Mikasa! The name of the mighty Japanese battleship will be as familiar to the world’s naval historians as it is now to viewers of NHK’s Sunday evening drama “Saka no Ue no Kumo” (“Clouds Over the slope”). It was the Mikasa that all but decided the fate of the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05, when it led a devastating attack on the Russian fleet in the Battle of Tsushima — a battle set to be played out with due dramatic bluster in the final episode of the NHK TV series next week.

But the Mikasa’s much celebrated triumph at sea over a century ago has almost been overshadowed by a subsequent history of on-again, off-again efforts to have the ship preserved. In the past, lack of funds, international treaty agreements and simple forgetfulness have been responsible for the old steel-hulled ship falling into disrepair — and even being threatened with scrapping. And yet, on every occasion that such a crisis has emerged, a group of supporters has risen up to fight for the ship’s preservation. Perhaps surprisingly, that community has been led on two occasions — in the 1920s and 1950s — by staff and readers of The Japan Times.

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