IJN Training Cruiser Katori, August 1942

Published: February 3rd, 2012     
Product Image
Box Art
Reviewed by: Luke R. Bucci PhD - IPMS# 33549
Scale: 1/700
Company: Aoshima
Price: $45.00
Product / Stock #: 45411
Product provided by: Dragon Models USA

Bottom Line

Long overdue, new molding for the 1/700 scale IJN Katori training cruiser as she appeared at the beginning of WW2 (August 1942). Excellent detail, excellent fit, accurate appearance. Vast improvement over the previous molds.

History

IJN Katori was the lead ship of a three-ship class of training cruisers designed to replace aging pre-WWI era ex-armored cruisers. After Japan rejected naval treaties in 1937, plans for three new training cruisers were drawn up and construction started in 1938. All ships were built at Mitsubishi Heavy Industries merchant marine yards in Yokohama. A fourth planned ship (Kashiwara) was cancelled in 1941. Katori and her sister ships Kashima and Kashii were named after Shinto shrines, and Katori and Kashima were previously old battleships scrapped in 1923. Katori was commissioned in April 1940. Katori-class training ships had large accommodation areas (up to 275 midshipmen plus 300+ crew), so were designed for quick conversion to area command flagships or depot ships during wartime. They had no armor and were not expected to be front-line fleet warships.

Katori weighed 5800 tons and was armed with two twin 5.5cm turrets, one twin 127mm AA mount, two twin 25mm AA gun mounts, two twin 53cm torpedo tubes, and four 50mm saluting guns. One Kawanishi E7K2 (Alf) floatplane was carried until late 1942. Three boilers fed two turbine diesel sets to turn two propeller shafts. Top speed was 18 knots, slow for a warship. Her sister ships were converted to convoy escort ships in 1944, and the Kashii was lost in January 1945. Kashima survived the war. Katori was on her way to be converted but never made it. Thus, this kit depicts Katori from August 1942 to February 1944.

Katori undertook one training cruise and then became a submarine division flagship in 1941. Katori was at Kwajalein when the war started as flagship of the Sixth Fleet and suffered minor damage when Halsey raided Kwajalein on February 1, 1942. Katori spent 1942 between Truk and Japan as the Sixth Fleet headquarters ship. In August 1942, Katori was refitted to add extra 25mm twin AA guns, and this is the appearance of this model kit. Katori mostly stayed at Truk, and in February 1944 left Truk for Japan as the escort flagship for Convoy 4215. Unfortunately, this was the same day the US Navy decided to raid Truk, and Katori's convoy was attacked by carrier aircraft. Katori was hit by an aerial torpedo on the starboard side, but proceded at reduced speed. That afternoon, Katori and its escorting destroyers met with the US cruisers Minneapolis and New Orleans and several destroyers. After a 40-minute gun battle, Katori was overwhelmed and sank 40 miles northwest of Truk.

What You Get

New tooling with seven sprues containing 128 parts, an ex-Skywave Leviathan IJN weapons sprue, a 6-page foldout instruction sheet, one decal sheet with aircraft markings, a crack-n-peel sheet with two flags, and a metal weight. Aoshima's 1/700 scale IJN Katori is a waterline only kit with the customary red bottom plate that holds metal weights. There are no railings or photoetch. The kit is complete for her August 1942 fit. The hull, decks, and major pieces have a lot of fine detailing, with the hull accurately depicting portholes and degaussing cable. One clear plastic sprue contained bridge windows - a good idea. The kit sprues have a few extra pieces destined for the Kashii and Kashima kits, and plenty of leftover parts from the Leviathan sprue. The hull measures 438.6 feet, very close to the actual 438 feet length. Beam measures 55.1 feet, close to the actual 54.5 feet. By comparison, the old Aoshima Katori-class models came out to 434 feet long and 52.8 feet wide, a little short in both dimensions. Thus, the new Aoshima molds accurately depict the Katori.

The Build

The instructions do not include a history of the ship or indication of what time period it fits. With all the internet resources available today, this is not a problem. Of course, always wash all parts on the sprue in warm soapy water with a thorough rinse. This helps glue and paint adhere better. 20 constructions steps are arranged in subunit assembly fashion, with the hull, deck, and bottom plate assembled in step 13, after which assembled subunits are added to the hull. While this makes sense, my typical building scheme is to get the hull, bottom plate, and main deck finished and then build superstructure assemblies off the assembled deck - the bottom-up approach. Parts fit very well, so I used Tamiya Extra Thin cement for major pieces and cyanoacrylate glues for smaller pieces. The pieces and subassemblies went together very well without any bad fits. Some sanding of seams for superstructure pieces is needed, and the usual cleanup of parts after removal from sprues is not problematic. Unfortunately, because of my travel schedule for work, I carried the kit in progress all over the country and lost a few pieces (mostly masts). I replaced those with Evergreen plastic rod. Some of the pieces are very small, such as the binoculars, and are easy to lose during painting and building. The tall masts are particularly touchy to get straight. Otherwise, this kit is an easy build.

The Kawanishi E7K2 Alf floatplane went together well, but I added a scratchbuilt propeller from plastic strip and Eduard photoetched angled railings for wing struts and float braces (see recent IPMSUSA review for Eduard 45-degree, 2-bar, long angled railing). In addition, I used these railings on the Aztec steps inclined ladders from main to fore deck (next to the funnel), and I scratchbuilt an inclined ladder at the back of the bridge using these railings, too. The floatplane was mounted on a PE trolley assembled and painted long ago. A plastic block would suffice. Otherwise no other aftermarket parts were used.

Painting

The kit instructions do a good job showing what colors go on what parts. I feel it is up to each modeler to pick out the exact paints to use. Since there were not too many parts and some were quite small, I airbrushed most parts on the sprue with Floquil Railroad Colors SP Lark Light Gray enamel, the basic IJN Grey color. Pieces can be touched up by hand after removal from the sprue and assembly. After assembly, I airbrushed the entire hull and deck with SP Lark Light Gray. I am one of those who believe the red bottom plate on just about all 1/700 scale Japanese plastic warship kits is unrealistic and detracts from the appearance of the model. During the war, most vessels were overloaded, and the red underwater hull was seldom visible, and only briefly during heavy seas or hard turns - in other words, not when the ship was level, as waterline kits always are. I sanded the seam between bottom plate and hull smooth (mostly), and airbrushed the hull again with SP Lark Light Gray.

I hand brushed the wood deck color with Tamiya Buff XF-57. I brushed this model by hand because there are many tiny deck fittings. The variability of hand brushing makes the wood deck less monotonous, giving a more realistic look. I painted linoleum superstructure decks with Model Master Enamel Italian Dark Brown 2111 (not one of the many IJN Linoleum paints out there). This paint simply looks better and applies better in 1/700 scale. At this point I filled in all the portholes on all pieces with a drafting pen filled with India ink. If you do not have one of these, using the end of a fine brass or plastic rod will do fine. Brushes are too big.

Canvas bags on main gun turrets, motor launch tops, and undersides of the floatplane were painted with Polly Scale IJN Sky Gray 505280 acrylic, not white as the Instructions recommend. The Kawanishi E7K2 Alf observation floatplane (from the Leviathan sprue) was painted in a two-tone brown/green camouflage pattern, as shown in the book by Cea for the Katori. Any IJN Green will suffice and I used the same linoleum deck color for the brown. Of course, aircraft are about the last thing to install, so they were set aside for later. The funnel top and part of the mainmast were painted Engine Black, another Floquil Railroad color. I used brass to paint the chrysanthemum emblem on the bow, silver for searchlights, and a medium brown (Tamiya Flat Earth XF-52) for boat fenders, bridge grating, and cable reels. A drafting pen with India ink was used to blacken the floatplane cockpits and make boat portholes/windows. Decals were applied to the floatplane using Solvaset - the decals were stiff at first. The flag was peeled off and attached to the stern jack. I used the extra flag for a previously built Kashima model. Very light weathering with light rust from Weather System Rust & Weather Kit #FF-60 by Bragdon Enterprises, Georgetown, CA (www.bragdonent.com) was used on anchors and a few hull places. Since Katori was anchored most of her career and had a large compliment, she was kept in good shape with little chance for rust to accumulate.

Summary

My thanks to Dragon USA Online for the kit and to IPMS/USA for the opportunity to review it. This remold replaces a very old Aoshima kit dating back to the 1970s. I had built the Kashima in the early 1980s, and partly repainted it. This old kit has many serious shortcomings, including a rounded break between fore and main decks, in addition to inaccurate shapes of most pieces. No portholes and no degaussing cable, too. Words cannot describe how much better Aoshima's new Katori is. Even the funnel is drilled out, a rarity in 1/700 plastic ship models.

Pros

  1. Accurate, to-scale "look," detailed hull, superstructure sides, decks, and deck fittings
  2. Very good fit for all major pieces, few seams needed filling - an easy build
  3. Extra parts from Leviathan weapons/fitting sprue
  4. Long overdue and compliments the new line-up of updated IJN kits

Cons

  1. Painting Guide for aircraft not shown in instructions, but Katori usually did not carry her floatplane
  2. Paints are GSI Creos Mr. Color and Aqueous Hobby colors not readily available in US, but many other excellent and accurate paints are easily available
  3. MSRP is rather high for a small cruiser without PE or full hull, but many online stores have lower pricing, making for a decent value

Overall, this kit is a welcome update for the Katori, and looks fine built out of the box. Her sister ships Kashima and Kashii are also available. This kit would benefit from aftermarket and PE pieces (Aoshima makes a small PE set for this class), and a few parts could be replaced with stretched sprue or brass, but all in all, this is an excellent kit and easy to build, assuming you can handle very small pieces.

References

Cea E. Japanese Military Aircraft. The Air Force of the Japanese Imperial Navy. Carrier-based aircraft, 1922-1945 (II), AF Editores, Valaldolic, Spain, 2008. ISBN: 978-84-96935-05-1 [Catalog of floatplanes on all IJN vessels carrying them, including Katori, and their appearances and markings]
Lacroix E, Wells L. Japanese Cruisers of the Pacific War. Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, MD, 1997. ISBN: 0-87021-311-3. [definitive guide for IJN cruisers]
Model Art No. 41 Autumn 2011. Katori class, Hatsuharu class (see IPMSUSA for review and further information).


Photos

  • Photo 1: Finished model of Aoshima 45411 IJN Katori training cruiser as she appeared after August 1942. Her torpedo tubes were never replaced by 5in AA mounts like her sister ships.
  • Photo 2: Starboard aft quarter view of IJN Katori.
  • Photo 3: Overhead view of Aoshima 45411 IJN Katori.
  • Photo 4: Close-up of midships area of IJN Katori showing floatplane with PE struts, boats and bridge.
  • Photo 5: Close-up of bridge showing clear windows on Aoshima 45411 IJN Katori.
  • Photo 6: Side-by-side comparison of early Aoshima Kashima (1944 fit) kit built in early 1980s with retooled Aoshima IJN Katori. Detail and accuracy on the new kit are much better than the old kit.
  • Finished model
    Finished model
  • Starboard aft quarter
    Starboard aft quarter
  • Overhead
    Overhead
  • Midships
    Midships
  • Bridge
    Bridge
  • Comparison with Kashima
    Comparison with Kashima

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