Perhaps the strangest Japanese aircraft model in my personal collection is this Tsukuda Hobby 'Spanker Model 2' 1/72nd scale kit of the IJN crew trainer 'Shiragiku' (白菊 - white chrysanthemum). The first kit in this odd mixed-media series was a 1/48th scale Kyofu floatplane fighter (to be reviewed in due course) but after the Shiragiku there don't seem to have been any other kits. Both kits were released in Japan in 1985.
The Shiragiku kit consists of a sheet of strong white vacform plastic with two quite sharply molded fuselage halves, an injection molded frame of grey plastic containing wings, tailplanes, cowling, cockpit floor and internal bulkheads plus a set of finely molded white metal parts for the prop, engine, exhausts, intakes, main undercarriage, tail wheel, seats, stick, pitot tube and aerial. There is also a strongly molded and sharp vacform canopy with no frame delineation whatsoever that has ambered slightly with age but is still useable. The decal sheet has options for aircraft from the Tokushima, Kôchi, Shanghai and Chintao Wings. The plastic parts appear to be of limited run technology, similar to those from Aeroclub or Pegasus.
The attractive sepia box art is by Masao Satake, the same artist who does the black series FAOW monochrome covers. The instruction sheet is of good quality, glossy paper, in Japanese and English with the best 1/72nd scale plan drawing of the Shiragiku I have ever seen. There might be other vacform kits of Shiragiku but the only injection molded kit I'm aware of is the limited run by Pavla which was reviewed here. The Shiragiku was eventually used for kamikaze special attack missions such as the Tokushima and Kochi operations. Like Tokai it was a product of the Kyushu Aeroplane Company (Kyushu Hikoki K K) and the name chosen is said to be representative of truth and loyalty.
I bought this kit in 1985 from a pre-HLJ mail order shop in Japan - 'Hikosen' - in response to an advert in the Koku-Fan magazine and my only regret is that I didn't buy two of them. At the time I fully intended to build it - as you do. I'd still like to build it but I'm now reluctant to do so as I have never seen another one anywhere! What prompted this mixed-media approach by Tsukuda I have no idea. They are perhaps best known for releasing other manufacturers kits and for TV and sci-fi tie-in kits. For Japanese readers the advert reproduced here might offer some clue as to the thinking behind these kits. Presumably "Spanker model" was an allusion to "kit-bashing"? We are probably unlikely to see a mainstream kit of this aircraft but I guess we would need to look to Fujimi or Fine Molds for the possibility of something special.
Image credits: All © 1985 Tsukuda Hobby Co. Ltd
Thanks for posting this useful article on this odd and now forgotten mixed media kit. I also saw an advert on a loaned issue of Koku-Fan back in 1987 (I cannot remember now for sure, but I guess the magazine was from one or two years before) and tried to get the model through a Japanese penpal who lived in Osaka. Unfortunately, she was unable to procure it and I end up forgetting the kit. Your text is the first reference I found on it after so many years!
Thanks for showing the 'sprues' on this one. I was unaware of it until seeing your posting.
Thanks for your comments Ruy and Ken - I had begun to think this was of no interest to anyone!
Ruy, I'm thinking the Shiragiku kits were fairly quickly sold out. My habit at the time was to buy two kits and I had two of the Kyofu kits which I purchased at the same time so I'm thinking I probably ended up with only one Shiragiku because that was all the shop had left! Pity because looking at it I think it would build up quite nicely and be an interesting experience.
Would love to learn more about why these kits were marketed and how many were released.
Although not so well known in the West the Shiragiku holds a special place in the history of the tragic Kamikaze attacks. Tsukuda's 1/48th Kyofu has been eclipsed by the Tamiya kit but apart from Pavla's limited run the Shiragiku is still absent. I can imagine a Fujimi or Fine Molds version - but whether we will ever see one . . . . !
You must be right about the fast disapearance of the Shiragiku kits batch from the market: the Japanese friend I mentioned was and still is a very resourceful and determined person and felt as much or even more frustrated than myself at the inability to find the kit. We share another hobby, (vintage 35mm photographica and pictures taken with the stuff) and she managed to locate some very hard to get items since then, even for Japanese standards... The kit must be a prized collectors' item in Japan nowadays.
Yes, we are well served for the Kyofu with the 1/48 Tamiya and 1/72 Hasegawa kits, but as we all know, after all it is a fighter and fighters, with an aura associated to air combat, ace pilots and the like sell much better than trainers. I like to think that Fine Moulds will do the Shiragiku some sunny day. At least it is well within their style of chosen subjects, so who knows...
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