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Tamiya 1/350 scale IJN Yamato


Commissioned less than two weeks after Pearl Harbor, the Imperial Japanese Navy Yamato was, throughout most of World War II the largest, most heavily armored and armed battleship in the world. It carried nine 46cm (18.1") guns and up to 650mm (26") of armor. Yamato was sunk by bombs and torpedoes on April 7, 1945, in Operation Ten-Go, a last, desperate effort to break the American assault on Okinawa. Sixty-five years later, the name Yamato remains legendary.

Tamiya’s newly tooled Yamato is so carefully designed and molded that the use of extra-thin liquid glue is required for most assemblies. Even the black-bottled Testors glue is too thick for most work. The kit also includes ABS and other types of plastic requiring Tamiya Extra Thin Cement.

Careful preparation of the parts is essential. Every sprue gate and every photoetched-metal nub must be completely erased or the parts will not fit properly. Even a thick layer of paint will cause problems. This kit will truly hone your prep and painting skills; an airbrush and a photoetched-metal folding tool are highly recommended.

There is photoetched metal all over the ship, including the radar, but what is not included is noticeable. Degaussing cables, turned-aluminum gun barrels, and railings are available as “detail-up” kits from Tamiya. Two of the three sets were included in my review kit; I used the metal barrels and shells. I didn’t use the railing kit, though; nearly 1,000 photoetched-metal stanchions and meters of .1mm copper wire strung between them would have stretched long past the deadline for this review. Blast bags are provided for the main and secondary guns, allowing two different elevations.

I needed filler only for the join of the lower bow and hull. I opened up the mounting holes slightly, but still had small gaps in a few spots. I used hull-red-tinted white glue to fill those gaps, avoiding putty and sanding the detail. Other parts of the hull are held together with several screws, which allows subtle shifting for a perfect fit.

Despite the mostly perfect fits, this will not be a quick build; plan on spending 200 hours. But even a novice builder with a kit or two of experience can build this kit with a little help, provided he or she reads the instructions and knows how to use a sharp blade, sandpaper, and file. 

My build was not entirely trouble-free, due to my errors in preparation and misreading the instructions. I didn’t realize each main gun breech gets two poly caps. Luckily, the barrels stayed in with one. But two would have been much more secure. (The instructions show it, but not very clearly.) I was also unable to fit the center 6" barrels into the secondary triple turrets with parts B89 in place. There just wasn’t enough room side-to-side. Again, probably my error. I was forced to leave the photoetched-metal guards off the center barrels. 

Tamiya’s use of stickers for the flight-deck linoleum and the shutters on the turrets and gun directors is odd. The stickers seemed to work, but each one must be cut from the sheet. Some of them bubbled or peeled later. Water-slide decals would have been better. 

I modeled the Yamato as it was on April 1, 1945; the gray-stained decks just look better to me. By April 6, her decks were stained with soot.

The assembly manual and reference book included are large, comprehensive, and greatly informative. I also recommend Requiem for Battleship Yamato, by Yoshida Mitsuru, a survivor of the ship’s sinking (Naval Institute Press, ISBN 978-1-55750-544-6), and A Glorious Way to Die: The Kamikaze Mission of the Battleship Yamato, April 1945, by Russell Spurr (Newmarket Press, ISBN 978-1-55704-248-4).

The aftermarket is sure to produce correction or upgraded parts, but, aside from a railing set and degaussing cables, the kit hardly needs them. It provides months of modeling fun for the money, and it makes a spectacular model. The “wow factor” alone is almost worth the price of the ticket.

A version of this review appeared in the May 2012 issue of FineScale Modeler.


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