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