Being an island nation, the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) was consistently the forefront of Japan's military, characterized by advanced development of naval technology, quality shipbuilding and superb seamanship. Japan also readily looked to and accepted foreign input: from the assimilation of foreign technology after the opening of their borders, to the frequent military exchanges with Dutch, French
and United States
navies; many naval students were also sent to their naval academies and a number of ships were built in their dockyards. At the onset of World War II, the IJN was among the few navies who had properly adopted naval aviation and the only navy with fully developed torpedo assets. Throughout their history, the IJN achieved stunning victories and technological innovations — sweeping successes in the Russo-Japanese and First Sino-Japanese Wars, the Battle of Tsushima, the sinkings of HMS Prince of Wales
and HMS Repulse
, the world's first purpose-built aircraft carrier, the deadly Type 93 "Long Lance" torpedo — and laid down classes of cruisers and destroyers that, despite being much older than their adversaries, remained among the most powerful of their class of any nation during World War II.
However, several mistakes and oversights during the war resulted in their near-annihilation by the United States Navy. Design flaws, stemmed from cramming as much weaponry onto a limited displacement, caused certain ships to be top-heavy and unstable. While concentrating air assets into a single, cohesive force was as effective as it was revolutionary, their carriers were inadequately protected from counterattacks due to lack of radar, faulty design and configuration of anti-aircraft guns as well as ineffective fire control systems. The surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii of 7 December 1941 was a tactical victory but a strategic error, bringing into the war a nation that, while initially under-prepared and as yet unwilling to go to war, had near-limitless resources and unmatched production capabilities. Compounding the error, little to none of the support facilities based in Pearl Harbor — naval repair yards, fuel depots, logistics infrastructure — were attacked, allowing the United States to quickly recover and strike back with a vengeance from their primary naval base in the Pacific. In contrast, Japan did not have the capabilities to replace their losses as quickly, were incredibly dependent on imports — reducing that dependency was actually one of the major reasons for Japan's expansionist desires — and their unprotected shipping lines due to under-investment in anti-submarine and anti-aircraft warfare allowed the United States Navy to slowly starve Japan into submission.
Japanese ships tend to have great variations in design; each class encountered is likely to have noticeably different handling characteristics from the previous tier, a result of the IJN constantly experimenting with or influenced by different designs and doctrines. They boast consistently superior torpedoes, accurate and long-range guns with high alpha damage, and outstanding concealment and mobility; however, they suffer from inferior survivability and anti-aircraft defenses. Their play style is very similar to the "decisive battle" doctrine that dominated IJN tactics: strike fast and strike hard with precision at targets of importance and/or opportunity, but every hit taken in exchange will be painfully felt.
Japanese destroyers rely on remaining unspotted and depend heavily on making good use of their torpedoes; the tech tree splits at Tier V after Isokaze, with one line focusing on torpedoes and the other on gunnery, the latter currently ending at Tier VIII.
Fubuki, Tier VI destroyer
The line focusing on torpedoes have weak, slow-turning guns that are generally not worth firing unless they happen to be pointing in the enemy's direction. Even then, it is frequently better to hold fire to maintain concealment. Concealment issues are exacerbated with the Smoke Generator
) on Japanese destroyers having fewer charges and shorter durations, giving captains less flexibility to get out of sticky situations. Their torpedoes are unmatched at every tier, having the highest damage and longest ranges of any vessel that can equip torpedoes. This allows them to snipe enemy warships while well out of visual range. Starting with Yūgumo
at Tier IX, their guns begin to be more effective and captains get to choose from three types of torpedoes: high-speed (up to an incredible 76 knots) but shorter range, very long range but low speed ("low" being something of a misnomer, given that they still move at more than 60 knots), and an in-between option that has average speed and range. This allows for variable play styles and keeps opponents guessing. Combined with the Torpedo Acceleration
skill the short-range torpedoes can be particularly vicious; it is almost impossible for enemy captains to dodge torpedoes streaking in at a whopping 81 knots.
Akizuki, Tier VIII destroyer
The gunnery-focused line does not mean that they become pseudo-American destroyers, but many of the problems that plague the torpedo-focused destroyers are addressed to a certain degree, increasing their all-round capabilities while still keeping the distinctive characteristics of Japanese destroyers. However, all these improvements are "implemented" in an arduously gradual process — captains will only start seeing real differences once they reach Shiratsuyu
at Tiers VII and VIII, respectively. Their turret-turning speeds are improved, their guns fire faster and further (shell damage and velocities are largely the same) and they have better anti-aircraft suites. Amazingly, their concealment values are better
than that of the torpedo-focused line, allowing them to fire their main battery guns undetected like American destroyers, and both lines have access to the same models of torpedoes. What's more, the gunnery-focused line gets a better version of the Torpedo Reload Booster
) consumable! Unfortunately, they (rightfully so) get fewer torpedo launchers with longer default reload times, and their mobility is among the worst for destroyers, with inferior speed, maneuverability and underwhelming acceleration.
Myoko, Tier VII cruiser
tend to have fewer guns housed in slow-turning turrets, coupled with excellent maneuverability and concealment values. Virtually all Japanese cruisers are equipped with a complement of torpedoes that are on par with their destroyer cousins. At the higher tiers, their torpedo tubes are often located aft of the vessel. Do not be fooled if a Japanese cruiser starts turning away mid-fight; they may have very likely just launched a spread of torpedoes in your direction. From Tier V's Furutaka
onwards, they are equipped with accurate, powerful guns that, while lacking in rate of fire, have reasonable shell arcs and velocity and are able to reliably penetrate or set their enemies on fire - their high explosive
shells have a highest chances among all cruisers in World of Warships to set targets on fire. Their anti-aircraft suites are sufficient for self-defense, but captains will be hard-pressed to protect their teammates. The Tier X Zao
is considered the very pinnacle of what the Japanese had expected of their cruisers: difficult to detect, she strikes first and hard. She is capable of giving enemy ships a nasty surprise when they are at close range and is a highly effective surface combatant in all situations.
Yamato, Tier X battleship
were somewhat restricted by the Washington Naval Treaty, forcing them to resort to unusual — but often innovative — designs in outfitting their battleships. This resulted in battleships that have widely varying characteristics: the ponderous and slow Kawachi
; the fast and agile Kongo
; and the well-balanced Nagato
; culminating in the crown of their battleship tree, the formidable Yamato
. Japanese battleships often have the highest caliber guns with the longest ranges of their tier, which they can extend even further still with Spotting Aircraft
, allowing them to rain destruction upon their enemies with impunity. Many of them have good speeds and agility that belies their size and class, but their armor protection frequently lags behind their counterparts of other nations - it tends to be more evenly spread out around the entire ship, so while their citadels may not be as well-protected, they have few obvious weak spots. Like their cruiser cousins, their anti-aircraft firepower is sufficient for self-defense, but you will be wanting cruiser support to ward off more concentrated aerial assaults.
Shokaku, Tier VIII aircraft carrier
Japanese aircraft carriers
have good maneuverability and concealment values, allowing them to re-position and evade enemies exceptionally well. They can deploy more squadrons than their Americans counterparts, albeit with only 4 planes per squadron; combined with shorter servicing times and faster aircraft, IJN carriers can repeatedly swarm their unfortunate targets from multiple, unexpected directions or cover the battlefield in hostile aircraft. Having more squadrons also translates to less restrictive loadout choices; captains will always have at least one of each type of aircraft available in battle. However, smaller squadrons mean that dive and torpedo bombers deal less damage per strike, and Japanese fighters fare poorly in one-on-one dogfights with American fighters. Bear in mind that carriers can only launch or recover one squadron type at a time; this makes squadron management a critical skill for IJN carrier captains, or they will end up with a massive traffic jam on their flight decks. Japanese carriers also have smaller hangar capacities, resulting in fewer spare aircraft. Poor or reckless endangerment of their squadrons will end up in the carrier running out of aircraft and thus being of no use to the team. Hakuryu
— or G15 Taiho
Mod. 2 in official designation — currently represents the pinnacle of what IJN carriers might have achieved, as it can theoretically destroy even the toughest battleships with sheer squadron numbers alone.