Fujimi 1/76 Ho-Ni Type 1 Tank Destroyer (OOB)

During WWII, the tank really came into its own and matured as an important, even pivotal, piece of battlefield equipment. At the end of WWI, tanks had either been lumbering behemoths like the German A7V or British Mk. 1, or tiny armoured knits, like the French FT-17. During the interwar years, the tank struggled to find a shape and a place on the battlefield, but with the outbreak of WWII and stunning success of the Blitzkrieg through Poland and the Low Countries, it was plain to everyone that the tank was now firmly established as the new king of mobile warfare.

The problem with tanks was that they were relatively expensive to both make and operate, and required considerable maintenance in the field. Because of this, there was reluctance to commit them en masse, especially from countries with less production capacity than the US and USSR. The German Wehrmacht developed an almost bewildering array of vehicles designed to take on tanks without actually BEING tanks. These were the “tank destroyers”, vehicles that often looked like tanks or assault guns but that represented a compromise between cost and effectiveness.

While Germany was arguably the most prolific user of tank destroyers (their “Jagdpanzer” series being very numerous), they were not the only ones. Almost every combatant that had tanks also developed the chassis into cheaper, lighter tank destroyers. Interestingly, it could be said that Italy really had no real tanks, but did rely (to their great misfortune) on tank destroyers to even the odds against Allied armour.

One nation that had tanks, but didn’t really have very good ones, was Japan. Tanks were hard to use in the jungles of the Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere, and the massive machines of the Allies and Germany weren’t it was thought, all that suitable, nor necessary, for much of the work performed by the Japanese Army. (After all, you don’t need something like a Tiger to take on Chinese peasants.) As a result, even the bigger Japanese tanks, like the Shinhoto Chi-Ha, were more like light/medium tanks (think Stuart) than battlefield juggernauts (think Tiger or Panther). However, this didn’t preclude the Japanese from observing the unfolding armoured contests in Europe and determining that having a “gun tank” (as they called it) would be a good idea.

The result was the Ho-Ni. This, as with so many other converted tank destroyers of the time, used the chassis of a tank and added a stationary, armoured heavy gun in place of the turret. The Ho-Ni used the Chi-Ha (Type 97) tank as a base, and added a fixed armoured superstructure with a Type 90 75mm gun. This gun, in its field gun iteration, was often used in the anti-armour role, and was one of Japan’s heaviest direct-fire guns of the war.

Sadly, the Ho-Ni family were not widely produced. There were three variants, and total production just exceeded 100. They were rarely encountered late in the war, and most were retained in Japan itself to help fight the expected Allied invasion. With front and side armor of 51mm, the Ho-Ni wasn’t terribly weak on armour, where it had it. Compared to the Jagdpanzer IV/L70 with 80mm of frontal armour, it was not as safe from a frontal attack. The side armour was better than the German machine, which only had 30mm of side armour. However, the Ho-Ni used an open superstructure, providing reduced protection to the crew from both the elements and the enemy.

Due to the relative rarity of the Ho-Ni, it is not something that kit makers clamber over each other to make. There’s no mad rush to be the first to kit yet another, better Ho-Ni; the kit to render the others obsolete. Amazingly, though, there have been four distinct sizes and flavours of Ho-Ni Type 1 over the years; a 1/35 Tamiya, a 1/50 (WTF? Really?) LS, a 1/76 Fujimi and even a 1/144 “simple kit “by YSK. Now, not all of these are easy to find, but at least there’s some choice. For me, though, there was only one choice, and that was the Fujimi 1/76. Not only is that my preferred scale for armour, but it’s also a kit that I picked up the same time as my Chi-Ha! 

So, let’s see what Fujimi did in 1975 to take their nice little Shinhoto Chi-Ha kit and turn it into this little known and rarely encountered tank destroyer, shall we?

The Box:

This is an early issue of the kit, and like the Chi-Ha, sports some awesome period box art! While there is some text at the top of the box, telling you what this kit is, the bulk of the (sadly rather small) box top is covered with a large image of a Ho-Ni Type 1 deep in a jungle. The art is done in that heavy, old-school oil-painting style; my favourite!

Surprisingly, the art doesn’t look that gritty. The Ho-Ni is surprisingly clean; there’s no mud caked or spattered on the vehicle, and even the path its on looks dry and dust-free. Usually, this era of art has guns blazing, so you get smoke and fire adding to the mix, but this one is free of that. Since the second crewman behind the gun can be seen loading the shell into the 75mm gun, it’s implied that this vehicle likely is in combat, though.

That one aspect, as well as the highly camouflaged infantryman behind the knoll on the right side of the image, is very much at odds with the rest of the scene. The background is surprisingly bright, with what appear to be streamers of sunshine coming in at a sharp angle through a dense jungle canopy. The trees behind the Ho-Ni are largely lit up, and there are interesting shadows and rays of light coming from the heavier, darker foliage on the right. The background gives a sense of heavy, hot stillness.

This is the very interesting and atmospheric box art on the Ho-Ni Type 1. It’s unlike a lot of other tank art.

In fact, you could say that rather than trading on action, the box art trades on anticipation. It seems like everything is about to happen. It’s as if even nature is holding its breath in the last seconds before the gun opens fire and the fight is joined. That sense of tension is not something usually seen on model boxes, at least not older ones. For that alone, the box is to be held in high regard. It’s also a very nice colour paint plan, although the use of four colour cammo seems excessive.

The confusion is brought home by the side of the box, where it shows a small, simple drawing of the vehicle from the front, side and rear, and it’s in three colours. I’m likely going to use the same colours as I did on my Chi-Ha, which will make the two of them into a cool little set. On the other side of the box is a cross-sell for the two Type-97s, the normal and Shinhoto variants. While this box is very small, and amazingly thin, it does a great job, like all Fujimi boxes, of giving you a great feel for the vehicle’s key features, colour and operational environment. Not bad for something roughly the size of a postcard!

Two colours or three colours -the choice is apparently yours!

The Kit:

In real life, the Ho-Ni was just a new gun on top of a Chi-Ha chassis, so it should come as no surprise that this kit is exactly the same thing! In the small box are only tow tan-coloured sprues, as well as a sheet of decals, some rubber band tracks, and one typically Japanese mystery tube (I think it’s cement). Of the two tan sprues, one of these is smaller than the other. The larger is the same as the one that came with the Chi-Ha; it includes the hull, road wheels, drive sprockets and all the little bits like exhausts and lights that go on the chassis. It is a direct lift from the Chi-Ha kit, as far as I can tell. The second sprue includes the new hull top with the larger opening for the Type 90 gun, the gun’s casemate panels and, of course, the gun itself.

This is all that’s in the box. It’s not a lot, but the Ho-Ni was no giant of the battlefield.

As with the Chi-Ha, the parts are relatively fine and fairly well detailed the chassis has some nice detail, even on the underside. The suspension is all moulded onto the hull sides, so for those that like to have a complex and airy set of assemblies… you’re out of luck. However, if you like things kept moderately detailed and simple, then this guy is definitely up your alley! Despite the amount of detail, some of it looks a bit soft, but it should still come up with a pastel wash or two.

The top deck of the Ho-Ni should look familiar if you’ve already built (or read my article on) the Chi-Ha. There are subtle changes to go with the new huge rectangular hole.

Now, the big (pun intended) selling point of this kit is the new superstructure and gun. To be honest, not even the top of the hull has changed much, although the omission of the ball-mounted machine gun is both correct and well done. There’s a bigger hole where the gun will mount, but that’s about the only change. Looking at the pieces for the gun, though, even I have to say it’s a bit disappointing. The entire gun, including the recoil slide, is cast as a single piece. Only the mounting cradle is separate, and that comes as two halves.

The good part of this is that you don’t have to worry about sanding down a seam that runs along the barrel. The bad news is that there’s likely going to be a mould line, running down the barrel. Not only that, but of course, the barrel is solid, so it’ll need to be drilled out to look even semi-decent. Also, the gun’s barrel tip doesn’t look right. If you look at the box art, you’ll see the end of the barrel is a bit bigger than the rest. It’s a very subtle curve, like the bell on a clarinet. However, the kit’s barrel has a totally different look!

Here you can see the halves of the gun’s casemate, the new “floor” to the fighting compartment (far left) and the gun (top). Compare the gun’s shape to that shown on the box art; not really very close.

The kit’s gun has what appears to be a salad bowl stuck on the end of it! Not only is it very much more pronounced than on the box, it’s also curved the wrong way AND it has a clear demarcation line as to where the curve starts. None of this looks right, and it is a disappointment. It means some serious correction needs to be done on what should have been a simple, straight-assembly kit. Some detail painting and washing may help with the one-piece nature of the gun, but that barrel end cannot be simply painted over! Also, if you wanted little elevation and azimuth wheels for the gun, then you need to move on. There’s no detail THAT fine on this model!

Some armour kits come with figures, and the Ho-Ni is no exception. The problem is that you get a “saluting guy” and a “looking forwards guy”. On the box, you can see the latter peeking over the casemate. Okay, so that’s fine, and the figure is a bit static looking but you can make it work. The saluting guy, though, is more appropriate for a parade review than anything. While the instructions may show a drawing of the “loading guy” as seen on the box, there’s no sign of a figure of him in the styrene. It’s a shame, because he’d be really useful for a diorama!

One thing that is cool is that there is a very, VERY rudimentary interior for the gun area. There’s a new plate that fits into the lower hull that has a bit of mechanical detail (Is it part of the engine? Not sure…) on it and creates a recessed floor for the gun to bolt into. If you’re a scratchbuilder you can have some fun in there, for sure! The rest of the gun’s superstructure comes in more parts than you’d expect; there are two ‘wings’ for the side, but the front armour is made of 3 pieces, and then there is a piece that forms the “roof” that very partially covers the top of the fighting compartment.

The rubber tracks are similar to those in a Matchbox kit, but are not as good. Why? Well, Matchbox figured out how to loop the tracks into themselves to create only a minor interruption in the track pattern. Fujimi did not. They have a flat plate where the tracks join, and it looks crappy when it’s done. You’re going to want to be sure that piece ends up on bottom, since this vehicle doesn’t have any kind of side skirting armour at all.

Instructions and Decals:

The instructions are on a small, triple-folded piece of paper. They are all black and white, and being from the mid-‘70s, they are hand-drawn. They’re quite clear, when it comes to the assembly process, and there shouldn’t be much confusion as to how this little guy goes together. There are only four steps, and most of the instructions are also recycled from the Chi-Ha kit. They did bother to redraw them, or at least add to them, though, so that the new “interior” was added before closing the hull.

The addition of the road wheels to the hull can look a bit confusing, but it’s really not, and from building the Chi-Ha I can tell you that it all will go together pretty well. My hope is that the gun can be added after the superstructure is all mounted. Personally, I’d try gluing the superstructure together, adding it to the tank on a test-fit, and then seeing if you can wiggle the gun in. I think it will make life much easier.

This is all there is to building the Ho-Ni. Note the new fighting compartment that is an addition vs. the Chi-Ha kit. Note, too, that this was printed in February 1975. It’s even older than I am!

The other side (nominally the ‘front’) of the instructions has an introduction to the vehicle, all in Japanese. (I should Google translate it with my phone, I guess, but I do prefer the “mystery” of it all!) Interestingly, and confusingly, there are several different vehicles shown on the plan. The top “front and back” pics are of the completed kit, showing the included figures standing in the fighting compartment. Below that is a black and white, yet four-colour, paint plan. Strangely enough, in between the top and side views of this scheme is a three-colour scheme, and I assume it’s the one on the side of the box.

At the bottom of the page ins a four-view of a totally different vehicle! This is a Ho-Ni Type 3, and you can tell because it has a totally enclosed fighting compartment. Why is this here, and why is it the biggest illustration? Not sure, to be honest. Maybe so if you want to scratchbuild the casemate you can? On the “random vehicle” front, check out the line art of the SP gun version of this chassis in the middle right column. This is similar to the Ho-Ni, but is called the Type 4 Ho-Ro, and used a 150mm howitzer. There are no Fujimi kits of either of these vehicles, so they’re mentioned here for completeness, I guess? Hmm… that phone translation thing seems like a good idea…

This is the front side of the instructions with the paint plan and extra information, including a potentially confusing 4-view of the Type 3 Ho-Ni and a line drawing of a Type 4 Ho-Ro!

The decal sheet that comes with the kit is fairly impressive, at least compared to the Chi-Ha, which didn’t come with any. (I think it was supposed to, though). You get some numbers and characters, as well as some hull Hinomarus. There are also some things that look like flags, including both the “sunburst” and plain versions. There are, sadly, no instructions for applying many of the decals; just the number and Hinomaru are shown in the main view.

The Decal sheet’s fairly extensive. I think this might be common to both Chi-Ha variants and the Ho-Ni, given the red script at the bottom.


Like the Chi-Ha, the Ho-Ni Type 1 is an interesting little kit. It’s not overly complicated, and it should go together fairly easily without a lot of fuss. For the most part. As mentioned, the gun is in need of some serious accurizing in order to look proper when the kit is done. If you’re into Japanese tanks, and you’ve built the Chi-Ha, then most of this is going to be a rerun for you, but since it’s not a huge kit that’s not really a big deal.

This is a kit that most people should be able to build okay. It’s good for people who are new to armour, because there’s not a lot to it, and it isn’t going to require extensive fiddling with things like complicated suspension and copious interior details. On that front, though, if you are someone who demands a lot from your armour kits, then this is likely one you’ll want to take a pass on. Its simplicity and small scale, not to mention relative lack of aftermarket for it, might not be the thing you’re looking for.

Still, I’m liking this thing. It’s a neat counterpoint to some of the European war’s clearly more advanced and powerful machines, and it makes a neat companion to put with the Chi-Ha. Since it won’t take too much time, or shelf space once it’s built, I really can’t think of any reason not to grab one. Maybe it’ll be just the thing to break you out of a case of AMS (Advanced Modeller’s Syndrome) and remind you of what modelling can be; a fun and interesting way to kill a bit of time and maybe learn something new about a vehicle you didn’t know about before.

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