When I was a kid, I built plastic models of tanks. I built 1/35 scale tanks, and my favorite brand was Tamiya. Tamiya, a Japanese company, has been building models since the end of World War II. Way before the Internet and the ability to easily find thousands of close-up pictures of armored vehicles and technology, Tamiya was sending photographers to places like the Bovington Tank Museum in the U.K., or Aberdeen Proving Ground, or Israel to check out captured vehicles, or virtually any place that had a gate guardian. Tamiya kits were the industry standard, with eye-catching box art, instructions that were easy to follow (and never, ever wrong), and models that built up well, with a minimum of fuss.

After a twenty year hiatus from model building, I started building models again. This was partly, believe it or not, at the urging of my wife. The model industry has grown by leaps and bounds, and though it still has some impressive Chinese competitors, Tamiya is still leading the pack. I’ve switched to 1/48 scale, but otherwise it’s the same old fun, just undertaken with slightly worse eyesight.

I’d wager that there isn’t a single person in Japan who hasn’t seen the Tamiya label.

Recently, the JGSDF paid a visit to Tamiya headquarters, bringing with them a variety of armored vehicles to do what the GSDF seems to do best: park and let the public gawk.

The irony of this visit is that although there are models of most of the vehicles that came to visit, Tamiya doesn’t make most of them. The Type 96 Wheeled Armored Personnel Carrier? Made by Japanese competitor INTERALLIED (which I’d never heard of before.) Type 87 Armored Reconnaissance Vehicle? Made by Chinese competitor Trumpeter. The only visitor actually made by Tamiya is the Light Armored Vehicle (LAV). A real shame, since Tamiya has faithfully made models of every indigenous Japanese tank ever made (Type 61, Type 74, Type 90).

Some of my handiwork. In this case, the Tamiya 1/35 scale T-55 kit. Soviet Army markings.

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A contributor and editor at the blog War Is Boring, Kyle Mizokami started Japan Security Watch in 2010 to further understand Japan's defenses and security policy.
Kyle Mizokami has 596 post(s) on Japan Security Watch