At the end of the 19th Century, both the United States and the Empire of Japan wished to build a first class navy. They were in different positions. The United States
had a steel producing infrastructure but no experience in designing or building modern warships. The last time that there had been major construction for the USN was
during the American Civil War and the various monitors built during that time were hardly world class. They were riverine, brown water ships and certainly not
suitable for blue water operation. For Japan, there was an even longer road to travel as the Empire went from a feudal society with no heavy industry to a modern
industrial society at a rocket pace of mere decades. Both countries started construction of modern ships based upon foreign designs. As Great Britain was the leading
naval power at the time, both countries started with British designs. One difference however, was that the United States built her ships in US yards and Japan relied on
British designs and British yards, as the ship construction infrastructure had to be developed.  The first US capitol ship design came along fairly quickly with the
Indiana Class of 1891, although they were coastal battleships without the deep-water seakeeping abilities of other modern navies. Japan had blue water battleships from
the start because of the use of British yards but took much longer in developing the ability to design and build modern capitol ships.

Although Japanese designed and built cruisers had started with the
Suma Class protected cruisers of 1892 it was not until 1905 that Japan started with a Japanese
designed and constructed capitol ships. In that year four such ships were laid down. Two of them were originally rated as armored cruisers and rerated as
battlecruisers in 1912. This was the
Tsukuba Class of Tsukuba and Ikoma. They were armed with four 12-inch/45 guns in fore and aft twin turrets and twelve 6-
inch/45 secondary guns. Maximum armor was 7-inches and maximum speed was 20.5-knots. With the same armament of most of the world’s battleship and almost
three knots faster, the
Tsukuba was the fore-runner of the battlecruiser. A true battleship, the Satsuma, was also laid down in 1905. In many ways, the Satsuma and
Aki, resembled the mixed gun Lord Nelson Class of Great Britain. Satsuma carried four 12-inch/45 guns in fore and aft twin gun turrets and twelve 10-
inch/45 in twin gun wing turrets. With a maximum belt of 9-inches and a top speed of 20-knots, the
Satsuma was almost as fast and far more powerful than the
Tsukuba but at a much greater displacement. The fourth capitol ship laid down in 1905 was the Kurama, which was an enlarged version of the
Tsukuba with the same maximum speed, same armor and same main armament of four 12-inch/45 guns but with twin 8-inch/45 secondary guns in four wing turrets.
The second ship,
Ibuki, was delayed until 1907 in order to fit turbine machinery to become the first Japanese capitol ship to use turbines for propulsion. At 22.5-knots
maximum speed,
Ibuki showed the benefit of turbine machinery. Since the Russo-Japanese War had shown the benefit of high speed, speed was always a key
component for Japanese capitol ships.
There was a gap in designs as Japan absorbed the shock of the appearance of HMS Dreadnought. Japan’s reply was the Settsu Class of 1909. Again, built in Japan
Settsu and sister, Kawachi had twelve 12-inch guns arranged as in the main gun turrets of SMS Nassau. However, the 12-inch guns were not of the same caliber.
The fore and aft twin turrets used the 12-inch/50, while the twin gun wing turrets used 12-inch/45 guns. The guns were ordered from Great Britain.  The
appearance of
HMS Invincible in 1908 jarred Japanese naval authorities. All of their pride in the Tsukuba and Ibuki Classes evaporated and Japanese designers were
tasked to produce multiple designs to outclass the
Invincible. The design chosen displaced 18,650-tons with four 12-inch/45 guns on centerline and eight 10-inch/45
guns in wing turrets with a top speed of 25-knots and maximum belt of 7-inches. Before any decision was made the
HMS Indefatigable appeared with greater deck
space for the wing turrets offering the possibility of cross deck fire for the wing turret on the other side of the hull. Into the trash went the 12-inch/10-inch mixed
gun design and it was back to the drawing board. The next design called for an 18,725-ton displacement with ten 12-inch/50 guns with one twin turret forward, two
turrets as wing turrets amidships with cross deck fire capability and two turrets aft with a superfiring X turret in an arrangement similar to the
SMS Moltke. This
design was subsequently modified to place all turrets on centerline with two forward, two aft and a single turret amidship. Speed was designed for 26.5-knots. In
1909 the design was finalized and financial arrangements were secured to produce the above design. At this time the Japanese Admiralty learned of the 13.5-inch
HMS Lion design. Oops!! They couldn’t keep pace with the newest British construction. Why borrow all this money to build a 12-inch gun battlecruiser
obviously inferior to the 13.5-inch gun
HMS Lion under construction?

Because of this rapid improvement in capitol ship designs, the Japanese decided to once again use a British design and a British yard to construct her next capitol
ship, which would be a battlecruiser named
Kongo. British technical co-operation was obtained and the Kongo was to be an improved Lion. Both Vickers and
Armstrong submitted battlecruiser designs based on
Lion. Vickers won the contract, which was signed on October 17, 1910. While negotiations were underway, the
debate over gun size arose again with the decision to use 12-inch/50 guns instead of 13.5-inch guns. Then the Japanese received inside information that the 13.5-inch
gun liners had a far greater service life and much tighter shot grouping than the higher velocity British 12-inch/50 gun. The final decision shifted to an entirely new
main gun, the 14-inch/45 to be designed by Vickers. This new design was developed by Vickers and had its first test firing in March 1911. Shortly after this the USN
announced that the 14-inch gun would be used in their next design, the
New York Class. Hull size and shape was similar to Lion but with a clipper bow instead of a
ram bow.
Kongo was 1,000-tons heavier than Lion but the greatest difference was in the main gun turret arrangement. With Lion, the centerline Q turret was
blocked from firing aft by the third funnel. With
Kongo, the machinery spaces were rearranged allowing Kongo’s Q turret full fir aft. In a turn-about is fair play
situation, the design of
Kongo resulted in a redesign for HMS Tiger. The Tiger was originally to be a slightly improved HMS Queen Mary but rather than build a
new ship inferior to
Kongo, the Tiger design was reworked to follow the pattern of Kongo to allow full aft fire for Tiger’s Q turret. Another main difference
Lion and Kongo was the secondary gun size. The Japanese considered the Lion’s secondary 4-inch guns too small to drive off destroyers and chose 6-
inch guns for the secondary guns for
Kongo. Tiger also followed Kongo’s example and used 6-inch guns for her secondary.
On January 17, 1911 Kongo was laid down not far from the slip being used to build HMS Princess Royal, second ship of the Lion Class. She was launched on May
18,1912 and completed August 16, 1913, nine months after the
Princess Royal. As built, the Kongo was 704-feet (214.5m)(oa) 659-feet 4-inches (211m)(pp) in
length, 92-feet (28m) in beam and 27-feet 7-inches (8.4m) in draught. Displacement was 27,500-tons normal and 32,200-tons full load. Armament was eight 14-
inch/45 (356mm), sixteen 6-inch/50 (152mm), eight 3.1-inch/40 (only
Kongo had these 12-pdr guns on the turret crowns) and eight 21-inch (533mm) submerged
torpedo tubes. The armor belt had a maximum width of 8-inches (203mm) (one inch less than
HMS Lion), turrets 9-inches (227mm), barbettes 10-inches
(254mm), conning tower 10-inches (254mm) and armored deck 2.25 to 1.65-inches (57mm-41mm). Four Parsons turbines powered by 36 Yarrow coal and oil
fired boilers developed 64,000shp for a maximum speed of 27.5-knots with a range of 8,000nm at 14-knots.

Japanese naval personnel had been assigned to the Vickers’ yard from the start of
Kongo to record the best practices that they noticed in the construction. They
started by watching the construction of the near-by
Princess Royal and followed her construction as well as Kongo. During fitting out the Kongo was secured next
to the
Princess Royal for a time.  All information was forwarded back to Japan where the three sisters of Kongo would be built with as much as 31% of their
material supplied by Vickers in the case of
Haruna. Hiei was actually the second ship laid down at Yokosuka Navy Yard on November 4, 1911, 10 months after
Kongo. Haruna followed at the Kobe Yard of Kawasaki on March 16, 1912 and Kirishima at the Nagasaki Yard of Mitsubishi on March 17, 1912. There were
some differences among the ships, other than the
Kongo’s turret crown 12-pdrs. Kongo and Hiei had turrets with a knuckle while Haruna and Kirishima did not.
Kongo had her first funnel closer to the fore mast than the other three. Kongo and Hiei had their first funnel of the same height as the other two funnels but with
Haruna and Kirishima the first funnel was taller than the other two. For the three ships built in Japan, the second funnel was thinner than the other two. On August
28, 1913
Kongo left from Plymouth and arrived at Yokosuka on November 5, 1913 to become the most powerful warship in the Pacific.
The next year Japan joined the war against the Central Powers, primarily as a way to grab the German Pacific colonies. Kongo sailed from Yokosuka on August 26,
1914 escorting convoys, as the German Asiatic Squadron had left Tsing Tao under Admiral Graf von Spee, bound for South America.
Kongo returned to Yokosuka.
In 1915 Great Britain approached Japan to inquire if Japan would lease the
Kongo Class battlecruisers to the Royal Navy for the rest of the war. The offer was
declined. In 1917
Kongo received her first significant refit. The Kongo had been built without a gun director in the fore mast sighting top even though all of the
British battlecruisers had this equipment. A fire control director was added to an enlarged fore top and a search light tower was added between the first and second
funnels carrying 3.4-feet (110cm) searchlights. Her appearance really started to change in the 1920s. The bridge was drafting smoke from the first funnel so at first
the funnel was heightened and then given a cap in 1920 and in 1921 seaplanes were added for spotting. In 1924 the foremast received multiple platforms with all fire
control and searchlight control equipment added to these platforms although
Kongo kept the search light tower added in 1917. This marked the start of the Japanese
Pagoda superstructure. By 1926
Kongo also carried seven 88mm antiaircraft guns. In 1927 the entire fore mast tripod was completely replaced by a Pagoda
superstructure. In 1928 the cap to the second funnel was replaced with an inflated balloon cap designed to keep out rain. In 1929 work was started on a major refit
Kongo, which along with the rebuild of 1933 completely changed the Kongo from a battlecruiser to an even faster fast battleship with the length at the stern
increased by 25-feet and all new machinery changing her horse power from 64,000 shp to 136,000 shp for a maximum speed of 30-knots. The history of
after these refits is subject to the ship’s history during World War Two.

Kajika and the Beaver Corporation are new names for most modelers but if you live in Japan, you probably recognize the Beaver Corporation as a producer of photo-
etch sets for Japanese produced models for some time. Kajika has now appeared producing a plastic model of the Japanese battlecruiser in her initial 1914 fit. On the
box, it states that Kajika is part of the Beaver Corporation, as well as stating that the model was produced in China. Reading between the lines it appears obvious that
Beaver Corporation has been the nom de plume for
Flyhawk Model of China in the production of detailed accessories for sale in Japan, detailing Japanese models.
Now Kajika is producing plastic scale models on Japanese topics to be sold in Japan and elsewhere in an arrangement similar to the sale of Trumpeter kits under the
name of Pitroad in Japan. What is equally obvious upon examining the Kajika
Kongo is that it must be actually produced by Flyhawk, as the kit has all of the superb
detail that has made
Flyhawk the producer of the best and most detailed plastic 1:700 kits in the world. The Kajika Kongo is sold without photo-etch, although Kajika
does sell photo-etch and wood decking for the
Kongo separately. I have seen the photo-etch and wooden decking for the Kajika Kongo and they are as superb as the
kit itself.
The hull comes in the traditional waterline format found in 1:700 scale models. It is one piece, instead of separate port and starboard sides. The molding is fantastic,
fully up to the highest
Flyhawk standards. There is lovely armor plate detail and the line of the armor belt appears very much to scale, instead of being over-scale.
The hull anchor hawse fittings are very nice, as well as the open chocks that are at the top of the hull molding.  Climbing rungs are molded onto the hull and are
very delicate and far less over-scale, if at all, than almost all other plastic kits. The port holes have eyebrows (rigoles), which is exceedingly rare in 1:700 scale
plastic kits, except of course, kits under the
Flyhawk label. A very delicate and thin torpedo net shelf on each side runs most of the length of the ship and the hull
also features base fittings for the torpedo net booms. The torpedo net is not included so you will have to fabricate that fitting. At the stern, in Captain’s territory are
detailed doors opening to the separate stern-walk, square shuttered windows and projecting stern anchor plates. These windows and doors have hinge and other
fittings detail.

There are two primary deck pieces, the long forecastle level deck and the comparatively short quarterdeck, which is one level lower starting at the deck break aft.
These decks fully match the wonderful detail found on the hull. Delicate deck planking lines have butt end detail. Starting with the forecastle the decks are littered
with fine detail. Anchor gear and fittings reflect this detail. Deck hawse, anchor plates, windlass bases, chain locker fittings, twin and single bollard fittings, cable
reels, skylights and deck access hatches with exquisite detail all show a superior standard in model production. About the only thing that could draw some criticism
is that the anchor chain is molded on top of the chain run plates. Surrounding A and B barbettes are post vents, inboard open chocks and even more of the detailed
skylights and deck hatch fittings. A leadsman platform protrudes from the deck on either side of the forward superstructure, whose placement is assisted by raised
locater lines. Also starting at this location are the numerous coal scuttles, which run to Q barbette. On the actual ship these scuttles were flush with the deck to
prevent tripping but on the
Kongo kit, they are slightly raised. It certainly makes it a lot easier to paint the raised scuttles than if they were indeed flush with the
deck. Rows of raised ventilator coamings flank each side of the funnel base locations. They would be opened to cool the machinery spaces below them. These
coamings have outstanding hinge and hatch detail. Aft of Q barbette are more ventilator fittings, boat chocks and rectangular ventilator fittings at the base of the
barbette. The forecastle level deck also has the deck break bulkheads with the last two 6-inch gun casemates, port holes and two doors with hinge and dog detail on
the starboard side. The quarterdeck piece concludes with most of the same excellent detail found at the start of the forecastle, bollards, open chocks, deck hatch
coamings, skylights and cable reels.
In the instructions, the quarterdeck is part A, the forecastle level part B, the hull part C and the hull bottom plate part D. All of the smaller parts are on sprues.
Sprue E has only two parts, the superstructure/conning tower and front and side faces of the tower bridge. The superstructure/conning tower has double doors
with hinge/dog detail, the conning tower with vision slit, which is deep and fine, wood planking on the deck, conning tower door and cupolas on the conning
tower crown. The bridge face has window shutter detail and a couple of port holes, again with eyebrows. Sprue F has the four main gun turrets.
Kajika/Flyhawk certainly didn’t stink on detail here. The turrets have the angular side plates, centerline ridge, thin bottom apron and overlapping segmented
armor plates on the crown. They come in two patterns with the superfiring B and Q turrets having locater holes for separate sighting pieces and the lower turrets
with turret commander cupolas. Additional fine detail includes front are rear face climbing rungs for the lower turrets and front and side climbing rungs for the
superfiring turrets. Amazingly there is individual rivet detail on turret crowns along the circumference and along the plate segment lines. Also included are gun
captain’s cupolas forward and base plates for the tertiary guns, which were mounted on the turret crowns for only
Kongo. Sprue G covers the balance of the
parts for the main and secondary guns. The main gun turret bases have cradles so that the individual guns can be at different elevations. The barrels for the main
guns have hollow muzzles, another extreme rarity for plastic kits in this scale and the number one reason that turned brass barrels are often used to replace plastic
barrels. The secondary casemates have sighting ports on either side of the gun position. You can’t go wrong with these parts. The six-inch guns do not appear to
have hollow muzzles but they may be so small that I can’t pick them up with my 2.5 magnified reading glasses.

The next sprue has a single part for H and I. Sprue H is B barbette and the superstructure base 01 level. The bulkheads have the portholes with eyebrows and the
deck has planking with butt end detail. At the rear are tracks, which were apparently used to move large search lights on the corners of this deck. Other detail are
small ventilators and raised locater lines for the next level, which has the conning tower. Sprue I is a raised shelter deck, which goes on the forecastle level
amidship. The bulkheads have detailed doors and junction boxes. The shelter deck has an anti-skid steel appearance. The deck is dominated by boat chocks.
Extraordinary detail is found on the square and triangular machinery space ventilation hatches clustered about the raised locater outlines for the first and second
funnels. Sprue J has a great number of smaller parts. About 50% are the net booms. These booms even have reinforcing bands molded onto them. 30% of the
fret are support posts for the shelter deck. The balance of the sprue has the deck house for the third funnel. This has the same excellent ventilation doors detail
found at the bases of the funnel positions on the shelter deck. Other parts are hull side trash chutes, turret crown sighting equipment and small, solid searchlight
towers. These towers had an open, lattice base, much better represented by photo-etch. After examining the photograph of the relief-etched brass fret designed
for the Kajika
Kongo on the Free Time Hobbies site, these towers are in the fret.
Sprue K is another large sprue on which are found the funnels. Each funnel is one piece with a hollow interior offering perfect depth on the finished model. They have
fine detail including locater positions and holes for steam pipes and funnel platforms, as well as fine raised lines representing foot rungs. The grates/clinker screens are
well done with the benefit of the correct domed appearance. The platforms and steam pipes are also on this sprue. The steam pipes have bracket detail, unheard of in
plastic kits. Bridge platforms decks and equipment such as flag lockers are also found here. Bridge decks have wood planks with butt end detail found on the larger
decks. For the stern you get the sternwalk with bottom supports as well as the awning above. Highly detailed QF guns for the turret crowns are on this sprue. Other
very highly detailed equipment includes deck winches, aft conning tower with top deck, search lights, life buoy stands, anchors, small sighting fittings and davits.
Lastly, there are solid inclined ladders. I certainly would not use these. If you don’t get the dedicated
Kongo brass photo-etch fret, at the very least use generic photo-
etch inclined ladders. Sprue L has the ship’s boats. The three steam launches are of three parts each, hull, deck and funnel. The decks have lovely hatch and
equipment detail. You get two large and one small steam launch. Open boats come in four patterns, one is a large whaler, seven medium and one small boats and one
dinghy. They all have detailed bottom planking and thwart detail. The last sprue is illustrative of the extreme attention to detail exhibited in this kit. Sprue M has the
tripod masts, yards, starfish and tops. The topmasts and yards are especially thin and delicate. The sprue comes in a cardboard box and the sprue itself has vertical
protective posts above and below the sprue, all of which are designed to protect these delicate parts from damage. The tripod center legs have bracket and reel detail
and the top masts/yards parts are exceptionally well detailed. In common with many 1:700 scale models, a metal weight is included in the kit. A small decal sheet is
also present with a single straight and single furled Japanese flag.

Instructions are in the same pattern found in
Flyhawk kits, except with less color, as Flyhawk instructions have color coded instructions throughout. The
instructions are on one long, back-printed sheet of high quality glossy paper. They start with the traditional parts laydown and is followed by a series of assembly
modules. Module one is the forward superstructure; module two the tripods; module three the shelter deck, aft funnel deck house, funnels and boat placement;
module four the casmate secondary guns; module five the main gun turrets; and module six the hull, forecastle and quarterdeck assembly. The back side continues
with assembly modules and concludes with a full color profile, plan and painting guide. Module seven is the side boats, davit assembly; module eight the amidship
fittings attachment; module nine the major sub-assembly attachment; module ten the forecastle fittings assembly and module eleven the quarterdeck fittings assembly.
The color plan and profile has the same appearance and high quality as found in
Flyhawk kits. Color guides with paint manufacturer numbers are shown for Tamiya
and Mr. Hobby. When the instructions were prepared, one small error was made showing the aft shelter deck supports to be part J13 on the starboard and part J12 on
the port. A small instruction revision sheet is included that shows these parts reversed, with J12 on the starboard and J13 on the port. This is just another example of
putting the modeler first. Stay tuned, as the side of the box shows
Hiei and Haruna coming to keep the Kongo company.

The Kajika
Kongo in the 1914, as built fit, is a superb plastic model, cloaked with outstanding detail. The kit has the plastic parts only with no photo-etch. However,
separate Kajika packs are available designed for this kit, offering relief-etched brass photo-etched, turned brass barrels and wooden deck planking.
Steve Backer