What's the modeler's allure to building WW2 era IJN ships?

What’s the modeler’s allure to building WW2 era IJN ships?

I’m asking out of ignorance having never build an IJN ship model. Am I missing something that’s obvious to others?

I’ve seen several modelers over the years that build (almost) exclusively IJN ships. I’ve seen the same or a similar fascination with German WW2 armor in modeling and understand that fairly well. Likewise with dedicated RAF or Luftwaffe modeling. I also “get” that.

I understand a fair amount of factual information, background & Pacific War sea battles about the IJN like the following:

  • Excellent night gunnery,

  • Long Lance torpedoes, which are deadly to enemy ships and nearly as dangerous to ship armed with them

  • first world class combined carrier operations

  • high speeds,

  • all offensive designs with generally poor damage control ability or practices compared to USN

  • aggressive commanders that often failed in their mission objectives,

  • the frequent tactical trashings delivered by the IJN to the USN at Guadalcanal

  • brutal discipline by western standards

  • Borg like obedience

  • fighting for a lost cause

  • Excellent planning with a near total failure to adapt battle plans or show flexibility after contact with enemy

  • Highly skilled professional officers & sailors lead by the incoherent strategy of incompetent admirals to disaster


Trying to isolate the “sizzle” that makes IJN ship modeling so interesting.

Thank you


Your list has nothing to do with ship building, the Japanese built some really cool looking ships that went to war.



OK, fair enough I listed historical stuff. That’s always been my primer for getting interested etc.

Can you please explain what makes them cool?

1 Like

Japanese ships have a unique design “style”
British ships often have a stepped profile, fo’c’sle deck ending and the “main” deck continuing aft
US ships are often flushdeckers, one unbroken deck line from stem to stern
German ships are often elegant (Prinz Eugen, Scharnhorst) especially when they got the “Atlantic” bow.
Italian and French ships are also mostly beautiful.

Japanese ships have a style of their very own. An s-curve to the stem, a wavy deck in one flowing line from stem to stern, gun turrets look as if they come from an SF-movie and the superstructures also have some kind of “organic” look.

Edit: I had to check and many of the Japanese destroyers had fo’c’sle deck and maindeck (broken deck line).

Some cruisers:

Furutaka class:

Modern day Japanese fishing boat


For me it was the gargantuan superstructures and pagoda masts that first drew my attention. So much complexity, so many layers, levels, ladders, etc. Very interesting subjects to render in scale. I mean just look at Fuso:

Its so bizarre and ungainly but also majestic.

But I also appreciate the flowing curves and elegant proportions of the heavy cruiser designs.


1 Like

I build them because they look so cool. I have been fascinated with the warfare in the Solomons in WW2 that adds some allure to Japanese tin cans for me, but regardless, I just think they look cool.

You could ask the same question of any modeling subject area.

What’s the modeler’s allure to building…

WWII German armor? I don’t see the draw and don’t build them.

Modern jets? Not my cup of tea.

Modern helicopters? Love them.

Cold War US armor?

WWII US Armor?

Etc., etc., etc…

It really all comes down to preference. We all like different subject areas of modeling based on what we like or don’t like.


Certainly true.

Folks usually share why they find a given subject interesting if asked. With most of those topics, the allure is usually pretty obvious to me. IJN ships are not so obvious to me so I appreciate folks pointing out what they specifically like. It’s probably a failure on my part to appreciate as Robin said, “Japanese ships have a style of their very own.”

The towering pagoda super structure on Fuso is an outstanding example. It’s as unique interesting looking feature.

The organic flow likewise a great example.

As are the s-curve to the stem, a wavy deck in one flowing line from stem to stern, gun turrets look as if they come from an SF-movie

Those points are very helpful. Hopefully some additional ones will appear.

There’s a Staatliches Bauhaus look to a lot of the WW2 era German AFV’s & planes that’s appealing to some folks. So I get why some folks like those topics plus the history angle and also why some folks don’t have interest in those topics.

Likewise have had friends that loved NASCAR racing and built basically the same model kit like thirty times with different decals. The passion for NASCAR racing explained the focus on doing the same kit over and over etc.

1 Like

Isn’t this a lovely profile? German Narvik class

French Mogador class (39 knots)

HMS Mashona (Tribal class)

Has a look of power. 36 knots

The IJNS Takao

The bridge complex rises abruptly from the deck which gives the ship a clumsy look, the hull looks as if it is built for offshore racing. A speedboat (ok only 34 knots, still close to destroyer speeds) armed with heavy cruiser guns.

Tashkent, Soviet destroyer leader designed and built in Italy.
Sometimes called the Blue Cruiser because of the cobalt blue livery

“Nominal service speed was 39 knots, but on trials she easily reached and maintained 44.2 knots with force heating.” With that kind of speed she could have chased down most contemporary destroyers. Trials were done without all the armament, with the intended guns she only made 42.5 knots …

1 Like

In one word: availability. I first encountered the IJN in plastic in 1971, prior to that I’d tried to build some cruisers in 1:1200 scale from balsa wood for wargaming (I had only limited information and the results were crude in the extreme but fit for the intended purpose). The kit was a 1:700th Mogami after being rebuilt as a seaplane carrier and I was confused by the scale; I was familiar with Revell 1:720th ship kits although as for many my staple was Airfix 1:600th and Eaglewall 1:1200 kits which had a certain logic to them. 1:700th seemed unnatural, I had not at that point encountered the strange Japanese liking for rounding numbers that so bedevils the study of their naval artillery. It was the only kit in the shop and I thought it an aberration, I was yet to discover that several Japanese manufacturers had agreed to divide up the entire WW2 IJN and produce the models to a common agreed scale. This massive project was supported by huge domestic market and eventually the whole range flooded overseas. The scale was essentially imposed on the rest of the world as other manufacturers sought compatibility and a share of the Japanese market. When larger examples of the same subjects were wanted it was logical to simply double the dimensions and again the world followed. The Japanese market still has not gone away (although I understand it is now dwarfed by the “samurai robot” fetish) and is the driver for more accurate, better detailed renditions of previously kitted subjects. It is also responsible for many kits that rarely travel to the west, although that is less of a problem nowadays to those willing to order direct from Japan. For example, many of the Japanese fleet at Tsushima in 1905 are available in 1:700th, but I have only the Mikasa as it was produced by Hasegawa and so a few odd examples were picked up by my usual U.K stockist. Well, that’s the situation as I see it.



1 Like

Also almost anything built by Italian yards after WW1 (and some of stuff before that such as the Giuseppe Garibaldi-class armored cruisers - ten built of which only three made it to the Italian Navy several years late as the first five were sold overseas while building…) are good looking ships if a bit mechanically suspect. Bartolomeo Colleoni (design speed 37knots, one of class managing 42 knots on trials) was run down by HMAS Sydney (design speed 32.5 knots).



The high speeds of the Italian ships didn’t last long, after a while their top speeds had dropped a bit.
I think “mechanically suspect” sums it up nicely.

1 Like

I don’t really build them, but the back-swept forward funnels on a lot of the Japanese ships is interesting.

Sometimes a book also drives interest. Years ago I subscribed to Warship Intermittent and they ran a series of articles on the Japanese cruisers. Those articles evolved into the book Japanese Cruisers of the Pacific War: LA Croix, Eric, Wells, Linton: 9780870213113: Amazon.com: Books
which is absolutely fantastic. Now that you’ve brought this up it’s making me itch to do a Japanese cruiser model I have in the stash.

For me it is the design too.
They just look stunning, especially the big cruisers. Very elegant looking ships. Those groups of 3 or 4 gun turrets at the bow, just completely different to what everyone else was doing. That’s not to say I don’t like the look Allied warships. Especially late war when they became covered in AA guns and radar of almost every type. And I do like the various disruptive dazzle paint schemes that the RN and USN used. Makes for very colourful and interesting displays.
I’d say my stash of 1/700 ships is roughly equal IJN, Royal Navy and US Navy. A couple of Kriegsmarine too.

1 Like

I have considered starting into the IJN because of the designs. I used to stand and stare at all the 1/700 stuff when I was young but never bought any as I was still obsessed by 1/48 aircraft and the Prehistoric Scenes kits pumped out by Aurora.

I like those designs where they converted ships into carriers.

Their “look” and their history especially the cruisers and carriers. I also really like the look of the British carriers from the between wars period Eagle etc. tho only the Hermes is available

With the IJN’s Kongo, I can see a lot of cool with the front half of the ship that really rocks. Its like alternative British. The aft part from the main gun turrets onward also looks great but that after superstructure in the middle is a just a puke in appearance in my opinion. Likewise the casement guns ruin an other excellent hull line.

IJN Mogami does look better.

What you need to remember is the Kongo class were designed in Britain with Kongo being also built in British yards, all of them completed during WWI as Battlecruisers for the Japanese Navy. Between the wars Japan carried out refits on them and reclassified them as Battleships. By WWII a lot of the battleline in the British, American, Italian and Japanese navies were of WWI or just after vintage although in nearly all cases modified between the wars some heavily.

My interest lays not in a particular nations ships as such but in a type or a ships involvement in a particular battle, which may be reinforced after reading a book or books. An example of this is reading the book ‘Last stand of the tin can sailors’

The story of the selfless bravery (and sacrifice) of the little Tin cans (destroyer and destroyer escorts) that stood in the way of the Japanese fleet from sinking Taffy 3 at Leyte Gulf. I have built USS Hoel DD-533 and have the parts to build the other two destroyers however there are no models of the DE’s in 1/350.
Another book that has given me inspiration is Eyes of the fleet,

A fascinating combination of stories from the seaplane tenders in the Pacific.

As to the original question concerning the IJN ships I will build them as a counter point to my Allied ships so when shown on a club stand it shows the opposition. On my display plinths all the Allied ships face Left and all the Axis face Right.

1 Like

More than one factor for me.

As MoramarthT mentioned, Back in the 1960-70s, there were very few ship models made to a common scale by western model companies, and they were almost all carriers and battleships. IJN ships of all types, from destroyers and submarines to battleships and carriers, were released in the standardized - if indecipherable - scale of 1/700. Very appealing.

IJN produced some beautiful vessels.

They also built some uglies, but they all had a unique, exotic look.

Several of the topics you listed:

  • Excellent night gunnery,
  • Long Lance torpedoes
  • first world class combined carrier operations
  • high speeds
  • frequent tactical thrashings delivered by the IJN upon the Allies beginning in February, 1942, Battle of Badung Strait (although the very first surface action, Battle of the Balikpanan, was a resounding USN victory).

Ultimately, the USN vs IJN naval war was the main event of WW2 naval warfare. Royal Navy vs Regia Marina in the Mediterranean had some serious periods, and the Battle of the Atlantic was pivotal in defeating Germany, but they did not have the continuous frequent fights seen in the Pacific from January, 1942-Nov. 1943.

So, for me, IJN is pretty cool.