Sleuthing With Books I Can’t Read

You can make the argument (and many have) that we are in the Golden Age of scale modeling.  I believe this to be true, despite what the “death of the hobby” crowd might say.  Furthermore, this is also the Golden Age of information.  Inputting keywords into a search engine on a cell phone or computer instantly reveals information which could previously only be gained by experienced researchers with access to vast archives of information.  This only gets easier and more powerful as new technologies are introduced.  What follows is one small example.

The story starts with an old decal sheet, specifically SuperScale Decals No. 72-714.  This was dug out of the decal stash for potential use on the new Arma Ki-84 Hayate build currently underway.  I was initially attracted to another scheme on this sheet, but found an error in those markings and soon shifted my attentions to the bottom aircraft pictured here, a Kamikaze from the 58th Shinbu-tai.

SuperScale Decals 72-714

I remembered seeing the kanji inscription somewhere.  While searching for Ki-84 photographs on the internet I came across these two photos of the pilot posing with his aircraft, one of which associated him with the 57th Shinbu-tai, not the 58th.  Who is the pilot, and which is his unit?

I read once that only 6% of the population regularly buys books.  I have made it my personal mission to make up for the other 94%.  In other words, I have a book-buying compulsion and have built up a large library over the years.  If you are a fan of Japanese aircraft you will invariably wind up with several Japanese language references, full of photos and diagrams along with text that few Westerners can decipher.  One of these is Famous Airplanes of the World 19.

Famous Airplanes of the World 19

Inside were the two photographs, along with a caption in Japanese which could potentially answer all my questions.  The Japanese use Arabic numbers, and inside the text block both 57 and 58 can be seen, but which unit is it?

The page of interest

Enter the Google Translate app, and this is where the technology gets truly amazing.  I first heard about this at a model show.  The app allows you to translate any text you can take a picture of.  I installed the app on my cell phone, and shot a photo of the Japanese caption from FAOW 19.  Here is what came up:

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic!

So now we have lots of information to go on!  The pilot is 2Lt Tetsujiro Karasawa, and the unit is confirmed as the 57th Shinbu-Tai.  The 58th Shinbu-tai citation from the SuperScale sheet is debunked.  We also have a date and location of the photograph, which has implications for the colors used for the camouflage scheme.  There are some “clunky” areas in the translation, such as “Ensign” (a naval rank) instead of Second Lieutenant, but this is a treasure-trove of details.

Using the new information in a keyword search reveals a few profiles which take a stab at the camouflage, and even a few models which have been built in this scheme.  Below is the profile I found most compelling:

57th Shinbu-tai, aircraft 20

So, using an old book and some new tech I was able to find an interesting scheme for the Arma Ki-84.  The Arma decal sheet has the “Winged 57” tail marking, and the SuperScale sheet has the kanji inscription for the fuselage.  As a bonus, the skull and crossbones markings for the 58th Shinbu-tai are useable, and accurate without the fuselage inscription.  A fun little rabbit hole!

18 thoughts on “Sleuthing With Books I Can’t Read

    1. Good question, Andy. I’ll show the paints when the build thread gets there, but the short answer is there were several ranges of browns according to Ian K. Baker. He gives the Federal Standard ranges as *3070 to *4088 for “Khaki Brown”, a bit lighter than *4084 for “Dark Brown”, and *6122 for “Black Brown”. He also notes variations from these.

      Liked by 3 people

  1. Very cool investigation! Makes me wonder if anyone will ever spend years learning Japanese in college and grad school–like I did! AI strikes again, rendering human value-added abilities moot… but opening knowledge to many more, I suppose! (Yes, I have mixed feelings about new technologies.:)

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Christopher, learning a language is NEVER a waste of time, and as you so well showed us, the transliteration doesn’t work very well.
      Jeff, I’m like D. Knights, I’m a bibliophile that likes to build models, firmly in the 6% here.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. On the other hand, maybe I can chip in something a bit more precise than Google Translate, just for fun, even though I must admit it really did the job of helping you figure out how to treat the decals! The kanji on the fuselage 必殺 are the words “must” and “kill” put together in a two-character compound word. The Japanese dictionary I looked in said all together it can be understood as, “must definitely kill my enemy,” or as “the [do-or-die] attitude embodied in the phrase.” So “desperate” kind of fits but doesn’t really do it justice! Anyway, thanks for humoring me here!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Yes! There are obviously two words there, so “Desperate Desperate” just didn’t ring true. In another place in the all-knowing internet I saw the kanji translated as “sure to kill”. You soon realize the literal translation of the words doesn’t always convey the intended meaning when you study languages, which is where the AI translations will always fall short.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks John! The bi-lingual books are still useful IMHO, the translate app would be a cumbersome way to read something of any length. Great for captions though! Maybe we should start a 6% club! I suspect the modeling community is over represented.

      Liked by 2 people

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