Hasegawa 1/72 Kawasaki Ki-61
This one starts off with a website I had some years ago which was used to store the photos I had taken of various airplanes I had crossed paths with in my travels as a wandering aircraft mechanic. An email arrived one day from a gentleman in Japan going by the call sign of Astroboy, whose father had been a Zero pilot during WWII. He had a website as well, dedicated to his dad and the Zero. We became long distance friends, drawn together by a mutual love of aviation and history. Eventually, the Zero site split into two sections – one for those in Japan, and the other for those of us who were not.
I met Masahiro Washio on the non-Japanese part of the site. We had similar interests, and he was fascinated by American aircraft. We shared many emails and letters and discovered that our favorite Japanese fighter was the Ki-61. One day, a box arrived from Japan. In it was a letter from Washio-san, a beautiful set of sake cups and the model you see here. It sat in the box for a while until 1994, when I went to Seattle to attend school on the Boeing 757. It was a six week course, and I figured I’d need something to keep me from going stir crazy. It was small enough to fit in my carry-on bag, along with some of the stuff I would need to build it. I got the fuselage and wings assembled, but that was as far as I got. Field trips and training sessions kept me from completing the model. It got put away when I got home and was promptly forgotten as life and kids and work took over.
A few weeks ago, I was rummaging through one of the cabinets in the garage looking for a part for one of my RC airplanes. I stumbled across a box full of Japanese postage stuck at the back of a cabinet. In it was this kit in a box with my name on it, and a Tamiya Rufe that Astroboy had sent around the same time I got the Ki-61. I have since lost track of Washio-san, and Astroboy passed away a few years ago, and I decided it was time to build these airplanes in honor of my friends. The Ki-61 was already started, and I needed something simple as a distraction to keep me from flinging the Airfix Seafire out the door.
Kit is a 1987 Japanese issue and was built OOB. The pilot was installed to cover up the lack of cockpit detail, though one could probably build a pretty nice one from what is there. Paint is from Model Master, IJA Dark Green and IJA Light Gray, both lightened a bit with some white. I had already painted the model when I discovered that there were no decals for the leading edge bands, but a raid to my RC odds and ends box took care of that. Weathering was a dark gray wash and silver chips picked out with a stiff bristle brush and chrome silver paint. I had to stop myself a few times – it’s easy to get carried away with that. The fuselage antenna is bent from years of being in storage. Fixing it just didn’t seem like the right thing to do.
It’s not often I finish two models in the same month. This one only took 19 years to finish, so I’m actually getting a little faster…
7 additional images. Click to enlarge.