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J1N1 (early) Gekko

by Ian Robertson


Nakajima J1N1 (early) Gekko


Tamiya's 1/48 scale early Gekko is available online from Squadron.com




The Nakajima J1N1 Gekko, code named "Irving", was a twin-engine land-based fighter introduced by the Imperial Japanese Navy in 1943.

The early version of the fighter featured a distinctive and ungainly "stepped" upper fuselage. Two upward-firing oblique guns were mounted behind the cockpit for use against enemy bombers (a similar arrangement to that used by many Luftwaffe nightfighters such as the Bf.110G-4 and Ju.88G). Some early Gekkos were also fitted with two downward firing guns for anti-shipping and ground attack roles; however, these guns were later eliminated because the main role for the aircraft became defense against bombers.



The late version of the Gekko was similar in overall design to the early version but lacked the stepped upper fuselage and downward firing guns. Tamiya has released both versions of this aircraft in 1/48 scale, the most recent release being the early type with stepped fuselage.





The late version of the Tamiya Gekko is the subject of an excellent 3-part HyperScale construction feature by Gregg Cooper. Because early Gekko is essentially the same kit as the late Gekko, apart from the stepped fuselage and downward firing guns, I will defer to the Gregg's articles as a description of construction. Suffice to say the Gekko fits beautifully and is superbly detailed.

The only sore point for me was the excessive number of ejector pin marks located between the framing of the cockpit walls. However, most of these will not be visible once the model is complete, and those that will be visible can be dealt with during the early stages of construction.


Modifications to my model included etched metal seat belts from Eduard, brake lines made from electrical wire, and antenna and canopy supports made from stretched sprue. Bare metal foil was burnished around the landing gear oleos to give them a more polished appearance. The kit's seats were sanded thin to give them a more realistic appearance.



Painting and Markings


I painted the cockpit, gun bay, and wheel wells a light metallic blue-green (aotake) using Polly Scale "Anodized Metal" acrylic paint.

Control boxes and panels within the cockpit were painted medium green or scale black, similar to that shown in Part 1 of Gregg Cooper's construction feature on HyperScale.


Early Gekkos had two color schemes, IJN Green over IJN Gray, or solid IJN green. I settled on the solid green scheme for my model. Prior to painting I attached the one-piece closed canopy as a mask over the cockpit since it was my intention to use the three-piece open canopy on my model.

The yellow leading edge bands on the wings were painted and then masked until all other painting was complete. Although the kit contains decals for these bands I prefer the finish from paint. The kit's decals were used as templates for the masks.

I sprayed the fuselage and wings with several light coats of SnJ Aluminum Metallizer and then preshaded the panel lines black. Several coats of IJN green were sprayed over the model, switching between Polly Scale, Aeromaster, and Tamiya acrylics. Each brand of green is slightly different in color, giving an effective and subtle variation to the final finish. The engine cowls were painted a mixture of black, blue and dark gray using Polly Scale acrylics. The propeller blades were painted Japanese red-brown.

The entire model was sprayed with a coat of Model Master Metallizer Sealer prior to the addition of decals. I chose decal option "C" from the Tamiya instructions - an aircraft from the 202nd Naval Fighter Group, Borneo Island, January 1944. Once the decals had dried I applied a clear coat made from a 1:1 mixture of Polly Scale clear flat finish and Polly Scale clear satin finish.

As a final step, fine grain sandpaper was used to make minor surface abrasions and expose the SnJ aluminum metallizer beneath, particularly around the cockpit entrance, port side wing root, and engine nacelles.



Small amounts of SnJ polishing powder were worked into some of the scratches in the paint (WARNING - don't get this powder on your fingers, it spreads like wildfire). Exhaust stains were applied by spraying highly thinned black paint and then brushing the painted areas with gray chalk pastel. The exhaust tubes were painted with Model Master "Burnt Iron" metallizer and then brushed with orange chalk pastel.





For those who balked at purchasing Tamiya's late Gekko because of its somewhat ordinary (boring to some) appearance, the early Gekko offers a unique and interesting alternative. This, coupled with the kit's excellent design and detail, make the early Gekko an attractive option for WWII aircraft enthusiasts.

Highly Recommended.





All images were taken outdoors on a sunny day with a SONY S-75 digital camera set at its highest resolution (2048 x 1536 pixels).

Other camera settings were as follows:

  • 200 ISO film speed,

  • 1/800 sec shutter speed,

  • F-stop 8.0 (highest possible), and

  • fixed focus distance of either 20 or 30 cm.

Images were cleaned up using Adobe Photoshop 6.0 for the Macintosh. Specifically, the interface between the base and background were merged using the "blur" tool, and in some cases the "sharpen edges" tool was used to bring out details on the model that were lost during image compression.



Additional Images


Click the thumbnails below to view larger images:

Model, Images and Article Copyright 2002 by Ian Robertson
Page Created 15 August 2002
Last updated 04 June 2007

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