by: Russ Amott [ ]
In 1908 the Royal Navy launched a new Dreadnaught battleship, the HMS Invincible. Armed with eight 12 inch guns and able to reach speeds of 26 knots, she and the ships that followed rendered all battleships, both serving and planned, obsolete. As a result, Japan initiated a new building program based on Royal Navy designs, to modernize her own navy. A new class of battle cruisers were ordered, the Kongo class, designed by Sir George Thurston of the British Vickers-Armstrong shipbuilders.
The Kongo class was an impressive design for the time. Primary armament was eight 14 inch (36cm) guns. Secondary armament was sixteen 6 inch (203mm) guns in single casemates, four 75mm anti-aircraft guns and eight 21 in (53cm) torpedo tubes submerged on the hull. Kirishima, third of the Kongo Class, was laid down 17 March 1912, launched 1 December 1913 and commissioned 19 April 1915, constructed by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in a landmark effort to enable Japan to build her own ships. Though the design was British, most of the parts were manufactured in Japan.
Kirishima was launched during the First World War but was limited to patrol duties off the China coast. Following the Armistice, Kirishima would alternate between patrol duties and fleet maneuvers when not in port at Sasebo. She responded to assist with rescue efforts following the Great Kanto Earthquake but after that was placed in reserve.
Minor improvements, such as increases in anti-torpedo
blisters would be made but the first major reconstruction of Kirishima would occur in March of 1927. Armor thickness would increase and her boilers would be replaced. One funnel and four torpedo tubes are removed. On 31 March 1930 reconstruction was completed and she was re-rated as a battleship.
On 18 November, 1934, Kirishima entered port to go through a second rebuilding. Japan had withdrawn from naval treaties and without restrictions, significant alterations were made to her. Her hull was lengthened by 26 feet, her boilers again replaced and new geared turbines installed, allowing a maximum speed of 30 knots. Her bridge was rebuilt in a distinctive pagoda style. Catapults for float planes are installed on the #3 turret. She is now a fast battleship.
In WWII, Kirishima accompanies the IJN First Carrier Division from Pearl Harbor to Midway, providing surface protection. Following Midway, she was assigned to operate from Truck and support operations in the South Pacific. On November 13, 1942, she was involved in the First Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, where she damaged USS San Francisco. Two nights later, on the 15th, she was involved in the Second Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, where she initially inflicted significant damage on USS South Dakota, but was then hit by devastating accurate fire from USS Washington, suffering possibly 20 hits at and below the waterline. Efforts to keep her level while the crew was evacuated made her flooding worse and at 0325 she suddenly capsized. The first battleship vs. battleship encounter of WWII ended with her loss.
(Information obtained from http://www.combinedfleet.com/Kirishima.html and Wikipedia. Information on her sinking is found here: http://www.navweaps.com/index_lundgren/Kirishima_Damage_Analysis.pdf)
Kajaika, sister company to Flyhawk, is a manufacturer of highly detailed ship models. While there have been other models of Kirishima, this is the first to depict her in her initial configurations, as seen in 1915. A good photo of Kirishima is found here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japanese_battleship_Kirishima#/media/File:Kirishima_Sasebo_1915.jpg
Of interest in the photo are two torpedoes on the foredeck alongside the #1 turret. The image is good for details.
The box art depicts the Kirishima from a similar view. Inside the box the parts, molded in a somewhat soft gray styrene, are packaged in bags with the hull sections and waterline base plate wrapped carefully in foam. I noted a few small parts knocked free of the sprues in the bags and the bow of the base plate was broken off at the tip but otherwise parts detail and quality looked excellent. Many small deck details are molded separately and the small 75mm guns are molded to a much better scale appearance than is normally the case. The muzzles on the 14 inch guns are hollowed out. The plastic is very delicate and as such breaks easily. If you have the skill and patience, upgrading to Flyhawk’s detail set will help as parts such as the masts and 6” guns are provided in brass, and with all the extra detail visible, the kit will really shine with the etch details. I lack that skill and as such built her out of box, with only a few pieces of brass wire to replace parts that snapped off, mostly with the masts and piping on the funnels. I have included as many detail photos as I could to show off the individual parts. I did not see any mold issues and no ejector pin marks are visible. There was minimal flash.
A small, weighted bar is included that fits into the waterline base to keep the model down
The instructions are busy but generally clear. There are many small sub-assemblies to keep track of but enhance the detail. Color profiles of the completed ship and various boat classes are provided. Color call outs are provided for Mr. Hobby and Tamiya acrylic paints. A small decal sheet consisting of two IJN ensigns, one flat and one in a waving form, are included. The colors are good and register is excellent.
There are several small holes that are called out to drill out. Take care of these before you proceed with assembly.
I intended initially to do an in-box review but started to test fit parts and found the bas eplate was slightly warped. To ensure fit I ended up attaching the base plate and hull sections, and then determined that I needed to install the deck sections to make sure they lined up properly. One issue I found (only because I was trying to follow the instructions exactly and wasn’t thinking far enough ahead) was that the instructions show the 6” casemates with the guns pointing out straight from the sides. Normally they would be turned towards the hull. The issue it caused for me was an added risk of parts I would snap off while handling the kit. There was a small gap I found with one upper hull section that was easily fixed with some filler. There are some ejector pins that needed to be trimmed to get things to fit properly.
I was very impressed with the detail and general fit of parts and as such continued to add parts, getting ahead of myself in the process. I had intended to paint the hull and deck separately to make things easier and as a result had a significant amount of masking to do. Once that was done I continued adding the many small parts, building up the bridge and funnels. The funnels have several small pipes attached that are very fragile and break easily. There are some spares that are for the Kongo kit and are not used on Kirishima. The bends are the same but the length is different. They can be substituted if you break the primary parts. Brass wire can also be used but you would need to set up a jig that replicates the bends. Small detail on the funnels is also partially covered by the sprue gates and require very careful cleanup. Increased magnification from the photos shows I did not get these well enough.
I found that for many of the small parts, such as the stairs to the different deck levels, the Tamiya extra thin I normally use didn’t give a strong enough bond while damaging the plastic so I used a gel CA glue. As the build progressed, I began to think of how I wanted the model displayed, as it needs a secure base to mount it on in order to allow handling towards the end of the build. I have never done a naval diorama and watched quite a few how-to videos to see which technique might be best for my untired skills. I settled on a method and once the ship was set I was able to finish the masts, hoist arm (shown installed on the rear mast, there is no set angle) and boat davits. The boats and 6” guns were added. I couldn’t find a clear instruction guide for rigging, but the fragile masts wouldn’t take anything anyway. I still need to add the flag pole and banner. I used Tamiya deck tan, XF-78 and XF-77, Sasebo arsenal gray, for the iron parts, which is likely too dark. Citadel earthshade was used as the wash as an experiment. Next time I will use regular artist oils as they flow more evenly for me.
Overall, this kit is of the highest quality. Molding of parts is excellent and for a less experienced ship builder like myself, it was doable. The detail is so good that for a serious builder etch would really be needed. There is a full set that also includes wooden decks that runs for about $50 US. If anything, this kit was a confidence builder for me. I enjoy looking at model ships and follow build logs regularly. I will be starting a Flyhawk kit soon as another review build and look forward to the experience.
Prices for the Kajika IJN Kirishima 1915 vary online, from $33-45 US, with shipping rates varying just as much. When searching online I found Kirishima is also the name of an apparently very popular Anima character, which interfered with my searches for the ship. My daughter likes that character and that gave us something to talk about as far as the name was concerned.
Ships from this time period don’t seem to get as much coverage as WWII and later, especially if they didn’t seem to be very active. I hope more kits will follow.