"This inbox review takes a closer look at Seals Models, Seals Models' 1/700 scale Hashidate/Itsukushima 2 in 1 kit, in plastic injection mold."
In the 1880s, the French Navy had a problem. Their main potential (and traditional) enemy, Great Britain, had a large and powerful Navy equipped with large battleships. France did not have the means to build such large ships. The French developed a new theory, known as the Jeune École (Young School), which postulated that a navy of smaller, faster, more maneuverable ships with a few big guns and torpedoes could swarm around a battleship-based fleet and defeat it. This theory was seized upon by other nations facing a similar situation, in this case Japan. The Japanese turned to the French to design new ships to help them battle the Chinese Navy which had acquired 2 German-built battleships.
The core of this new Imperial Japanese Navy was based on the Matsushima class of protected cruisers. They were known in Japan as "the three view warships" (Sankeikan) since they were named after the "Three Views of Japan", the three most famous scenic views in Japan. The class was designed by Naval Architect Louis-Émile Bertin. Matsushima and Itsukushima were built in France while Hashidate was built in Japan, the first armored ship to be constructed there. The main armament of the ships was a single 32cm/L36 (12.6") gun, mounted in the bow for Itsukushima and Hashidate, mounted in the stern for Matsushima. The secondary armament was 11 12cm/L40 (4.7") Quick Firing guns along the sides. Other armament were (5 Itsukushima, 6 Hashidate) 47mm guns, 12 37mm guns, and 4 36cm torpedo tubes.
During the First Sino-Japanese War (called the Nisshin War in Japan); these ships played a major role in the Battle of the Yalu River on September 17, 1894 where the Chinese fleet was defeated. As it turned out, the large guns with their slow rate of fire were not used much as the fleets closed together. It was the secondary armament which basically beat the Chinese ships up, killing crews and severing ventilation and communications as well as starting fires (the Chinese had not landed their non-combat flammable gear before the battle).
By the time of the Russo-Japanese War, these ships had been down-graded and were considered obsolete. They served in the Reserve Fleet along with the Chin'En, one of the battleships captured from the Chinese after the Battle of the Yalu River.
Seals Models originally made all three of the Sankeikan as waterline resin kits. For some reason, they decided to convert only Itsukushima and Hashidate into injection molded styrene kits. This kit represents the two ships as they appeared during the Russo-Japanese War.
The box is of the end opening type with a lovely cover painting of the Hashidate. The back has short outlines of the ships' careers, painting instructions, and color illustrations to be used as painting guides. One side of the box has a listing of the Japanese Navy 1st, 2nd, 3rd fleets at Tsushima and the other side has one photo of each ship.
There are four sprues: two of A, and two of C. Each ship uses one of each.
Sprue A contains the dark gray main parts which are specific for this kit. The hull is formed from a left and right half (each including a flat bottom) which are joined to a one piece deck. The hull sides represent the tumblehome common to French designs of the time. The deck includes the main gun barbette and superstructures, and has engraving for the deck planking. All three hull pieces are very nicely molded with sharp details. Length and beam seem to be good, Note that the length quoted on the back of the box is perpendicular to perpendicular (pp) not waterline (wl) or overall (oa).
Any ejection pin marks are where they would be invisible once the kit is assembled. My kit had no flash, warped parts, or short shots. There is a sunken area on parts 29 and 30. Part 8 (smokestack cap) seems to have its round tab off-center so some adjustment will be necessary when assembling the stack. There are no gun port shutters for 3 lower 12cm gun ports of Itsukushima. There are no simulated railings molded into the parts so there is nothing to cut away if you are going to add PE railings.
Sprue C is a generic tree of detail parts molded in light gray plastic and is the same as those included in their Battleship Fuji and Battleship Mikasa kits. This sprue has small guns, boats, davits, vents, flag masts, a turret (not used in this kit), and gun barrels (some used in this kit).
The small decal sheet is also the same as included in Seals Models' other kits but with a large and small Japanese Navy flag and a signal flag for each ship. I don't think the large Navy flag is to be used with this kit.
The instructions consist of one sheet printed on both sides in Japanese. The front has a history of the ships and a list of the parts. The back has the actual assembly instructions. A lot of it is straight-forward but there are several directions which can catch you out, especially those dealing with the differences between the two ships.
Two Good Things to know are the Kanji characters for the two ships. If you look at the flaps of the box, you will see these. Match those characters up to what you see on the instructions and that should be a good guide for ship specific assemblies. Painting instructions are on the back of the box. For decal placement and rigging, all you have is the box cover.
Here is a list of things to watch for:
- Mount 2 extra 47mm guns on the forward part of the bridge lower part in Step C.
- Put part 38 as indicated on smaller rectangular portion of bridge top in Step D.
- Remove rectangular sections from hull side indicated by dotted lines to accommodate extra bridge 47mm guns.
- Remove two gun mounts from the rear deck. You will have to re-engrave the deck planks.
- Use all of part 27. For placement of the part, see the back of the box.
- For part 26, use the piece with 4 grills. For placement of the part, see the back of the box.
- Use parts 39, 31, and 22 for 12cm guns.
- For parts 29 and 30, incline the aft ends inward (see box cover).
- Remove shaded area of main mast in Step A.
- Fill in two small depressions on the lower bridge deck where guns were mounted on Hashidate in Step C.
- Put part 38 on the left wing of the bridge top in Step D.
- Glue parts 29 and 30 so they are flush with the hull. Fill in and sand so they blend into the hull.
- Use only 1.4 of part 27. For placement of the part, see the back of the box.
- For part 26, use the piece with 2 grills. For placement of the part, see the back of the box.
- Do NOT use parts 22, 31, and 39. Glue the 12cm barrels into the holes the barbettes would have covered.
- Attach small rectangular pieces over the 3 lower 12cm gun openings to represent open covers.
- Remove the boat stands from the rear deck. You will have to re-engrave the deck planks.
- Mount the 47mm guns that are just forward of the stern 12cm gun.
These are the colors listed on the back of the box as they appear top to bottom (the numbers are for GSI Mr.Color paints):
Warship Gray - Everything except for below.
Tan - Deck of ship, deck of motor launch (part #7)
Wood Brown - Inside of each boat, concave part of motor launch (see back of box), Grills (parts 26 and 27)
Flat Black - top of smoke stack
Silver - Searchlight lens (Parts #8)
Gold - Crest on bow (part #9)
This is a very nice kit for what it is. Even though the ships were obsolete by the Russo-Japanese War, their basic layout and armament still reflects the original strategy behind them. To really complete these, you will need to add photo-etch rails and some rigging.
I just can't help but think this kit would be so much better if the Matsushima had been included and that the ships were configured for when they were at the height of their power. It would be difficult to backdate the ships to the Battle of the Yalu River as some of the secondary armament was moved up a deck afterwards. Seals Models did release a kit with all three ships but the Matsushima was in resin so the kit price was triple of this kit.
To help you out, I can provide an English version of the assembly page of the instructions.
Bought from Hobby Link Japan for $33.14 USD.
"Warships of the Imperial Japanese Navy, 1889-1045", ISBN 0-87021-893-X
"Warship 1990" - "Sankeikan", ISBN 1-55750-903-4
"Warship 1999-2000" - "The Battle of the Yalu, 17 September 17 1894", ISBN 0-85177-724-4
"Warship, Volume II" - "The Battle of Tsushima", ISBN 0-85177-149-1
Highs: I am glad that these important ships were made into injection molded plastic kits. The details are nice and sharp. Lows: I would rather the ships had been modeled to appear as they did at the Battle of the Yalu River and that Matsushima were included in plastic. The instructions are in Japanese only. It would have been nice if photo-etched hand rails had been included. Verdict: This is an excellent kit for those who like the unusual or enthusiasts of the Imperial Japanese Navy.