Naval Yard 1/500 HIJMS Mogami
Review by Felix Bustelo
The Mogami was the lead ship of a four-vessel class of cruisers that were constructed between 1935 and 1937. These ships were originally classified as light cruisers with 15 6-inch guns in five triple-turrets. According to the terms of the Washington Treaty of 1930, Japan could not build any additional 8-inch gunned ships but could construct 6-inch gunned ships.
The Mogami class ships were designed with barbettes that could accommodate both triple 6-inch and twin 8-inch turrets, so it was intended from the beginning to upgrade these ships to heavy cruisers at some point. Since these ships were to be heavy cruisers in the guise of a light cruiser, the initial armor plating requirement made it impossible to keep the total displacement within the 8,500 ton treaty limit, even with the use of welding as a weight saving measure. After the collapse of the treaty limitations in the mid- 1930s, the planned upgrade to 8-inch guns was implemented and the hulls were strengthened by replacing the welding with riveted plates and fitting larger bulges.
The Mogami and her sisters formed the 7th Cruiser Squadron and saw considerable actions in the early part of the war. The Mogami and Mikuma sank the cruisers USS Houston and HMAS Perth of f the island of Batavia on February 28/March 1, 1942. The Mogami was part of the Japanese naval force present at the Battle of Midway. In an effort to evade the submarine USS Tambour, the Mogami rammed the Mikuma inflicting serious damage to both ships. On the next day, the limping Mogami was further damaged by aircraft from the carriers Yorktown, Hornet and Enterprise. She survived the Battle of Midway and arrived at the Sasebo Naval Yard on August 11, 1942 for repairs. While repairs were being done, it was decided to convert the Mogami into an "aircraft cruiser". The conversion called for removal of her two aft 8-inch turrets and the placement of a large aircraft deck fitted with two catapults. The hybrid cruiser/carrier would carry 11 E16A1 "Paul" floatplanes. Additional anti-aircraft, HA fire control equipment and an air search radar were fitted. The conversion lasted until April 1943, but the Mogami had to return to the yard after she was damaged again off of Rabaul on November 5, 1943. The Mogami participated in the Battle of Leyte Gulf where she was damaged by gunfire from the cruisers Louisville, Portland and Denver in the Surigao Straits. She was damaged again after colliding with the cruiser Nachi and U.S. carrier aircraft. She was finally scuttled with a torpedo from the destroyer Akebono.
I have always liked the design of Imperial Japanese Navy cruisers, with their raked funnels conveying a sense of slick speed and the multiple turrets raw power. While there is a wide selection on subjects available in tiny 1/700 scale, the offerings in the larger 1/500 scale is limited to the kits of Takao and Myoko class vessels from Nichimo models. You can now add the Mogami in her unique cruiser/carrier hybrid fit to this list thanks to The KazusaMinato Naval Yard, a small Japanese producer of resin 1/500 scale Imperial Japanese Navy kits. They also produce a kit of her sister ship, the Mikuma, in the original five turret fit. The kit of the Mogami, based on my in-box evaluation, has its share or pros and cons.
The kit can be constructed as either a full-hull or a waterline model. The hull comes in two pieces. The bottom section is the optional portion below the waterline. This piece captures the shape of the lower hull, with the torpedo bulges and rounded bow. Small locator holes, which need to be drilled out a little, are present for the twin rudders and the bilge keels are well done. The next level up is the main deck section, which would be the lower section if you decided to build a waterline version. The level of horizontal surface detail is good and captures the linoleum tiled decking very well. There are some casting voids in the decks, especially in the corners of the deck hatches, which are actually raised smooth surfaces. Occasionally there are some small pinholes in the decks that need to be filled and sanded. It should be noted that there are some shallow locator holes at points on the deck to properly place the barbettes, so don't confuse these for blemishes. The superstructure elements and barbettes are separate parts, which makes painting easier.
Dry fitting the hull pieces reveal that filling and sanding will be required to hide the seams in the joints. When stacked up, the model captures the sleekness of the Mogami class hull profile. Both parts have pour plugs on the starboard bow that need to be removed and sanded smooth. While the horizontal details are done well enough, the vertical faces of the hull parts are smooth and have no portholes or other details. The locations of the portholes will have to be determined by the modeler and then drilled out.
The remaining 57 parts included the large aircraft deck, the levels of the tall bridge superstructure, the 8-in turrets and barbettes, the open housings for the 5-inch secondary guns, the funnel and smaller items like gun tubs, fire control directors, anchors, rudders, propellers and the propeller shaft supports. The different levels of the bridge structure have to be stacked up like tiers on a wedding cake. Similarly to the hull/deck parts, the horizontal detailing is good but again there are no portholes or most other vertical details. Some of the parts have casting plugs that need to removed and sanded smooth. The searchlight towers are solid cast resin parts with the bracing reproduced well but it looks like a part you would find in an old injection molded kit. I am not sure if the modeler is instructed to somehow hollow this to make it look better but I would substitute this with photoetch or that a scratchbuilt replacement.
What are conspicuously missing from the kit are the boats, aircraft, anti-aircraft guns and searchlights. Based on what I could make out on the KasuzaMinato website using the Altavista translation utility, a set of boats on various kinds is sold separately that can equip more than one model. I am not certain if the other parts are available as sets as well, but I will check with the proprietor of the KazusaMinato Naval Yard. I would highly recommend that they include these parts in the kit because I feel that the model is not complete without them and this is not common practice with other resin kit producers. Another option is to either raid a Nichimo kit or make home resin cast duplicates of the parts you need from a suitable kit.
This kit does not come with any photoetch parts, but there are some aftermarket sources. Gold Medal Models and Tom's Modelworks both produce a 1/500 scale IJN Cruiser set which include some parts specific for Mogami class ships, as well as more general items. The Tom's Modelworks set has detail parts for the Mogami in this "aircraft cruiser" fit. The kit also does not have the gun barrels for the 8-inch nor the 5-inch guns so you will have to fashion these from suitable rod and tubing.
The instructions are comprised of two sheets in Japanese but with adequate visuals to help overcome any language barrier that you may encounter. Images of the kits parts are mapped to a numbered key appear on the first page. This serves as a cross-reference to exploded diagrams of the subassemblies on the second page. If there are any painting references or assembly notes I cannot tell as they are in Japanese if they are present. While the assembly instructions are a good basis, I would highly recommend acquiring other reference materials. Pacific Front Hobbies carries a line of plans produced by Miyukikai (Myco) which includes a set for the Mogami in her unique 1944 fit.
If I had to sum this kit up, I would describe it as a "builders"
model, which is a term I think is used for kits which provide you with
the basics but requires some scratchbuilding and photoetch from other sources
to complete. If you are a fan of Imperial Japanese Navy subjects and are
looking for something new in 1/500 scale then you would consider buying
this kit. The price tag is hefty, with 20,000 Yen converting to about $161
US depending on the exchange rate. For this price, I would have expected
that the omitted items such as the boats, floatplanes and anti-aircraft
guns to be included. This model certainly has the potential to be made
into an excellent model, but it will require looking for alternative sources
for or scratchbuilding the missing parts and it will test your modeling
skills. My thanks to KazusaMinato Naval Yard for providing this review
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