Aoshima 1/700 IJN Battleship Nagato 1927, Kit # WL 124 
Reviewed January 2016
by Dan Kaplan
Given rapid developments in Western capital ship design, subsequent naval expansion programs, and Japan’s own expanding empire in the early 20th century, the Japanese government instituted its own naval expansion program known as the Eight-Eight Program in 1907.  A cohesive battle line of eight modern battle ships and battle cruisers was authorized, but subsequently revamped in 1911, after the launches of HMS Dreadnought and HMS Invincible cast all then current Japanese capitol ship construction as obsolete.  Nagato and sister Mutsu were the third class/pair of battleships authorized under the revised program, after the Fuso (2) and Ise (2) classes. 
The revamping of the initial 8-8 program allowed for continual improvements in the original Fuso class design based on construction and operational experience with both those ships and the following Ise class. Considered a super-dreadnought, the Nagatos were the first battleships in the world completed with a 16” gun main battery. They were also the first Japanese battleships to incorporate the “all or nothing” armor scheme favored by the USN. Also new was an enhanced underwater system of protection against mines and torpedoes.

Propulsion was from a mix of oil and coal fired boilers feeding four geared steam turbines, each driving a propeller. Hull design and power was such that she achieved a top speed 26.7 knots on trials, easily six knots faster than the corresponding battle line of the USN. Her forward bridge superstructure was an enhanced version of the heavy tripod of earlier classes. It was constructed of seven legs for additional stiffness and stability, in order to support the 10m heavy main battery director mounted on top with a minimum of vibration.

A Very Brief History
Named after the Japanese province of Nagato, Nagato (??) was laid down at the Kure Naval Arsenal Shipyard on August 28, 1917. She was commissioned into service on November 25, 1920, the first battleship in the world to enter service with a main battery of 16 inch/41cm guns. She was designated fleet flagship and, together with her sister Mutsu, she comprised Battleship Division One until the start of WWII. 

After the devastation caused by the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, BatDiv One was used to transport large amounts of supplies to survivors. She also hosted several domestic and foreign dignitaries during her initial decade of service.

She was given several modest refits over the next few years in order to improve aspects of her performance. In 1922, a smoke deflector was installed on # 1 funnel in order to keep the bridge clear of smoke, particularly at high speeds. Unfortunately, the arrangement was found unsatisfactory and from late 1924 into early 1925, the entire fore funnel was rebuilt as an S curve, with the top of the funnel now placed further aft. This arrangement was considered satisfactory, and kept until Nagato underwent a complete modernization and rebuild a decade later. 

Her AA suite was originally comprised of four Type 3 3inch/76mm High Angle guns, later increased to seven mounts in 1926. These were replaced by four twin mount Type 89 12.7cm AA in 1932.  She was also fitted with eight 21inch/53cm torpedo tubes, four per side, two of which were fixed and below the waterline.  The above waterline tubes were removed in 1926 as well.  The underwater tubes remained until her modernization of 1934-36.

Nagato gained a floatplane and flying off platform in 1925, but the platform was considered unsatisfactory and removed the following year. Instead, a large handling boom was installed attached to the mainmast. The floatplane was lifted on and off the ship for operations. This arrangement was discontinued in 1933 when a catapult was installed. 

She underwent a complete modernization in the mid 1930s that changed her appearance with a clipper bow, a reduction to one funnel (due to the changeover to all oil fired boilers), greater length, and a built-up bridge tower, among other changes. Armor was improved, as was her main battery, her AA suite, fire controls and a host of other details. The onset of war eventually brought upon more changes in AA and electronic detection devices. Despite numerous combat sorties, her only real actions occurred during the Battle of the Philippine Sea and at Leyte Gulf in 1944. Ultimately, she was the only Japanese battleship to survive the war afloat, and was eventually expended as part of US  postwar nuclear tests at Bikini Atoll in 1946. 

The Kit

Having been fleet flagship of the IJN for twenty years, Nagato has been held in high degree of veneration by the Japanese, much as has been Yamato. Accordingly, 1/700 kits of Nagato just may be as prolific from Japanese kit makers as those of Yamato.  Aoshima released the original waterline version of Nagato back in the 1970s, then the same kit with photo etch over several iterations, and subsequently, a new tooled version incorporating greater accuracy and detail in 2008. Fujimi began releasing its own 1/700 kits of Nagato in late 2009.

Since then, Aoshima has released several versions in different fits, often with improved and revised parts, in part to combat the several new releases from Fujimi. As of this writing, I count no less than ten versions from Fujimi, and eight from Aoshima, in various fits from 1941 through 1945, in both waterline and full hull configurations.

There is also the now rare, but well regarded, resin version of Nagato from Waveline, in mid 1920’s fit. Nor does the kit count from Aoshima include two kits that present Nagato in earlier configurations, that of 1927, and 1933. 

Released in 2012, this particular kit depicts Nagato in 1927, in perhaps the most prominent of her early configurations.  This is not her as-completed configuration, but her appearance after her first extensive refit in 1924, in which she featured an unusual, swept back S-curve modification to the upper portion of her #1 funnel in an effort to keep stack gases away from the bridge structure.  It was a unique and distinctive change for both her and her sister that remained in place until her modernization in 1934-36. (Note:  the only substantial difference in fit between the 1927 and 1933 kit versions is the addition of a catapult and a change to her AA battery, from four single mount 76mm/3” guns to four of the new twin Type 89 12.7cm dual purpose mounts.) 

This kit is very sharply molded in light gray styrene with a clean finish and no soft edges or details.  The kit details seem scaled particularly well.

Hull (Sprue A)
It’s a one piece hull with fine details, particularly the blunted bow worn by Nagato and Mutsu as completed, raised hull plating seams, sharply creased and recessed casemates for the secondary battery, the armor belt  (which is noticeable, but not over scale, protruding just so, with a defined edge),  and the fairleads at the bow and stern.   There are also nicely sized portholes, with the now omnipresent porthole eyebrows. Thankfully, the eyebrows are miniscule, easier to feel than to see, and crisply finished. Unexpectedly, my kit had some small sinkholes on either side of the bow, close to the waterline. While not hard to fill with modeling putty, care must be taken not to diminish or eliminate the raised hull seams.

Something that I believe unique to this kit (and the 1933 version kit, which shares the same hull), is the molding of the numbers one and four main barbettes as a raised extension of the hull stiffeners, and not as part of the main deck. The main decking fits over and around the barbettes. I like this feature, as it allows for a cleaner deck should one want to paint it separately. 

The hull scales out incredibly well. Overall length and width were close enough to be spot-on, despite my listing them slightly over. Only the waterline length was discernibly under, but by a bare .5mm. Nagato’s (1927) particulars versus the scale and kit:
Overall Length:  215.8m/708’ 1/700 OA length: 308.29mm Kit OA length: 308.5mm
Waterline Length: 213.6m/700’9” 1/700 WL length: 305.14mm  Kit WL length: 304.5mm
Beam:  28.96m/95’3” 1/700 Beam: 41.37mm  Kit Beam: 41.5mm

Hull-Forward-sm Hull-Overhead-sm Hull-side-sm
Sprue B
This sprue holds the main deck, the larger, forward 01 deck that includes the number two main barbette and casemates for the secondary battery’s upper tier of 14cm mounts, several levels of platforms for the ship’s bridge superstructure, the main battery director, and the upper portion of the main mast. 

The main deck shows raised seams for the wood planking that run for its entire length, save for some anchor chafing plates forward. It has molded-on anchor chain, some prominent mooring bits, and some deck equipment. There’s also a large hole for the number one barbette to pass through. The details are very crisply rendered, and the relative lack of deck equipment will make for easier than usual masking and painting of the deck, should one choose to do so.

The 01 deck has four access ladders, and they are an improvement of the usual Aztec stair approach, though many will want to replace these with PE versions. Still, these are better than what one usually finds as a molded-on detail.

Sprue-B-right-closeup-sm Sprue-B-sm
Sprue C 
This sprue contains the aft main deck and the wood deck planking for the aforementioned forward 01 level.  The raised planking seams are still sharp, and there is a minimum of deck clutter.  The main deck also has a pass through hole for the number four main barbette.  Sprue-C-sm
Sprue E
This a clear plastic sprue that holds several clear window sections for the bridge deck platforms that are part of the multi-legged structure, and searchlights (8). I believe these are meant to be 90cm searchlights.  Sprue-E-sm
Sprue F
Is a full length flat bottomed waterline plate with a molded, open bay with sides to hold waterline weights that are included with the kit.  Also included on the sprue is a small section of the 01 level superstructure, two main turret rangefinders, and some hull fittings. Sprue-F-sm
Sprue G
The eight 16.1”/41cm 45 cal main barrels are held here, as are three auxiliary pipes that are part of funnel #1. Again, the barrels are very nicely done for plastic, with recessed apertures, a small flare to the muzzle, and very small blast bags. (As often as not, photographs of this feature from this time period show tightly wrapped, low silhouette blast bags.)  Fine detailing also applies to the auxiliary piping. 

My photos do not do proper justice to the barrels.  They appear leaner when actually in hand.

Sprue H
Holds a small planked deck that lies on top of the aft 01 superstructure, all the halves of both funnels, the tripod base and starfish shaped main platform of the mainmast, the funnel grills, a small searchlight platform that is attached to the main mast tripod, and some small fittings, including some booms. The unique shape of the forward funnel has been nicely captured while number two funnel has beautifully molded auxiliary piping.  Some nicely detailed and scaled pulleys are attached to the boom and mainmast. Sprue-H-sm
Sprue I x 2
This is primarily a weapons sprue, with two of the 16”/41cm turrets, turret bottoms and base plates, plus ten of the 14cm guns of the secondary battery. Also included are anchors, ship’s boats (including an admiral’s barge), davits, small rangefinders, four of the legs that support the bridge tower structure, and a funnel grill.

The turrets are very nicely detailed, the 14cm mounts are one piece with molded blast bags, and the funnel grill is open (as opposed to solid) and surprisingly fine for injection plastic. Anyone who doesn’t use PE funnel grills will be very pleased to use the kit part. 

Sprue-I-funnel-closeup-sm Sprue-I-sm Sprue-I-turret-closeup-sm
Sprue J x 2

Each holds another two of the main turret based rangefinders, four (4) single mount, 76mm Type 3 AA guns, the components of one of the Yokosuka EY1Y floatplane assigned to the ship, and a navigation rangefinder platform.  I think the AA mounts superbly detailed for injection plastic, and the aircraft shows fabric covered ribbing on the wings.

Sprue K
This sprue is comprised of several platform levels of the forward bridge as well as the aft extension of the main deck that sits atop the aft (and one deck lower) main deck. This aft structure includes the number three main turret barbette. Also on the sprue is the open latticework structure that supports the fore funnel and some more main turret rangefinders. These pieces are not listed as part of the instructions, so, I’m guessing these are used for a later iteration; perhaps the 1933 kit, or even one of the later versions.  Sprue-K-left-sm
Sprue-K-right-sm Sprue-K-sm
Polyurethane sleeve caps
A set of four is provided for those who want their main battery to turn freely. Polyurethane-caps-sm
Decal Sheet
The decal sheet is pretty simplistic, consisting of different sized hinomarus for the aircraft, and a black range clock for the surface of the corresponding plastic dial affixed to the rear of the mainmast.  That’s actually a thoughtful provision.

Also included is the ubiquitous paper Japanese flag sheet. This is a hopelessly outdated notion; better to be replaced with more realistic aftermarket flag decals. 

Waterline Ballast x 2
The typical metal plate is included. Waterline-weights
This consists of one large sheet printed front and back, then folded into eight pages. Three of the pages portray the usual b & w reprint of the cover art, a brief ship’s history in Japanese and English, plan and line drawing views with color callouts for painting, and some guidelines to assembly. The rest of the pages show a step-by-step progression of assembly using exploded, three point perspective illustrations.
Instructions-1 Instructions-2 Instructions-3

Japanese battleships continue to fascinate many modelers, and this particular iteration will certainly provide a great deal of satisfaction to those same modelers, especially if interested in the interwar period.  While the kit’s fit remains to be seen, it would appear to present a beautifully molded and nicely detailed model right out of the box.  The layout of the planked decking will greatly ease painting. Attention to the proper scaling of its parts is noteworthy as well. 

My sense is that Aoshima meant to aim true with a unique version of Japan’s venerable flagship and, in my opinion, they have done exactly that. 

Thanks to Aoshima for the review sample. Suggested MSRP in the US appears to be $39.95