay and to land on Kurihama, now a part of Yokosuka city.

There are numerous literatures on the military aspect of the history of Yokosuka and I do not want to go into the details of the history of Yokosuka. I want to introduce in this essay two attractions of Yokosuka, Battleship Mikasa and navy curry, as I recently visited a concert held in Yokosuka and made use of a few hours of free time for sightseeing.

Battleship Mikasa

Mikasa was the flagship of the Japanese Imperial Fleet when it defeated the Russian Baltic Fleet during the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905) under the command of Admiral Togo (1848-1934).

As it was a very significant naval victory in the naval history of Japan, the decision was made to preserve Mikasa as a memorial ship after its retirement. Then Mikasa was dismantled of its bridges, masts, guns, funnels and other constructions following the defeat of Japan in WWII and left in the devastated condition for years. However, the appeal movement began to the restore Mikasa and with donations collected from a wide range of Japanese people as well as cooperation from the US Navy and its Commander Admiral Nimitz, the restoration was completed in 1961.

Left: Mikasa seen from the stern - Right: head with the crest of the Imperial House

Admiral Togo



Admiral Togo was elevated to a "gunshin"(1) after his death, though he himself had strongly opposed to it, and enshrined in Togo Jinja. Togo Jinja is still very popular, but not as a stronghold of the Japanese navy but as a place for wedding and wedding party. Bar Espion which often appears on this site is a facility attached to the wedding hall of Togo Jinja.

(1)It is a tradition to enshrine strong personalities as "kami" after their death. The word "Kami" is usually translated as "god", but there is a decisive difference between the concepts about god and kami and I find it better to keep the word "kami" here in order to avoid unnecessary misunderstanding.

Mikasa was launched in the UK in 1900. Japan did not possess capability to build world class battleships at the time and the Japanese Navy had to buy its weapons abroad. Mikasa is not large nor high-tech equipped from the present standard (2). The wireless communication equipment (36-model) for example looks very simple and does not use even vacuum tubes, but it could play a decisive role 110 years ago. Guns possessed the world highest performance and the vessel was covered with the highly resilient Krupp armor. Mikasa and other Japanese ships were manned with well-trained crew.

(2)Displacement:15,140 tons; Length: 131.67m; Main guns: 4*12-inch 40 calibers guns

The victory of the Russo-Japanese War marked the success of the Japanese "rich country and strong army" policy it pursued since the opening of the country in the late 19th century. But, Japanese leaders did not draw correct lessons from the victory. They came to think that large high-performance battleships were decisive and overlooked the role of aircrafts and the value of well-trained soldiers.

It seems very difficult to draw useful conclusions from success. Success only makes people impossible to switch from the conventional paradigm to a new one. I cannot help thinking that the present Japanese people are also captured by their success experiences in the 1970s and 1980s and do not want to change paradigm.

Navy Curry

Navy curry: Curry with beef and vege, salad, milk, cooked rice and fukujinzuke pickles

Pour curry over rice before eating

Souvenir shop is filled up with curry goods.

Curry mascot "Sucurry"
I tried "Yokosuka navy curry" for lunch. As I explained in the other article "curry rice" is a quasi-national dish in Japan. There is a wide spread understanding that curry rice became popular through military. Though this understanding cannot be verified in convincing manner, Yokosuka intends to make use of this understanding in marketing its image as navy town. According to the explanation by seemingly Yokosuka-biased sources, curry rice was first introduced to the Japanese Navy from the British Navy. Then around the time of the Russo-Japanese War curry rice was adopted by the Yokosuka Naval District in its menu in order to provide sailors with well nutrition balanced meals and prevent beriberi. It is true that the Japanese Navy made it a rule to take curry rice on Fridays and Maritime Self Defense Force still follows this custom.

As curry dish has such a tradition in the navy, the "navy curry" dish is in a sense typically old-fashioned Japanese style curry. Its taste is rather dull and curry dish is accompanied with a glass of milk and a portion of salad, as MSDF serves sailors with such side dishes.

I did not have courage to try the standard "navy curry" menu, as it did not look appetizing and I do not like beef, the standard ingredient of "navy curry". I instead ordered "katsu curry" as "katsu" is made of pork and asked extra to serve it with "hot" curry source.

The taste of "katsu curry" was average. I would recommend "katsu curry" of Kitchen Nankai if somebody wants to try "katsu curry". However, the standard "navy curry" was worse. It tasted exactly like the sweet child curry: we have specially mild and sweet types of curry menu for the immature tongue of children.

Anyhow, beginning with "navy curry" Yokosuka tries to sell the town with curry in all kinds. There are curry chocolate, curry cookie, curry sea weed, curry drops, curry cake and so on. I checked "curry chocolate". It tastes much more like curry roux than chocolate. The taste can in no way convince me but "curry chocolate" can make a good topic of conversation.

Curry chocolate