"Mikawa’s swing northward was decisive. It meant three more allied cruisers in the bag. His column, at this point, resembled a vicious prehistoric monster, deadly at both ends. The battle south of Savo was only a tail-lashing. Now with two heads, hydra-like, the beast would put the bite on the Northern Force. " (History of United States Naval Operations in WWII; Volume V The Struggle for Guadalcanal, by Samuel Eliot Morison, little, Brown and Company, Boston 1984, at page 40)

One among many of the acknowledged causes of the First World War was the battleship building competition between Great Britain and Imperial Germany. During World War One Great Britain had greater priorities than the design and construction of capital ships, except for the design of the Hood. However, two of her allies were not under the constraints faced by the Royal Navy. The United States enacted a huge naval construction program in 1916 and Japan matched that with her 8-8 program in which she would build eight battleships and eight battle cruisers. At the end of the war, the Royal Navy was still the largest in the world but her capital ships, although numerous, were very dated in comparison with the new American and Japanese construction. Still suffering from the effects of the huge financial outlay of the Great War, Great Britain also reluctantly decided to restart her battleship construction program. So when new president, Warren Harding, suggested an arms reduction treaty among the world’s naval powers, all three major powers, as well as cash strapped France and Italy, were very interested. The conference held in Washington from late 1921 to early 1922, primarily sought to limit competition among the powers in battleship construction. Although other types of warships were limited in overall tonnage, such as aircraft carriers, the cruiser as a type had no such limitation.

In Brassey’s Naval and Shipping Annual 1923, Admiral of the Fleet Sir F.C.D. Sturdee, penned an article on the Naval Aspects of the Washington Conference. In his article the victor of the Falklands commented upon the status of cruisers. He noted the treaty provisions that: "1. All combatant surface craft, except airplane carriers (and capital ships), are limited to a unit displacement of 10,000 tons, and are not to carry a gun with a calibre in excess of 8 in. 2. No restriction is placed on the total tonnage allowed." At the end of the article Sturdee noted that, "A limit of the size of the ships and of guns has been adopted, thus further reducing competition." Sturdee asked the rhetorical question as whether the conscience of the world’s powers had improved sufficiently to honor treaty provisions. The drafters of the Washington Treaty succeeded in stopping a new battleship race but failed to see that in their failure to place an overall cap on cruiser tonnage, that the treaty would generate a new building race in cruisers. 

One exception to this standard scout cruiser and armored cruiser design of WWI was a late war British design. The Hawkins class or the Elizabethans were a class of cruisers significantly stronger than the typical fleet cruiser. Armed with 7.5-inch guns and close to 10,000-tons displacement, the existence of ships of this design was a major reason Great Britain agreed to the 8-inch gun and 10,000 ton limitation on new cruiser construction. The USN had also looked into the possibility of producing cruisers of similar design but armed with eight-inch guns and so was also in favor of these arbitrary design constraints. Japan had no fleet cruisers remotely approaching this limit and so she too agreed to these individual ship limitations. All new cruiser designs were initially typed as light cruisers, as opposed to the obsolete armored cruisers, regardless of whether they mounted 4-inch, six-inch or eight-inch guns. Cruisers armed with eight-inch guns were not typed as heavy cruisers until the London Treaty of 1930 subdivided the cruiser category into light and heavy categories based not on displacement but on gun size. All cruisers of 6.1-inch and smaller armament were typed as light cruisers and those armed with 8-inch to 6.1-inch guns were classified as heavy cruisers. 

When Japan signed the Washington Treaty in February 1921, her navy already had on the boards a cruiser design that would be her answer to the British Elizabethans. This was the Furutaka class, which mounted six 200mm (7.9-inch) guns in six centerline gun houses. She also had plans for an experimental cruiser designed to employ weight saving measures. With the design for the Yubari side armor was an integral part of the hull, rather than being added over an existing hull as had been the practice.

However, in spite of all weight saving measures adopted by the Imperial Japanese Navy, her warship design process had a consistent and significant flaw. Almost every cruiser design was completed with a displacement far in excess of the design calculations. This trend started with the Yubari. Older cruiser designs had come in over calculated weight, such as the Kuma class at 1.5% over and Sendai class at 5.5% over designed weight but Yubari was 14% over designed weight. With the Furutaka class, the systemic under calculation of weight remained in the design process and they came in at 11% over designed weight. Cruisers with displacements so far over design weights clearly reflect a major flaw in the design process. It has never been explained how the designs could be so over weight but a number of factors must have applied. Fittings were heavier than calculated, weight saving measures were not as effective as planned, changes and additions after design completion or a more fundamental miscalculation of the combined weights of everything that went into the design probably all contributed. However, what is clear is that the Japanese Navy made no effort to correct the flaws of the design system. The Imperial Japanese Navy may not have intended to exceed the limitations of the Washington Treaty at the start but they clearly wanted to keep their defective system in place. 


Hull - A Sprue
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The loophole of the Washington Treaty was the lack of a cap on total tonnage in cruiser production. With no cap on total tonnage, why would any power wish to build inferior cruisers that did not have 8-inch guns and approach or hit the 10,000 ton limit? In this situation the maximum cruiser limitations became the standard cruiser characteristics and almost all new cruiser designs after February 1921 and before the London Treaty of 1930 were 8-inch gunned, 10,000 ton designs and became known as the treaty cruisers. The Royal Navy stayed with twin 8-inch turrets with the large County class cruisers, while the USN went with triple gun turrets as a weight saving measure. The Japanese wanted cruisers that would be superior to the RN County class with their eight 8-inch guns and the American cruisers with their nine 8-inch guns (ten guns in Pensacola class). That could not be achieved without a design significantly larger in size and displacement than the Aoba class. Authorized in March 1923 a new 10,000-ton design was known as large model cruisers and became the Myoko class. The new cruisers were to be 10,000-tons standard in English tons, 11,850 metric tons at 2/3 trail displacement, so the original construction order had the ships meeting the terms of the Washington Treaty. However, additions were quickly made to the design, each of which added weight and the ships came in at 12% over design trial displacement. Of course the Japanese reported the design as in compliance with the treaty. 

Months before the Myoko was laid down the United States Congress passed a cruiser construction bill that authorized the building of eight 10,000-ton cruisers. Although only the first two, Pensacola and Salt Lake City were started immediately, the Japanese Naval General Staff was worried about this large program. Four new 10,000-ton cruisers were part of a new construction request, which was finally approved in March 1927. As originally requested, these additional cruisers were to be additional units of the Myoko class but before approval, it was decided to construct an improved design. Known as the Improved Myoko design, improvements over the Myoko design included increasing the maximum elevation of the main guns to 70 degrees, provision for heavier magazine protection, fitting of two catapults for three float planes, rotating torpedo tubes in outboard sponsons instead of fixed mounts within the hull and huge forward superstructure, reminiscent in appearance to a feudal Japanese castle. One reason for the increase in size of the superstructure was the requirement that all four cruisers be equipped to serve as flagships. At first the new design called for bridge structures similar in size to those found in the Myoko design. However, the flagship requirement and the desire to centralize command and control greatly expanded the subsequent redesign of the bridge. In the final the bridge of the Takao class had three times the internal volume as that of the Myoko class. The first two were ordered in the 1927 Fiscal Year and the other two in FY 1928. The first two ships, Takao and Atago, were laid down on April 27, 1927. 

The hull lines were very similar to the preceding Myoko class. Although Myoko had been launched the month before, she was far from complete. It was recognized that the improvements in the new design would add weight and to compensate, welding was used to the maximum extent possible and more aluminum was used. The stipulated 2/3 trial displacement was 12,986-metric tons, but again the systemic design flaw came into play and all four cruisers exceeded designed displacement by more than 10%. Actual trial displacements ranged from 14,129 to 14,260 metric tons. Any claims that the Japanese did not intentionally violate the terms of the Washington Treaty have to be countered by their continued use of a design system that dramatically under-estimated actual displacement. It did not serve their purposes for the IJN to correct the system. The over-weight condition of the Takao class also reduced their freeboard, habitability, speed, range and location of armor belt in relation to the waterline. 


Major Decks - C Sprue
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The armor belt over machinery spaces was 4-inches (102mm) with a 12 degree slope, the same as that in the Myoko class. However, the Takao armor plan had the belt cover more vertical distance but was slightly shorter. Maximum thickness was five-inches (127mm) for the upper 2.5m of the belt. Because of the extra weight over designed displacement, the main belt extended only a little over four feet (1.3m) above waterline at trial displacement with the top of the belt at the waterline at the extremities. At full load, the situation was even worse with less than three-feet (0.85m) of the amidships belt above the waterline and the belt extremities submerged. The Takao class also had the same underwater anti-torpedo bulge that was fitted to the Myoko class. 

The Takao carried a new main gun. Designated Type 3 No.2 20cm gun, the actual bore was 203.2mm. This gun had a range of 29,400m at 45 degrees elevation. Although the gun houses were similar to those of the Myoko class with the same armor plates of 25.4mm, they were 5.9-inches (150mm) higher. The guns were designed to be able to be fired at a maximum elevation of 70 degrees to allow anti-aircraft capabilities for the ordnance but they were totally ineffective in that capacity. Instead of having a tight shot grouping, the new guns also spread the salvo to an excessive degree. Since the main guns were expected to also serve in an AA capacity, the secondary 4.7-inch (120mm) HA guns were reduced to four power operated shielded mounts from the six mounts fitted on the Myoko class. However, the Takao class did receive some lighter AA ordnance during construction. These amounted to two single Vickers 40mm/62, one mounted on each side of the aft funnel and two single Vickers 7.7mm machine guns, one mounted on each side of the forward funnel. The Vickers 40mm was a short range, low velocity weapon that was replaced in 1935 and is not to be confused with the excellent Bofors 40mm gun of World War Two. With the Takao class, the mounting of the 61cm rotating torpedo mounts was changed from the locations found in the Myoko class. With the Myoko design, torpedo tubes were above machinery spaces. If a warhead exploded aboard ship, significant, if not catastrophic, damage would be caused. This concern was finally addressed in the Takao design. The torpedo tubes were not positioned inside the hull. Instead sponsons, which extended partly beyond the sides of the hull. With rotating mounts the tubes would be swung outward in battle, which would place even more distance between their warheads and the side of the ship. 

The Takao class was built with two catapults in order to match USN cruiser designs. A small hangar was provided just aft of the main mast for two of the three seaplanes that were required in the design. Initially, the ships only carried two Type 90 No.2 Model 2 two-seat floatplanes. The machinery plant produced the same 130,000 shp as the earlier Myoko design. All four units exceeded 35-knots but only Chokai exceeded 35.5-knots without going to overload status. As built the cruisers of the Myoko and Takao classes appear very impressive in their weapon systems and operational capabilities. To a large degree, this was because the displacement of both classes significantly exceeded the maximum displacement allowed under the Washington Treaty. Whether this was through mistake, which is hard to believe given the differences in design and actual displacements of the Yubari, Furutaka, Aoba and Myoko designs, or more likely a deliberate decision to retain a design process that grossly under-estimated displacement, the result was the same. Yet the flawed design process was a two edged sword. The Japanese Naval General Staff received cruisers more powerful than those in the RN or USN but there were significant penalties. They were slower, with less range, less stable than their designs had calculated and most importantly, with most of their armor belts submerged, they very susceptible to battle damage. 


Stacks & Main Gun Turrets - D & E Sprues
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In August 1933 new HA directors were installed. As a result of the typhoon damage to Myoko in September 1935, the Takao class also received hull strengthening plates. From May to September 1936 ships of the class rotated through the yards and received plates on each side of the keel 1.3m wide and 16mm thick to strengthen the lower hull and plates 1.2m wide and 19mm thick along the edge of the upper deck. Further, minor modifications were made in 1937 and 1938. Chokai received the new searchlights, had the tower blast screens removed, shortened the foremast and added a RDF room inside the quadruped foremast from October 1936 to July 1937, as well as replacement of the Vickers 40mm guns by quadruple Hotchkiss 13.2mm guns and the new lattice aircraft-handling derrick.

By 1937 plans were underway to thoroughly modernize the Takao class. Takao and Atago were slated for this refit from 1938 to 1939 with Chokai and Maya to follow in 1940 to 1941. Before Maya or Chokai went into a yard for their refits, the worsening political situation intervened. Fleet operational readiness for war operations was to be achieved by June 1941. Maya and Chokai would not have time for their refits and they were postponed. Because two of the class received a refit and two of the class did not receive the refit, ships of the Takao class could be easily identified as to which group they belonged.

The most obvious visual difference was the move of the mainmast from behind the aft funnel at the forward edge of the flight deck to just forward of barbette #4 at the aft end of the flight deck. The separation of the two masts was much greater for the Takao and Atago, rather than the closely spaced masts on the Maya and Chokai. The light AA fit was completely changed to four Type 96 twin 25mm guns on either side of both funnels and two Type 93 twin 13mm machine guns on sponsons on the bridge. The 13mm guns were replaced by twin 25mm mounts in the fall of 1941. The twin torpedo mounts were removed and four quadruple 610mm mounts fitted. The plans called for replacement of the single 120mm (4.7-inch) guns with twin mount 127mm (5-inch) HA guns and to that end new gun platforms were added but the new guns were not actually installed until March and April 1942 in unshielded mounts. The upper bridge was rebuilt to reduce height and top weight and received new range finders. A tripod foremast replaced quadruped mast originally fitted. The aft shelter deck was enlarged to end with #4 barbette. Aircraft deck rails were changed to match the pattern already installed on the Myoko class. The searchlights aft of the second funnel were placed on a new platform. Heavier catapults were added to Takao and Atago. After the refit one Type 94 Alf three seat and two Type 95 Dave two seat floatplanes were carried. The Type 0 Jake replaced the Type 94 Alf in November 1941 and the Type 0 Pete replaced the Type 95 Dave two seat aircraft in 1942. Two four charge depth charge racks were added to the stern. The torpedo bulge was greatly expanded. 


Superstructure & Torpedo Tubes - J & K Sprues
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Therefore, Takao and Atago had torpedo bulges that were visible above the waterline while Maya and Chokai did not. The sizable increase to the torpedo bulges greatly increased the stability of the ships. When it was clear that Maya and Chokai could not receive the same modernization, a few changes were still made in 1941. They retained their twin torpedo mounts but they were adapted to receive the newest model of 610mm torpedo. The new heavier catapults capable of operating the Type 0 three seat Jake were installed, although they initially received the same complement of one Type 94 Alf and two Type 95 Dave floatplanes as received by Takao and Atago. The quadruple 13mm machine guns on either side of the aft funnel were replaced by Type 96 twin 25mm mounts and twin 13mm machine gun mounts were added on either side of the bridge. The ships of the Takao class became the 4th Cruiser Squadron from December 1932 and were in service until November 1935. All four were modified to increase hull strength and started going back into operations as the 4th Cruiser Squadron starting December 1936. As all four ships of the Takao class were fitted to serve as fleet flagships, they were always in demand. Although Takao and Atago had their single 120mm guns replaced by twin 127mm mounts in early 1942, the Maya and Chokai retained the single 120mm guns. However, after seizure of the Dutch East Indies Maya and Chokai did have their light AA augmented. The twin 13mm guns on the bridge were replaced by twin 25mm guns and two additional twin 25mm mounts were placed on either side of the forward stack. They also received the two depth charge racks at the stern.

At the start of World War Two Chokai was with the Suzya and Kumano in the 7th Cruiser Squadron. After their triumphs in the Dutch East Indies, the ships of the Takao class were sent back to the Japanese home islands for quick refits, except Chokai. Chokai was still teamed with two Mogamis and participated in the raid into the Indian Ocean. During this sortie Chokai sank two American and one British freighters totaling 17,000-tons. . For the main effort of the Combined Fleet against Midway in June 1942 Myoko and Haguro were placed with Atago and Chokai to support the transports. Upon her return from the Midway operation, Chokai was selected to be flagship of the newly created 8th Fleet, Outer South Seas Force. Rear Admiral Mikawa Gunichi hoisted his flag aboard the cruiser and steamed off to the southeast to Truk and then Rabaul, which he reached on July 30, 1942. His command was assigned a backwater operational area known as the Solomon Islands. He was assured that nothing was happening in 8th Fleet’s operational area. The allies were not around, a seaplane base had been completed at the island at Tulagi and an airstrip would soon be completed on an island called Guadalcanal. That view changed on August 7, 1942 with the invasion of both islands by US Marines. The Guadalcanal campaign was to grueling contest of attrition for the next six months and the Chokai, as flagship 8th Fleet was there at the start and finish.

Admiral Mikawa acted immediately in response to the allied landings. He concentrated a force of Chokai, the 6th Cruiser Squadron consisting of the four 7,500-ton cruisers of the Furutaka and Aoba classes, two light cruisers and a destroyer. He made quick plans to time his approach in order to arrive at Guadacanal at night. The result was the Battle of Savo Island of early on August 9, one of the greatest sea victories won by the Imperial Japanese Navy during the war. Mikawa achieved complete surprise, as he slipped past USN picket destroyers, as early radar didn’t pick up the Japanese force. Mikawa had launched his floatplanes and used them very effectively to provide illumination of allied ships by dropping flares. The first target was the allied southern force, consisting of HMAS Canberra and USS Chicago and two destroyers. Canberra took two torpedoes and 24 shell hits fatally damaging the County class cruiser, while Chicago took one torpedo and one shell hit but survived. Mikawa turned to the northeast and five minutes later attacked the Northern allied force of three heavy cruisers. Illuminated by flares from floatplanes and by the searchlights from the Japanese cruisers, USS Astoria, Quincy and Vincennes were as unprepared as the cruisers of the Southern force. Quickly all three of these modern New Orleans class cruisers were torn apart and fatally damaged in a cascade of shell and torpedo hits. Satisfied that he had seriously hurt the allied forces and with his forces scattered in the melee of the battle, Mikawa ordered a retirement. The allies lost four heavy cruisers and over 1,000 men, while the Japanese had 34 men killed, all aboard Chokai, which had been hit by three 8-inch shells. Two shells from Quincy had hit the mainmast and chart room on the bridge and a shell from Astoria had hit over the starboard 8-inch gun of #1 turret and continued out through the rear of the gun house. It took seven days to repair Chokai locally, except the starboard gun of #1 turret, which couldn’t be used without yard repair. 


Amidships Decks - L Sprue
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The naval campaign for Guadalcanal reached its peak in ferocity during three nights in November. Known as the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, the first engagement starting early on Friday the 13th of November involved cruisers and destroyers for the USN and for the Japanese a force centered on battleships Kirishima and Hiei. Although the Japanese lost the Hiei, the American cruiser force was chewed up. For the following night the Japanese sent in two cruiser forces. One force was led by Admiral Mikawa aboard his flagship Chokai, accompanied by Kinugasa. His mission was to intercept and engage any surface forces to clear the way for a bombardment force of Maya and Suzuya. The Japanese forces encountered no opposition and freely bombarded Henderson Field. During the Japanese retirement after daylight, the Japanese forces paid a price. Kinugasa was sunk by aircraft from Enterprise and Maya was damaged. During the attack a Dauntless dive-bomber, hit by AA fire, crashed into the port aft 120mm mount of Maya. Resulting fires further cooked off 120mm rounds, causing substantial damage port amidships. Chokai had several near misses, which flooded a few compartments but otherwise she remained in fighting trim. Chokai was repaired at Truk but Maya was sent back to the home islands for repair and underwent a complete transformation.

By the fall of 1942 the grinding Guadalcanal campaign was underway and none of the ships could be spared for further modifications. However, after the Japanese withdrawal from Guadalcanal in February 1943, the Takao class was slated for their first Wartime Modification, however Chokai stayed at Truk and had ten single 25mm guns added. The lower row of portholes or scuttles, as well as some in the upper row, were sealed with circular metal plates welded on top. It was planned to give Chokai the same AA conversion as Maya in which C turret was replaced by more AA guns but this plan was shelved. By the summer of 1944 the four ships of the Takao class presented three distinctly different appearances. Takao and Atago were substantially the same in appearance. Maya was unique with her AA conversion. Chokai was also now unique in that she was the only unit retaining her prewar appearance with single 120mm mounts, twin torpedo tubes and no above water torpedo bulge.

The 3rd Wartime Modification for the Takao class was conducted in June and July 1944. Takao and Atago continued to be twins with each receiving an additional four triple and twenty-two single 25mm gun mounts. Maya received additional eighteen single 25mm mounts. Chokai had the fewest changes with additional twelve single mounts, as she did not have the additional stability conferred by the enlarged torpedo bulges of the other three members of the class. A Type 13 radar was also added to the ships in this refit. 


Additional Bridge Parts, Stack Detail, Mast & Stand - Y Sprue
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In response to the allied landings at Leyte Gulf in October 1944, all four members of the Takao class sailed as part of Admiral Kurita’s strong Central Force. Atago was Kurita’s flagship, as the heavy surface force steamed out of Brunei Bay. Kurita selected to use the Palawan Passage in the approach to the Philippines. Bounded on the south by the island of Palawan and on the north by an area of shoal water known as Dangerous Ground, this passage was very narrow. Unknown to Kurita, two US submarines were in the passage. The USS Darter and USS Dace were on patrol inside the passage when before dawn on October 22 a huge radar return bloomed on their radar screens. Darter sank the Atago with five torpedo hits from the bow tubes and damaged the Takao with two hits from the stern tubes. The Japanese force immediately ordered a turn toward the starboard, away from Darter but straight towards Dace. Dace selected the third ship in the column for the target and that was Maya. Torpedoes tore open her starboard side and Maya was doomed. In a span of minutes two of the Takao class were sunk and Takao herself badly damaged. Takao did manage to limp to safety, escorted by two destroyers. Only Chokai remained of the class to proceed to Leyte Gulf.

On October 24 Kurita’s fleet was subjected to wave after wave of aerial attacks from Halsey’s carriers. Halsey thought that Kurita’s force had become combat ineffective as a result of these aerial attacks and decided to steam north after the bait offered by Admiral Ozawa’s diversionary force of aircraft carriers. This opened the San Bernardino Strait for Kurita’s force, which was passed on the night of October 24-25 to turn south and cruise east of the island of Samar to attack Leyte Gulf from the north. On the morning of October 25, 1944 Kurita’s force encountered the escort carriers of Taffy 3 under Rear Admiral Clifton Sprague. From the start of the action the Japanese heavy cruisers were among the more effective units in Kurita's force and aggressively closed with the Americans. Haguro and Chokai formed a two-ship column with the battleships Kongo and Haruna to port and the battleships Yamato and Nagato to starboard. At 07:41 Haguro and Chokai started hitting the escort carrier Gambier Bay. Then Haguro was subjected by torpedo attacks from the destroyers Hoel and Heerman. The torpedoes were evaded but at 07:51 Haguro was hit by a shell, which caused her to fall out of line. Chokai was suffering even worse damage. Hit many times and with holes in her bow, speed dropped off quickly for Chokai. Finally the Japanese flagship at the Battle of Savo Island was dead in the water. The crew was evacuated and Chokai sunk by torpedoes from the destroyer Fujinami. The Takao class had ceased to exist as operational units of the Imperial Japanese Navy, as Takao was never repaired.

Aoshima Chokai 1942
Bottom Line – Get One! Aoshima has produced an extraordinary kit of the burliest class of Japanese heavy cruiser of World War Two. This copy of Chokai 1942 is of the cruiser of the class that was flagship during the most lopsided surface battle in the war, as the allies lost four heavy cruisers at the Battle of Savo Island. The kit would be suitable for either Chokai or Maya in 1942. Although the kit could be used for the base for Takao or Atago in their pre-1937 appearance, both of those two were significantly different after they received their 1937-1938 refits, which Chokai never did receive. 


Secondary, AA & Directors - X Sprues
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The Hull-Sprue A
There are only two parts on this sprue. The Aoshima Chokai is a full hull kit divided along the centerline. The hull detail is excellent. From start to finish the detail is beautiful. At the bow you have the graceful "S" compound curve of the cutwater followed by shallow wells for the anchors and climbing rungs. Starting close to the bow the hull actually shows the strengthening plates installed on all members of the class in 1936 to correct weakness problems in the class revealed in an earlier typhoon. I cannot recall any Takao class kit featuring this level of detail before, although that is not surprising since this is the first kit in 1:350 scale. Some plates actually have rivet head detail. The bottom of the hull has a number of plate lines running fore to aft. The Chokai features a significant torpedo bulge that is extremely well captured. This bulge is entirely in the underwater portion of the hull, unlike those of Takao and Atago, which at this period had even larger bulges that extended above the waterline. One the bulge are locator slots for the separate bilge keels. This is a great idea by Aoshima, since these keels can be molded a lot thinner and more prototypical as separate pieces than if they were integral with the hull. There are two lines of portholes fore and aft but not amidships, which all have rigols (eyebrows). They have a pleasing depth but some may prefer to drill them out. The top of the hull has the deck edge open chocks molded onto the hull. Amidships, the top of the hull flares out slightly for the torpedo sponsons, which extended outboard from the hull. Chokai retained her two-torpedo mounts throughout her career. Aft detail includes a couple of short vertical strakes, small propeller guards, stern anchor and hull climbing rungs. I personally would prefer the propeller guards and stern anchors as separate parts and many might consider replacing those with third party photo-etch. 

Major Decks – Sprue C
This sprue has the major portions of the decks. The forecastle part runs to under the bridge tower. There is a cutout for a separate part for the base of C turret. Of course this was done in order to facilitate the production of the Maya 1944 kit, in which C turret was replaced by additional AA guns. Ahead of the breakwater there are anti-skid panels running along the deck edge to the bow. These panels are characterized by their crosshatch pattern. All brass strips connecting the linoleum decking are shown with raised strips. Deck anchor hawse have a nice degree of depression with the molded on anchor chain disappearing downwards. The anchor chain runs aft, up a plate to the anchor windlasses before again disappearing into guides to the chain locker. Since the open chock fittings are molded onto the hull pieces, the deck edge fittings consists of bollards. The breakwater seams a little small in 1:350 scale, as it looks to short to divert seawater off of the deck. Aft of the breakwater in front of and clustered around A barbette and then clustered along the port forward face of B barbette. These fittings consist primarily of deck access coamings, ventilator fittings and cable reels. These are arranged in an asymmetrical pattern, which always adds to the attractiveness of a model. The second and longer deck piece starts with the torpedo deck. Along centerline are deck housings linking this deck to the shelter deck above. There are four circular deck plates for the bases of the torpedo mounts with prominent deck railing used to moving the reload torpedoes. Additionally there are locator holes for the reload torpedo parts.

From here there is another cutout for this deck, which allows for various different configurations, before continuing at X barbette. From the base of X barbette the brass strips and linoleum deck panels resume and continue almost to the stern, where it is replaced by steel deck. There is again a plethora of deck fittings arranged in an asymmetrical pattern between X and Y barbettes and aft of Y barbette. Large circular ventilators dominate the fittings cluster between the barbettes but there are all sorts of fittings aft of X barbette, small circular ventilators, cable reels, oval deck hatches, plus a number of other fittings of assorted patterns and sizes. A few more fittings are found continuing aft on the linoleum deck and stern-most steel deck. There are a few more parts found here including paravanes, windlasses, solid ventilation louvers, forward stack brace, signal lamps and various mainmast fittings, including the boat/aircraft boom. Some parts can’t adequately be represented in plastic as the medium can’t handle delicate lattice or open grid fittings. Photo-etch replacement parts are better suited for the ventilation louvers and boat/aircraft boom. 


Aircraft, Catapults & Boats
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Stacks and Bridge Face – D Sprue
Stacks dominate this sprue. Both the massive trunked fore funnel and angled smaller aft funnel are loaded with molded on detail, consisting primarily of raised lines represented the various levels of foot railing surrounding the funnels. Other funnel detail includes steam pipes, vertical ladder, and large ventilator openings between the trunks to the forward funnel. The forward face of the bridge has piping, climbing rungs, portholes and a few additional fittings. Barbette caps for B and X turrets with support strakes are found on this sprue, along with detailed rudder, propeller shafts with struts and propellers and aft face pipes for the forward funnel. Aoshima provides internal lateral braces, which connect the hull halves together and allow the hull to keep its correct shape. These are also found on this sprue.

Main Gun Turrets – E Sprues
Two identical E sprues provide for the main gun turrets. Each sprue contains two turrets with range finders and one without the rangefinder. You will have one spare turret with rangefinder. All turrets contain panel lines delineating the heat dispensing panels fitted to prevent heat build-up inside the turrets while operating in tropical waters. Turret fittings are found on the crown, as open gun openings and forward face vision ports. The other portion of the sprue has the turret bases, detailed rangefinders and six 8-inch guns with scribed blast bags. An anchor is also thrown in both of these sprues.

Clear Parts – F Sprue
This sprue is small and consists of only eleven parts. The sprue is in clear plastic and the three largest parts are three levels of bridge windows. Each of the three uniquely shaped levels has pillar posts separating each individual windowpane. The other eight parts are four large searchlights and four small searchlights/signal lamps. This of course allows the modeler to mask off the glass lens of each searchlight before painting to allow an actual "glass" lens appearance to the pieces. 


Clear Parts - F Sprues
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C Barbette – G Sprue
Found here is the deck portion for C sprue. Of course the Maya 1944 would have different parts here as there was no C barbette on her in 1944. The deck panel has the same linoleum panels and brass strips of the rest of the weather deck. As with the other deck areas around barbettes, there is a huge number of fittings. There are eight round ventilators in three different sizes, two types of deck access hatches and various other angular and circular fittings. Other fittings found on this sprue include the steam pipe for the aft funnel, bridge front face fitting, and forward funnel aft face support pieces.

Pagoda Bridge – J Sprue
Here is one of the high points of the Takao class design, the massive forward superstructure. With three times the internal volume of the preceding Myoko class and so massive that the skipper of the Dace mistook Maya for a battleship, the pagoda structure, reminiscent of a feudal Japanese castle, is a hallmark of the class. Sort of like the fins of the 1959 Cadillac, the bridges of earlier and later heavy cruisers were smaller. Size reached its peak with the Takao class. The superstructure is divided along centerline and feature the numerous angular plains, which makes the Takao class such a perennial crowd pleaser. Each side has four different doors at the various levels and yet each door pattern is different from the others. Electrical wire tubes run across the different levels at different angles with support brackets, which provide more tracks than Grand Central Station. Coupled with the flared ventilator duct, supports for platforms, detailed life buoy, porthole detail and other fittings, these pieces are a riot of detail. Those are only part of the treats on this sprue, which the assembly modules incorrectly label as K sprue parts. The other bridge levels and overheads are found here with detailed fittings, binocular supports and inclined ladder openings. These openings are presented as a shallow well with stairway pattern treadways descending. Some modelers may wish to open up these positions and use photo-etch inclined ladders. The aft face part has a large cut out for the forward trunking of the fore funnel, detailed doors, mesh ventilators and support brackets. Other parts include foremast and foremast fittings.

Torpedoes – K Sprue
K sprue is dominated by the torpedo fittings for Chokai. These are the initial twin tube mounts that only Chokai retained to 1944. Each torpedo mount consists of a highly detailed upper and lower halve, which even has hand wheel detail. A spare set of torpedo fittings is also included so Aoshima did not have to use two complete sprues. As part of the torpedo mount fittings are the reload fittings with the spare torpdoes, which even have propellers. Found on this sprue is the metal deck forward of X barbette, which has anti-skid crosshatch, six cable reels and ventilator fittings. Other parts include detailed steam pipes for the funnels, bilge keels, as well as smaller deck structures. 


Bonus Motor Torpedo Boat
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Weather & Flight Decks – L Sprue
This sprue contains a weather deck and a separate flight deck. The weather deck has solid V-shaped splinter shields for the secondary gun positions with internal support bracing. The open portions of the deck are entirely made of the anti-skid crosshatch pattern. Gun base plates are octagon in shape. Four searchlight towers rise from the deck, as well as center line deck houses in assorted shapes. Other deck detail includes two raised rectangular platforms in a different open grid pattern, various round and square fittings and deck access hatches. The flight deck has raised railing for moving the seaplanes about on their trolleys, curving ventilator ducting, bollards, deck hatches, square fittings and other deck fittings next to the small aft superstructure position. Other parts include the torpedo deck sponsons with openings for the tubes, bulkheads for the aft superstructure, bulkheads for the hangar, catapult bases, alternate bridge parts and the inboard propeller shafts. A separate undesignated sprue has the hangar top deck and superstructure parts atop the hangar. This deck has more anti-skid decking, reels, inclined ladder openings, gun positions and assorted fittings. 

Floatplanes, Catapults & Boats
Two large identical sprues concentrate on the floatplanes and ship’s boats. Each sprue has four different floatplanes, a Pete, a Dave, a Jake and an Alf. Therefore the ships’ floatplane complement from the late 1930s through 1945 (for Takao) can be shown. Each aircraft has inset panel lines. Also included on the fret are the various pontoons with which each type of aircraft was fitted. The two types of catapults carried by the class are also on this sprue. Although these parts do have open grid lattice support bracing, photo-etch replacement parts would be more delicate. The great number of different pattern of ship’s boats each have a separate hull and separate deck. Other parts on each sprue are ten nicely done single 25mm AA guns, solid crane trolley, radar, and anchor. As with the catapults, brass parts for the trolley and radar would be finer.

Secondary and AA Guns
Two additional identical sprues contain the secondary and other AA guns. Most of these parts are not used for the 1942 Chokai. There are secondary guns and splinter shields for the twin 5-inch guns never carried by the ship but mounted on her sisters, as well as the single mounts found on Chokai. Twin and triple 25mm AA guns are found here. Although the twin 25mm was carried in 1942, the Chokai never received the triple mounts as her hull form was never converted to larger torpedo bulges received by her three sisters. Boat davits and numerous gun director fittings are also included, as well as opaque searchlight and sound direction finders. 


Box Art
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Funnel Grid Caps & Mainmast – Y Sprue
This small sprue provides open grid funnel caps as well as the mainmast. In addition to the mast halves a complex yard part is included. Three additional lattice support braces are found on this sprue. These may not be used with the 1942 Chokai as could not find their assembly locations in the instructions.

Bonus Motor Torpedo Boat
Aoshima throws in a white metal Japanese Motor Torpedo Boat in their 1942 Chokai kit. This miniature has a one-piece full hull with deck and superstructure detail. Additional parts are for the torpedoes, propeller shafts and other fittings. Additionally there is another black plastic sprue with the stand for the completed model.

Instructions
The instructions have sixteen pages. Almost all of the text is in Japanese but English is used for major assembly captions. The first four pages have a history in Japanese along with three profiles and a plan. The fifth page has general assembly instructions in Japanese and English. Actual assembly instructions start on page six with clear drawings for the assembly steps. Page six has steps 1 through 5, which concentrate on the hull. Page seven has steps 6 through ten, which have the bilge keels, forecastle and turrets. Page eight has steps 11 through 16, which finishes with the main gun turrets, secondary guns, twin 25mm, torpedo mounts and weather deck placement. Page nine has steps 17 through 21 for the torpedo tubes, flight deck, aft superstructure and funnels. Page ten has steps 22 through 30 for the conclusion of the funnels forward superstructure and mainmast. Page eleven has steps 31 through 38 for the catapults, aircraft, funnel supports, funnel and superstructure attachment and various fittings. Page twelve has steps39 through 46 for main mast, hangar top, propeller shafts and searchlight positions. Page thirteen has steps 47 through 52 for shelter deck attachment, main turret attachment, catapult attachment, aft superstructure deck and ship’s boats. Page fourteen is just photos of the completed model and the MTB. Page fifteen has Japanese text and profile and plan drawings of the brown and green camouflage patterns for the early war Dave and Pete. The last page has a parts lay-down matrix. 


Decals & Instructions
ChokIN0027.JPG (123064 bytes) ChokIN0028.JPG (61420 bytes) ChokIN0029.JPG (124368 bytes)
ChokIN0030.JPG (117140 bytes) ChokIN0031.JPG (99594 bytes) ChokIN0032.JPG (56166 bytes) ChokIN0033.JPG (94799 bytes)
ChokIN0034.JPG (92521 bytes) ChokIN0035.JPG (89112 bytes) ChokIN0036.JPG (101024 bytes) ChokIN0037.JPG (107525 bytes)
ChokIN0038.JPG (116335 bytes) ChokIN0039.JPG (85615 bytes) ChokIN0040.JPG (60452 bytes) ChokIN0041.JPG (59073 bytes)

Verdict
Aoshima has produced a very fine 1:350 scale model of the most impressive of the Japanese heavy cruisers. The Chokai 1942 kit is perfect for the Chokai and Maya in 1942 and with some fairly easy modifications for all four members of the class in 1936. You can obtain the Aoshima Chokai 1942 kit, as well as the other Takao class 1:350 scale kits by simply hailing the Captain at Totalnavy

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