When Japan embarked on a navy of its own in the late 1800s, it made extensive use of foreign shipyards to construct these ships. By the 1890s, they had begun to build their own ships, but foreign influence, materials and technology still reigned supreme. Among the first of the 'large' warships built in Japan was theAkitsushima. Laid down in 1890, launched in 1892 and commissioned in February 1894,Akitsushima was the last Japanese warship to be constructed of foreign steel. As built she mounted a French 12.6" Canet gun, but in 1894/5 was converted to a more conventional arrangement of six x 6", and four x 4.7".
On 25 July 1894, three Japanese warships met two Chinese ships off the Chinese coast, although not at war, one of the Chinese ships – the Tsi-yuen – headed straight for the Japanese ships in what appeared to be a torpedo attack. The three IJN vessels, Yoshino, Akitsushima and Naniwa, opened fire – the first time Japanese warships had fired their guns in anger - shortly after, the Tsi-yuen hauled down her colours and appeared to surrender, but she then managed to escape into the fog and safety. The other Chinese ship - the Kwang-yi - ran away pursued by Akitsushima, until she came to an abrupt halt when she (Kwang-yi) went aground. The Sino-Japanese war was now underway.
The preceding events now take a strange twist. . . they need never have happened. The truth of the matter was that the Tsi-yuen's steering gear had jammed at a most inopportune moment and the course it put her on started the Sino-Japanese war of 1894/95.
Akitsushima survived until 1927, spending her last 6 years as a submarine depot ship.
A most welcome surprise arrived in the mail recently in the form of this delightful little 1/700 scale protected cruiser from the Polish company Modelkrak. Opening the sturdy cardboard box reveals the now standard bubblewrap around the components - a single piece hull and a baggy of detail parts. All the resin parts are well molded, but every single part also has a large mold gate on one side of it that will require work to remove cleanly.
The hull is nicely cast with thin splinter shields around the main deck level. These have the internal structure molded on their inner face. Decks are represented with delicate scribing, as are the skylights over the engineering spaces.
The detail parts number 51 in total, and include funnels, deckhouses, ventilators, gunshields, ship's boats, various platforms, searchlights and even stairs. The gunshields are particularly nice, being hollow and allowing one to insert the relevant gun into it. However there are no barrels included – for that matter, neither is any material which is needed for making masts or yards. These will have to be made from HSP or metal rod.
The only other thing included in the kit is a single-sided instruction sheet showing a side and plan view of the ship as reconstructed and an exploded view.
With the addition of PE rails, this will make a wonderful companion piece to the Hi-Mold Mikasa. I see in various listings that Modelkrak make other ships of the same vintage from the Japanese and Russian navies, and I for one look forward to picking up more of them.