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Built Review
IJN Chitose
Chitose, Japanese Seaplane Tender, Waterline Series
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by: Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]

Originally published on:
Model Shipwrights

I.J.N. Seaplane Carrier Chitose
Mfg. ID: 00123
Series: Waterline

Chitose and sister Chiyoda were constructed as Chitose-class seaplane carriers capable of carrying 24 floatplanes. CHITOSE was assigned by the Nihon Kaigun (Imperial Japanese Navy) to the 11th Seaplane Tender Division in November 1941, her aircraft tail codes being "YI-xx". In support of the Imperial Army Southern Expeditionary Army (南方軍 Nanpo gun) Chitose and her aircraft supported the invasions of the Phillipines, Netherlands east Indies (crippling USS Pope), the Celebes (downing Dutch PBY Y-58 and being damaged by USAAF LB-30s), Dutch New Guinea, sortied into the Indiana Ocean, and attacked Midway (shooting down USN PBY P-12). On 14 July 1942 she was assigned as flagship of 11th Seaplane Tender Division with tender Kamikawa Maru. Her air component was 14 F1M2 “Pete” and 5 E13A1 "Jake"floatplanes, with two of each type in reserve.

The Solomon Islands became her theater. Over those waters YI aircraft challenged Allied aircraft projecting offensive patrols and reconnaissance through the Solomons. Chitose aircraft frequently sparred with Allied planes although her main “fighter”, the scrappy F1M2 two-seat biplane, had a difficult time climbing to and catching fast high-flying B-17s from Espiritu Santo. While YI pilots claimed many successes, they downed very few Allied planes. One that was downed was a B-17, purposely rammed by a Chitose pilot PO Katsuki Kiyomi, who survived not only the attack, but the war as one of the world’s very few floatplane aces!

To support the developing campaign to defend Guadalcanal, IJN Eighth Fleet created the"R" Area Air Force (R Homen Koku Butai) on 28 August 1942:
    CHITOSE is assigned to the No. 1 Group of the 11th Seaplane Tender Division with seaplane tender KAMIKAWA MARU. The seaplane unit's mission is to augment the IJN’s land-based aircraft in the Guadalcanal area. The unit uses E13A1 'Jake' monoplanes for long-range reconnaissance and anti-submarine missions, Type 2 Nakajima A6M2-N "Rufe"single-seat float fighters and F1M2s for light bombing, convoy-escort duty and to complement the A6M2-Ns in the fighter role. The R-Area Air Force is based in Shortland Harbor, but Rekata Bay on Santa Isabel Island, 135 miles NW of Lunga Point on Guadalcanal, serves as the unit's forward staging base.*

R Homen Koku Butai planes battled through the Solomons, the scrappy “Pete” even clashing with USN and USMC Wildcat aces like “Indian Joe” Bauer. Chitose was damaged during the Battle of the Eastern Solomons (Second Battle of the Solomon Sea in Japan.) in August 1942 and also made “Tokyo Express” reinforcement runs, plus searched for Allied naval units. Eventually, loss of Japanese aircraft carriers saw Chitose returned to Japan for conversion into a conventional “flat top” aircraft carrier in late 1942. Chitose was fatally damaged during the Battle of Leyte Gulf by USS Essex torpedo planes.
In the slip
I admit that I don’t know the release date of the original Aoshima 1/700 waterline IJN Chitose, sometime in the 1970s I’m sure. Sprue W which holds aircraft, guns and auxiliary pieces has "1994" molded on it. Aoshima upgraded the tooling sometime in the 1990s and perhaps again since then.

Aoshima packaged the model in a deep conventional lid/tray box. Dramatic box art depicts Chitose underway conducting flight ops, a “Jake” floatplane in early war overall gray camouflage climbing away. Inside the box is a heavy collection of 14 gray and clear sprues and decals sealed in plastic bags:

    1 x Chitose aircraft elevator, aft and aircraft handling decks
    1 x Chitose fore decks, superstructure and bridge, masts, hanger towers
    1 x Chitose forecastle, elevated flight deck and AA battery platforms
    1 x clear sprue of searchlights and bridge windows
    1 x each Chitose hull and waterline base
    1 x floatplanes
    1 x amidships hanger deck
    2 x davits, catapults, cranes, life preservers, fittings
    2 x general IJN “Leviathan” (cruiser) AA batteries and mounts; auxiliary boats; AAA guns; floatplanes; anchors; davits; searchlights
    3 x Chitose stack, bridge and superstructure
    5 x decal sheets

    Molding is remarkable, especially on the updated sprues. I found no mentionable flash, no visible ejector circles, almost inconsequential seam lines, and no sink marks. Typical of waterline series models, the miniscule ladders and other fittings are molded onto parts, as are many other deck and bulkhead details. Still, Aoshima always did a good job of making these items as small as practical. Good surface detail includes recessed and relief detail, as appropriate. Fine sharp portholes and cleats detail the hull and superstructure. Surface detail includes deck lockers and machinery: capstans, windlasses, winches, and miscellaneous machinery. The worst are the raised lines simulating both the brass bands separating segments of the curious linoleum weather deck covering favored by IJN cruisers, as well as the clever rail track system used to move the aircraft around the decks.

    Girder, crane and tower detail work is molded sharply, too, although gun position shielding and bulwarks are thick. As good as it is, 1/700 is difficult to make to-scale in styrene. (While none is included in this kit, there are photo-etch sets available to superdetail the model with parts more to scale.) Aoshima masts and pipes and ducts are commendably fine in diameter. Many of the original molded detail objects are gone from this kit, small separate parts now provided such as tiny life rings!

    About the only squawk I have is that some parts require the modeler to drill out the bulkheads to attach them. Not a big deal unless you lack fine bits. I attached some flush after simply snipping away the mounting pegs and I challenge anyone to spot which parts they are.

    Almost all surface detail I rate as good and above average – sharp yet fine. Decks are detailed with oversized brass dividers and simulated raised tread. Bulwarks are cast simply smooth with no attempt to simulate any canvas coverings or railings. Aoshima molded many stowage lockers and other protrusions on the decks. Superstructure sides have hatches and portholes, ladders and stairs, plus other miscellaneous ship details. Whereas most of these items were traditionally molded on, today many are tiny separate pieces, enhancing detail and to-scale size.

    One sprue that I was not expecting is the clear sprue. It holds a clear band for the bridge windows, several searchlights, plus two tiny turret-like parts that resemble weapons director cupolas. Those attach to the top of small bays which each attach to each side of the bridge. Other topside detail includes a small copse of masts and stands and antennas.

    Further detail is demonstrated by the four structures which hold aloft the raised flight deck. Each is made with two halves, onto which attach a variety of cranes and their mounts. Several tiny pipes and gangways attach onto those sub-assemblies.

    Several aircraft of four types are provided. These are on ‘old’ sprues and ‘new’ sprues. Included floatplanes are the monoplane E13A1 "Jake" and three biplanes:

      Type 94 Kawanishi E7K2 “Alf”
      Type 95 Nakajima E8N2 “Dave”
      Type 0 Mitsubishi F1M2 “Pete”

    I was amazed while surveying the new aircraft sprue - the detail is remarkable! Aircraft are molded with separate stabilizers and floats (even outriggers!), propellers, and interplane struts and top wings for the biplanes! In fact, some are even molded so that the wings can be assembled folded for storage!

    Weapons are molded with good finesse, too. The main battery twin 12.7 cm/40 (5") Type 89 guns are molded together but apart from their mounts. Gun tubes are small in diameter. Those little 25 mm Type 96 triple-A guns are treated to such finesse of detail, too. I still have some Waterline Type 96 pieces from many years ago and the barrels of the twin and triple mounts have no daylight between them.

    Another category with which I judge model ships is the fidelity of scale and detail of masts and arms. Granted, the kit parts are not as willowy as etched pieces yet they are impressive for injection molding. Not only that but some masts are multi-part assemblies.

    Finally, whaleboats and launches. Like the aircraft we can sample the old with the new as both sprues are included. New tooling boats have more detail within them. Overall, I consider this kit to be above average.

    Instructions, painting, decals
    For a kit with so many sprues the instruction sheet is fairly short. It has a brief historical description of Chitose in English and Japanese. As the modeler unfolds the instruction sheet an inventory of sprues are revealed. (Oddly, sprue W is not shown.) Parts not used with Chitose are shaded. Next the modeler is led along a traditional multi-step (with sub-steps) assembly process. The line art directions are clear and well organized. Some parts are keyed to colors listed in the painting guide. Some aircraft are to be finished in segmented camouflage and this is also indicated. Finally, a painting guide shows the ship in profile.

    Paints referenced are GSI and Mr. Color. More than a dozen are listed. The colors are listed with an English translation.

    Decals? Now these are impressive, several sheets of Hinomaru for the aircraft! And the 40-year-old paper sheet of faux darkened bridge windows and Kyokujitsu-ki (Rising Sun Flag): the ensign of Nihon Kaigun. My only negative observation is that the tiny Hinomaru have excess carrier film.

    Chitose is an unusual subject and eye catching. Aoshima has taken a good old kit and upgraded it into a model competitive with many new model companies. I noticed that all of those sprues are not only heavy, but fill the original box beyond what the lid was originally cut to cover!

    This model lacks the super detail of P/E. Because Aoshima (and others) offer P/E sets to upgrade it, the kit was not meant to be a premium kit and that is how I judge it. With that in mind I think it is a very good model. Molding is to a very high standard. Perhaps Aoshima could have designed some parts a bit different but that’s for the Waterline community to debate. Regardless, detail is commendable. There are many pieces to keep fingers and tweezers busy. The model fit is great and there is minimal cleanup of most pieces required.

    Several parts require drilling out the holes and this could be a problem for modelers without a specially equipped tool box. Only GSI and Mr. Color are listed as paint brands. Many aircraft Hinomaru have excess carrier film.

    Chitose is a very good model and I have enjoyed building it. The build-thread can be accessed via Building Chitose in the summary box, below. Scans of WW2 intel on IJN can be found via Click here for additional images for this review, also below. I recommend this model for fans of Nihon Kaigun subjects, the Solomons campaign, and seaplane tenders.

    * Bob Hackett and Sander Kingsepp. IJN Seaplane Carrier CHITOSE: Tabular Record of Movement (Revision 6 ). [Web.] 2012.

Click here for additional images for this review.

Highs: Sharp and fine molding. Lots of separate detail parts and lots of Hinomaru for the aircraft. The model fit is great and there is minimal cleanup of most pieces required.
Lows: Several parts require drilling out the holes and this could be a problem for modelers without a specially equipped tool box. Only GSI and Mr. Color are listed as paint brands. Many aircraft Hinomaru have excess carrier film.
Verdict: Chitose is a very good model and recommended for fans of IJN subjects, the Solomons campaign, and seaplane tenders.
  Scale: 1:700
  Mfg. ID: 001233
  Suggested Retail: Ą2,200 / $22.50
  Related Link: Building Chitose
  PUBLISHED: Mar 10, 2014
  NATIONALITY: Japan / 日本

Our Thanks to Dragon USA!
This item was provided by them for the purpose of having it reviewed on this KitMaker Network site. If you would like your kit, book, or product reviewed, please contact us.

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About Frederick Boucher (JPTRR)

I'm a professional pilot with a degree in art. My first model was an AMT semi dump truck. Then Monogram's Lunar Lander right after the lunar landing. Next, Revell's 1/32 Bf-109G...cried havoc and released the dogs of modeling! My interests--if built before 1900, or after 1955, then I proba...

Copyright ©2021 text by Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]. All rights reserved.


"...the release date of the original Aoshima 1/700 waterline IJN Chitose, sometime in the 1970s I’m sure. Sprue W which holds aircraft, guns and auxiliary pieces has 1994 molded on it. Aoshima upgraded the tooling sometime in the 1990s and perhaps again since then". Frederick, I built Aoshima's Chitose back when it was first released in the late 1970s... this version looks better than that original in almost every way! It makes me want to build this sister too! Thanks for the review.
NOV 10, 2017 - 10:09 PM
This ship in 1:350 scale would be very tempting *slurp*
NOV 10, 2017 - 11:24 PM

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