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Useful Notes / Katanas of the Rising Sun

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++Niitaka-yama nobore++

In attack and defense
We need warships like floating iron castles
Our floating castles,
Shall defend all points of Imperial Japan.
Our warships of pure iron shall destroy
Those nations that make an enemy of,
The Land of the Rising Sun.
Warships March, the official march of the Imperial Japanese Navynote 

The Army and Navy of Imperial Japan.

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     History of the Imperial Japanese Military 
Japan, 1867. Commodore Perry had visited Japan to display some Gunboat Diplomacy a decade-and-a-half or so ago, and the potential onslaught of Europeans to dominate Japan the way they did the rest of Asia has galvanized a clique of low-ranking samurai from the southern fiefdoms of Satsuma and Chōshū into leading their European-style private armies against the Tokugawa Shogunate. They seize the boy-Emperor Mutsuhito at his Residence in Kyoto before the Shogun can secure him. The Shogun is dealt a heavy PR-blow by this, and many lesser Daimyos refuse to come to his aid as it would appear that they were going against the Emperor. The Shogun's forces slug it out, but are eventually driven off Honshu entirely and flee to Hokkaido where they set up a short-lived Republic in Hakodate. Eventually, this too falls, and Japan is more or less united under a new government, which moves the Emperor to Edo (renamed Tokyo) and proclaims the start of the Meiji ("Enlightened Rule") era.

To cut a long story short, the government was much more powerful than it was before. Its new powers were ostensibly based upon the "restored" power of the Emperor — restored to what it was in Legend, that is. Hence, "restoration" and not "revolution". The oligarchy of southern middle-class ex-samurai hid behind the Emperor, using him as a rallying point for State Shinto and Japanese Nationalism. Unexpectedly for the oligarchs, Mutsuhito himself proved to be a charismatic and effective ruler, and became the Meiji Emperor in truth, dominating those who had intended to use him as a figurehead.

History is a fickle thing, for if Perry had not returned to America due to the American Civil War, Feudal Japan may not have had the chance to develop into Imperial Japan. Noting how the current Chinese Empire, The Qing, (various Chinese and Mongol Empires had dominated East Asia for more than two millennia) wasn't doing so well these days, and how it seemed to have a lot to do with the European Empires, Japan decided that China was no longer the centre of learning and culture they had acknowledged it as for the last thousand years and figured that it was time for another radical change. Where before the Japanese had adopted Chinese religions, cultures, medicine and natural science with a view to incorporating them into their own understanding of the world, now it was time to take on European science and medicine, and to industrialize and become an Imperial Power... hopefully without losing sight of what it meant to be Japanese in all other respects. Broadly they succeeded. A postal service from Britain, a School system from France, a Prussian Constitution — thus the trappings of democracy like voting and elections and parties without actually granting the resultant MPs any real powers — and so on.

In a fanatic stance-change to hold Europe in awe and/or amusement, some went as far as advocating for intermarriage with Europeans to bring "superior racial stock" into Japan. In short, Europe was the new China, and this called for a revision in all their administrations. There was very quickly a backlash against this sort of attitude, and there was a certain crisis of identity caused by the rapid changes in Japanese society. There was a renewed emphasis on retaining an essential Japanese-ness, which after flirting with Social Darwinism manifested itself in the form of a burgeoning belief in Japanese supremacy, not inferiority. Because, they reasoned, who else could come so far in so short a time? This was clearly a demonstration of the Japanese people's innate superiority, above and beyond that of the European powers. Japan could do all they could — Imperialism and everything — and do it better.

By the turn of the century, it had a fledgling modern army and navy, trained by German and British consultants respectively - all Japan's 1904-battleships having been bought wholesale from French and British shipyards. The army and navy proved themselves during the Sino-Japanese War, in which the Japanese (unexpectedly, as Japan's forces were much smaller) emerged clearly victorious, and the Russo-Japanese War in which the Japanese managed to inflict a series of surprising defeats upon the Russian Army (surprising in that no one at the time expected them to be able to defeat Russia at all), along with outright destruction of Russia's Baltic Fleet at the Battle of Tsushima. Tsar Nicholas II decided to negotiate an end to the war despite the imminent collapse of the Japanese war effort because his government didn't know Japan was teetering on the edge of socio-economic collapse, the bill for continuing the war was very large when his own empire was also teetering on the edge of socio-economic collapse, and the the total destruction of both of Russia's Fleets by the Japanese made a counter-invasion of Japan impossible, at least in the near term.

The war was a pyrrhic victory for Japan militarily and economically, and the peace-deal — mediated by U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt vis-a-vis the Treaty of Portsmouth — forced them to give back what little they had gained. Nevertheless, it was a massive boost for its international standing. Japan's victory created major ripples in the world — a tiny Asian power beating Russia? — leaving many considering Japan's potential. The Japanese Army had impressed most observers with their ability to withstand severe privation while showing great initiative, pluck and dash in the face of enormous casualties. The Japanese Navy had used superior strategy and tactics to defeat a numerically superior enemy in detail. Japan believed they had learned two important lessons: respect was gained and maintained via the use of a plenitude of modern military hardware, and gains made on the battlefield today can easily become losses on the negotiating table tomorrow. The Social Darwinists rejoiced: what clearer sign could there be that the Japanese were a people ascendant, not just a "fitter" race, but the fittest?

As the 20th Century progressed, the government of Japan came more and more under the sway of militarism. Under the Meiji constitution, both the Army and Navy ministers had to be serving officers. This effectively gave the military an absolute veto over the civilian government because the cabinet would fall whenever the army or navy withdrew their support. While this did not prove a problem during the reign of the forceful and charismatic Mutsuhito (Meiji), it allowed the military to effectively dominate the government under his weak and sickly son Yoshihito (Taisho), and essentially dictate the education and upbringing of his grandson, Crown Prince Hirohito (Showa). Meanwhile, the younger cadres of army officers were coming more and more under the increasingly violent sway of various expansive ultra-nationalist movements. Thus, as the government came more under the sway of the military, the military came more under the sway of the militarists, thus laying the groundwork for the great paroxysms to come. The Navy, by contrast, was more cosmopolitan, and locked in a constant struggle with the army over limited resources. So in The Roaring '20s through The '30s the political battles which really mattered in Japan were between the army and navy instead of political parties.

Japan joined World War I late on the side of the Allies, and received a nominal share of the rewards, including most of Germany's imperial possessions in the Pacific. However, their Japanese-European Racial Equality Proposalnote  was rejected by the other major powers (Italy, France, the British Empire, and the United States)note . They also developed an imperialist attitude towards China to match the European powers, forcing numerous concessions from the Chinese. Ultra-nationalist sentiment abounded, and the military, having cast itself as the creator and guarantor of Japan's new place in the world, seized virtually all power, often by killing people who got in their way, eventually reaching the point where the Imperial Army numbered in the millions while the Imperial navy absorbed nearly one quarter of the entire gross national product (soldiers being cheaper than battleships).

The army led Japan into an invasion of Guomindang China, which - after overcoming Guomindang resistance at the 1937 Battle of Shanghai - appeared successful, but ultimately proved an open-ended manpower sump: China was simply too large to conquer outright. Japan could not find enough manpower to do more than take and hold the major cities of coastal China and the mid-lower Yangzi, and the railroads that linked them. However, the invasion in turn committed Japan to a dangerous clash of interests and sentiments with America and Britain (although there had already been tension between the three since the 1921 breakdown of Anglo-Japanese alliance in favour of US-Commonwealth co-operationnote , this being the result of a climate of heightened suspicion and conflicting interests in China and the Pacific). The U.S. in particular was annoyed at Japan's war with China and felt that its interests there and in The Philippines were threatened. Consequently, the USA embargoed strategic goods such as oil in response to Japan's continued refusal to negotiate with the Guomindang. And since the U.S. was virtually Japan's sole supplier of steel and petroleum at the time this embargo threatened dire consequences for the Japanese economy.

Japan's leadership, unwilling to negotiate with the Guomindang, terrified at the vulnerability that came with their critically low fuel reserves (they were down to just a few months' supply), and above all unwilling to lose face by negotiating with the United States decided to take advantage of the ongoing World War to take the raw-resources they needed. Despite their poor performance in the border-clash at Nomonhan/Khalkin Gol, the Japanese were confident that a collapsing Soviet state would still be unable to offer them real resistance if they launched an offensive to take Soviet Siberia. The Wehrmacht's performance in the Baltic States and Belorussia in the first two weeks of Unternehmen Barbarossa seemed to confirm the imminent defeat of the USSR and sparked a wave of enthusiasm for such an operation... however, the Wehrmacht's lacklustre performance at Smolensk made it clear that Japan's pre-invasion assessment of the USSR capabilities had been correct after all: Germany was too weak to defeat the USSR in a decisive campaign and was also unlikely to prevail in a lengthy war (as she had just half the industry and 1/3 the number of men fit for military service).

But there was another way Japan could take advantage of Germany's weltkrieg to avoid looking bad. The Navy could be used to seize the materials they needed by capturing the Dutch East Indies for their oil fields and British Malaya for its rubber, both also yielding much-needed supplies of tin and copper. Believing that the USA would declare war on them if they tried to do so, if only to protect the Philippines, they also decided to conquer the Philippines and raid various U.S. military bases.

Pre-supposing U.S. involvement proved to be Japan's undoing; even if he had wanted to, it would have been politically impossible for Roosevelt to persuade Congress to declare war on Japan and send American servicemen off to die, all to protect European colonial possessions. Holland may have already fallen to Germany and (with only 4/5 of Germany's industry and just twice that of Japan) Britain really would have been unable to fight a war against Japan as well, but the United States was not yet engaged in the war and the USA's industrial and commercial strength was more than ten times that of Japan in all categories, from automobile production to the banking sector and actually exceeded all of the other combatants, Axis and Allied, put together. As virtual ruler of two continents the United States had its own independent supplies of virtually every strategic resource imaginable... and with the world's largest and best-funded network of major research universities, jump-started by immediate and effective cooperation with the British, the USA had a useful technical edge which translated into gear and weaponry that wasn't just common/more numerous but also just plain better (unit-for-unit) than anything Japan could produce.note  So while the junta had been right to assume that the Alliesnote  probably didn't want victory over Japan as much as Japan wanted victory over The Allies, the simple fact was that with the USA onboard the Allies didn't need to want it as badly; reality was on their side.

The Navy's decision to include the United States in their offensive meant that Attack Plan South was hopeless and their defeat was inevitable. Despite their astonishing initial successes in seizing nearly all of south-east Asia save Burma and New Guinea, their increasingly out-dated and out-numbered forces were contained in little over a year and pushed back across the Pacific over the course of the next three years. A British-American Army overwhelmingly composed of ethnic Indians and Chinese, respectively, managed to halt the Japanese advance in the mountainous jungle of northern Burma - but had been unable to defend the 'Burma Road', the Guomindang's sole over-land link to the outside worldnote . The U.S. Navy destroyed their sea and air forces while the Guomindang absorbed the bulk of the Japanese Army in China. Australia and New Zealand teamed up with the U.S. to recapture New Guinea then went West to liberate Eastern and North Eastern parts of Indonesia when the U.S. turned North to recapture the Philipines. Japan's merchant fleet was devastated by the depredations of the U.S. Navy's submarines and Japan's numerous island garrisons were either cut off and left to "rot on the vine" or taken by overwhelming assault by the U.S. Army and Marine Corps. Two all-out, and rather pointless, Imperial Army offensives in China and Burma - meant to destroy the Guomindang once and for all and capture British India - failed and led to disastrous reversals.

Finally, Japan's towns and cities were bombed, burned, and flattened by huge armadas of American strategic bombers under the rather grisly General Curtis LeMay while an ever-tightening naval and aerial blockade around the whole (food-importing) island chain was supplemented by a intense tactical aerial campaign that destroyed Japan's internal transportation infrastructure. By May 1945, Japan remained as the lone Axis holdout against almost literally the entire world. With the Japanese military still unwilling to surrender, and hoping to avoid a planned invasion that was projected to result in millions of Allied and Japanese casualties, the United States elected to try to intimidate the Japanese into surrendering using a new weapon of unprecedented power: the atomic bomb.

The first bomb was dropped on Hiroshima on August 6th. Shocked, the Imperial government's intensified its ongoing pursuit of their last hope, a negotiated settlement brokered by the Soviet Union. While the Soviet Union already had denounced the Russo-Japanese nonaggression pact that had spared them the necessity of guarding their back while they were fighting Germany back in April, the Japanese Government still hoped to entice the Soviets with enough territorial and material concessions to intercede for them before the rest of the Allies.note  The Soviets, though, decided to honor their Allied obligations instead, and invaded Manchuria on August 9th, exactly three months after the end of the war in Europe, as was decided in Yalta and Potsdam Conferences.

While Stalin could have declared that the Soviet Union would not preside over peace talks, thereby forcing Japan to the negotiating table with the Allies and thus to surrender, Stalin was not interested in merely forcing Japanese surrender. Rather, he seems to have wished to reclaim Imperial-Russian territories 'lost' to the Russian Republic of the USSR in the Russo-Japanese War of 1905 (southern Sakhalin island and the Kuriles) and increase the Soviet Union's influence in East Asia.

Upon losing their last hope for a negotiated peace through a third party the Imperial government continued to publicly refuse to surrender unconditionally, while privately resigning themselves to surrendering in the near future. The atomic bombing of Nagasaki on the 9th of August was intended to 'hurry them up' and make it 'clear' that it was the USA, and not the Soviets, which was forcing Japanese surrender. Unfortunately, the next atomic bomb would not be ready to be shipped out to the airfields until the 19th of August and it would take a few more days after that for it to be used. This meant that if Japan didn't surrender within the next month, there was a real danger that the Soviets would steal the spotlight again with victories on the East Asian mainland. Even worse for the USA, they might be in a position to demand revisions to the spheres of interest the two had negotiated in East Asia. Fortunately for the USA, the Japanese made overtures about formal surrender just one week later rather than the weeks or even months one would have expected of an Imperial Japanese government.

Fearing the prospects of dozens of such bombings, The Showa Emperor, who claimed to have been deeply disturbed when he'd toured the devastated areas of firebombed Tokyo, later claimed to US citizens that the bombings (alone) had convinced that surrender was the only way to preserve the Japanese people - and perhaps, though he didn't say this bit, his reign. After last-minute offer to surrender on the condition that they be allowed to keep the emperor was rebuffed, and despite a last minute coup attempt by militaristic junior officers, Japan's leadership finally declared the country's unconditional surrender on 15 August, 1945. The announcement came as a great relief to everybody, who really didn't see the point in another (few) million dead - and to the United States, who wouldn't have any more for several months and faced the real danger of having the Soviets 'steal their thunder' with continued victories over Japanese forces in China and Korea.

The military complex of Imperial Japan was forcibly dismantled, governmental power was effectively handed over to the U.S. military (with General MacArthur having the final say on anything the Diet did, earning him the nickname of 'Shogun'), and land and economic reforms were made to break the power of the Zaibatsu - some seven corporations who had, under the patronage of the Army and Navy, accounted for more than 90% of Japanese GDP in 1938. These reforms didn't actually work in the long run, as the Zaibatsu rebuilt themselves (as the more loosely-affiliated "Keiretsu") in the decades that followed , but they did drive the understanding between the government and big business underground, as well as giving the Diet's politicians time to consolidate their power bases and deal with these corporations on a more equal footing when they returned starting in the 1960s.

While the democratic reforms — making the Prime Minister and Cabinet the country's actual leadership, abolishing the military, and removing the Emperor from the Cabinet — had their intended effect, many of the economic ones (including those designed to protect labor unions, which were increasingly seen as hotbeds of Communist sympathy) were rolled back in the face of the Korean War; it was the ramping-up of industrial production to help out the U.S. in this conflict that, together with huge amounts of foreign investment, helped kickstart Japan's post-war economic recovery in earnest. Control of the country was handed back to the Japanese in 1952 and at the same time, a National Safety Force (later renamed the Self-Defence Force) was formed. This was born out of the rise of hostile Communist governments in East Asia (i.e. Mao's People's Republic of China, which had in 1949 been declared after Communist victory in the Chinese Civil War) and the realization that Japan would effectively be defenseless without U.S. troops to occupy it (said troops also being rather expensive). Its creation was bitterly contested well into even the 1980s, despite assurances of civilian control and non-belligerence, and its naming (with its tortured Insistent Terminology to avoid blatantly military terms) reflects this; even so, politicians continue to battle over just what the Japanese military's role should be in modern world affairs.

Tropes about the Japanese Military:
     A to D 
  • Ace Pilot: Saburo Sakai. Japan's second ranking ace. Doubles as The Determinator: shot through the head and blinded in one eye, he pulled his plane out of a lethal dive and flew it back to Rabaul in a four hour, six hundred mile flight while partially paralyzed. Then he insisted on making his report before getting medical attention.
    • Other pilots like him, however, were not so lucky, with most of them fighting on until they got killed in combat.
    • Part of Japan's last gasp defense included gathering all of the Imperial Navy' surviving ace pilots (including Sakai) into one fighter group of Aces, the 343rd Kokutai under the command of Minoru Genda (the architect of the Pearl Harbor raid) and equipped with the last of the good quality gasoline and the limited numbers of the Kawanishi N1K1 Shiden-Kai they were able to produce.
  • And Then What?: Japan would have been much better off had its leadership considered this question at several stages, particularly at the start of launching their two main fronts, China and the Pacific. The Japanese high command, with a simplistic and propaganda-influenced view of foreigners, believed the primitive Chinese and self-absorbed Americans would sue for peace if they were simply dealt a series of hard blows. What they did not ask themselves was what would happen if they did not fold; China was too vast to conquer and had far greater manpower, while the U.S.' industrial might was too great to hold off for long. What they got, therefore, was a two-front war against effectively unbeatable opponents. While China suffered heavy defeats against Japan and lost their entire coastline, they fought the empire to a stalemate, and with sufficient US support began beating back the IJA by early 1945, even recapturing Yunnan province. Meanwhile, the bloody Pacific campaign against America quickly turned into a nightmare for the IJN, and made it clear that Japan was terribly outmatched as the Allies steamrolled them across the Pacific.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: Partly in anticipation of being outnumbered in any major war right from the start, the Imperial Japanese Navy had a tendency towards wanting to have the individually biggest and baddest of something, regardless of its actual use.
    • Case in point Yamato-class battleships: when Yamato was launched it was the most powerful example of a ship type that had just been rendered obsolete. Yamato and Musashi went on to borderline-embarrassing careers of being held back from fighting because they guzzled large amounts of oilnote , the very resource Japan was critically low on and had gone to war to seize. When they finally were committed to battle Yamato scored no confirmed kills before turning away to dodge torpedoes from a handful of tiny American destroyers and destroyer escorts that each weighed less than one of her gun turrets. Her sister ship Musashi never even got this far, having been sunk by carrier aircraft before even seeing an enemy vessel. Yamato's final mission saw her and 5 of her escorts at the bottom of the Pacific, managing to down a piddling 10 American planes in the process. The best that can be said about them is that their massive bulk and incredibly thick armor did result in the ability to absorb a very large number of hits before going under (and since the Americans weren't exactly running out of explosives, this is a very small accomplishment indeed).
    • The idea of the kamikaze was something the government pushed as extreme nobility and bravery. But this belied the fact that it was a massive waste of two things Japan was in increasingly short supply of: fighter aircraft and well-trained pilots.
    • The IJN were also obsessed with outranging their enemies, which resulted in some good things (the Zero fighter and the legendary Type 93 Sanso Gyorai "Long Lance" torpedo) and others which fell clearly into this category. However, this strategy ultimately failed because they did not pay sufficient attention to the Required Secondary Powers of reconnaissance and intelligence. Superior range not only requires superior speed (which the IJN consistently recognized and achieved) it also requires superior knowledge of your opponent's location and intentions (which the IJN consistently failed to recognize or achieve).
      • The Type 91 and Type 0 "diving" shells, designed to follow a reliable underwater trajectory when they fell short, theoretically increasing the odds of a hit against vulnerable parts of a ship below waterline. Unfortunately, this made them very unreliable when they scored a direct hit above water and prone to passing clean through unarmored targets without even exploding (see Yamato above; this is a major part of why it performed so pitifully against those destroyers), more than negating any advantage gained. About the only achievement of the shells was, admittedly, very impressive - the Yamato is believed to have scored one of the longest ranged hits by any battleship gun (counting "hit" as a shell working the way it was intended) off Samar, when a diving shell plunged below a CVE and detonated such that her hull took damage from below.
      • The Mitsubishi G4M3 medium bomber (Allied code name "Betty") sacrificed bomb load, defensive armament, armor and self-sealing fuel tanks for speed and enormous range to allow them to support a fleet battle far out at sea. Unfortunately flying them beyond the range of their fighter escorts quickly proved to be suicidal, meaning they sacrificed basic survivability and effectiveness for extreme range they couldn't use.
      • Type 98 mortar shells. Good for scaring the enemy, not good for much else.
      • The I-400 class aircraft carrying submarines. An impressive technical achievement and perhaps strategically effective for reconnaisance but incapable of inflicting significant damage on an enemy, as they could carry only three planesnote 
      • The 8-8 Fleet program was the 1920s belief that Japan needed a fleet of 8 modern battleships and 8 battlecruisers to defend the Home Islands. It was never carried out; partially because of the Washington Naval Treaty, partially because there was no way Japan could have afforded it. The naval budget required to build this fleet would have been approximately 50% greater than the GDP of Japan.
    • Many of the later tank prototypes were this:
      • One of the most noteworthy examples would be the Super Heavy tank prototype, the O-I. While the tank's exact history was mostly speculation for yearsnote , original documents and blueprints of the tank found in 2015 revealed the tank's design. Development started in 1939 as a "mobile bunker" for use in Manchuria. The O-I would have had up to 150mm of front and rear armor, weighed about 150 tons, and had four turrets. The main turret would have had a 150mm Type 96 howitzer, the two front turrets had 47mm cannons, and the rear turret had two machine guns. The tank underwent trials without its additional armor plating and main turret in 1943, but was later scrapped that year. Needless to say, the tank would've been extremely hard to transport, maintain, and use. For scale, here's a comparison with the German Tiger I.
      • The Type 5 Chi-Ri medium tank was a less extreme example. The tank had two prototypes - the first was meant as a simpler medium tank design using tried and tested technology, while the second used more innovative features including a new suspension system and an enlarged turret meant to hold a belt-fed autoloading 75mm Type 5 gun.note . The belt-fed autoloader was found to be too complex and replaced by a single tray autoloader, but eventually the tank was passed over for development by the simpler (and much lighter) Type 4 Chi-To medium tank.
      • A revised production version of the Chi-Ri was later made to avert this, sharing many features with the Chi-To. Three of these tanks were made before the end of World War 2, but their status is unknown.
  • Badass Navy : The IJN. Initially.
    • The Imperial Japanese Army almost counts as a Badass Army because it had such an incredible amount of pluck. But it had almost no sophistication or finesse unlike the Imperial Japanese Navy, and Allied troops tended to "give" several times more than they "received" from the IJA.
      • The reverse was true, however, for China since most (but not all) Chinese 'troops' were poorly coordinated formations of ill-equipped and ill-led irregulars and militiamen under abysmal or corrupt leadership at the start of the war, although the 'abysmal' part was soon decreased by Chiang Kai-shek's demands for discipline and retraining (the corruption just got worse). Eventually, the entire Chinese force did succeed in fighting the IJA into a stalemate by 1939, and even won their first victory at Taierzhuang in 1938, with the Americans providing further training for the Guomindang army once China joined the Allies.
      • A far better example of this trope for China would be the Chinese Expeditionary Force and the elite New 1st Army in Burma, the former recapturing an entire province (unheard of in previous years) in 1944 and the latter inflicting the highest amount of Japanese casualties out of all Chinese forces. Another were the troops defending Changsha, holding the city all the way until 1944. A smaller example, yet just as badass, were the legendary defenders of Sihang warehouse, numbering 423 in total, but called themselves the "800 Heroes" to scare the Japanese into thinking there were more of them. Although they eventually withdrew into the Foreign Settlements, they inflicted 200+ casualties with the loss of only 10 men over 5 days. Said casualties were inflicted with nothing more than grenades and small arms fire, and several Japanese armored cars were taken out as well.
  • Batman Gambit: Attempted by the IJN but not with much success. The Midway operation was based on the idea that the U.S. forces would react in exactly a certain way. See also Complexity Addiction. It certainly didn't help that, since the IJN's radio codes had been broken, the U.S. forces knew how the Japanese wanted them to react.
    • Ironically, the one time that a Japanese Batman Gambit sort-of succeeded (the Battle of Leyte Gulf, where U.S. Admiral Halsey reacted just as intended and left his center exposed), the main Japanese force pulled back after a token battle with a hugely inferior American flotilla. The Japanese were so used to being devastated by U.S. traps that they couldn't believe that their plan had actually worked.
    • In addition, the U.S. successfully pulled a Batman Gambit on the Japanese by tricking them into confirming that the codename "AF" stood for Midway by broadcasting an alert about a water shortage in the clear, banking on the Japanese to pass on that info in code that AF having a water shortage. Note that this wasn't done to convince the U.S. codebreakers in Hawaii - they knew they were right - it was done to convince the Naval Intelligence staff in Washington who wanted reassurance.
  • The Battlestar: Several examples in the Imperial Japanese Navy:
    • The battleships Ise and Hyuga, after the loss of four carriers at Midway, had the two aft guns replaced with facilities to store and launch a mix of seaplanes and dive bombers, with plans to modify another two old battleships in the same scheme. They were a failure, however, because of the lack of both planes and flight crews.
    • The cruiser Mogami was modified too in an Ise-like configuration, but just to operate seaplanes.
    • The heavy cruisers of the Tone class had all turrets mounted forward, with the stern designed to use seaplanes. Unlike the previous examples they were designed from the start with that purpose in mind. The doctrine of the IJN was that aircraft carriers would not carry any reconnaissance aircraft, so that the entirety of the air wing could be dedicated to fighters and bombers. Instead, the seaplanes launched from the carrier fleet's cruiser escort would handle all scouting duties. By dedicating the entire aft section to aircraft handling, the Tone class could carry twice as many seaplanes as other cruisers despite the ships being the same size.
    • Many large submarines had an hangar with a seaplane, or even two in a few. The I-400 already mentioned was the epitome of this , being a very large submarine -the largest non-nuclear powered ever built- carrying three planes.
  • Beam Me Up, Scotty!: The Japanese Navy never called the type 93 torpedo the "Long Lance". That term was coined by American historian Samuel Eliot Morrison after the war. It was so evocative that it stuck.
    • Likewise, the Japanese never used the term "Kamikaze" as a general term for suicide attacks. The actual phrase was tokubetsu kōgeki tai, or "Special Attack Force", usually abbreviated to "Tokkotai" or just "Tokko". The term "Kamikaze" came from a press release about one of the first attacks in the Philipines. To make matters even confusing, the actual squadron name used the formal pronunciation shinpu; the Allied translators managed to get it wrong through Alternate Character Reading. Like "Long Lance" the term "kamikaze" was reimported back into Japan after the war.
    • Yamamoto never said "I fear we have a awakened a sleeping giant", although the quote does sum up his general attitude of the situation.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Perfectly describes the Japanese reaction to the Washington Naval Treaty. The Japanese weren't very happy that they only got to retain 3 tons of ships for every 5 tons that Britain or the US retained note , considering it another example of the West thinking that Japanese people were an inferior race, and a national insult. An overwhelming majority of the Japanese spent years furiously fulminating against the treaties; as usual, Yamamoto knew better note  and argued that the treaty was excellent for Japan because it restricted the other parties. Unfortunately for him, the nation won't see reason and continued to denounce anything short of an equal ratio as dishonorable, compounded by his lack of influence in both the IJN Headquarters or the government. Japan renounce the treaties on December 29 1934.... which was followed by the US, now free to out-build Japan much worse than the 5:3 ratio, beginning a naval construction program of such scale that Japan was hopelessly outmatched.
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: Suicidal or near suicidal behavior in desperate circumstances actually had many examples in World War II among many belligerents; it was rare among Americans only because of their limited, and relatively 'comfortable', involvement - exceptions like Torpedo Squadron Eight abound of course. It is very easy to dismiss this attitude as being uniquely Japanese; but to do so dismisses the universality of desperation and self-sacrifice. Most war-time examples fell under suicide by enemy, and the suicidal tactics of some Imperial personnel are in many ways a more extreme extension of this principle. Suicide as atonement for failure was, however, unique to Japan; Japanese culture romanticised - and romanticises - suicide to a degree almost unheard of elsewhere. Also worth noting are the cultural understandings of surrender; through most of the world it was - and is - not usually considered a disgrace to surrender as long as one has put up a damned good fight - especially when continuing to fight serves no purpose. In contemporary Japan, there was no such thing as (honorable) surrender.
    • In fact, in some cases, the obsession with "honorable" suicide hit Insane Troll Logic levels. During the undeclared border war against Soviet Union at Khalkhin Gol, an undermanned Japanese reconnaissance unit put up such tenacious defense that the big Red Army encirclement operation (that had quickly trapped the Japanese forces there in a 'pocket', but didn't have the numbers to 'seal' it properly) had to just bypass them. It took them five days to reduce them to the point where their commander ordered them to break out (which saved the lives of nearly 2/3 of his men) after a defense executed with such skill that the Soviet commander, General Zhukov (yes, the General Zhukov), remarked that he'd like nothing so much as to give their commander a medal. For having "disgraced the army by fleeing the battlefield," however, Lt. Colonel Eiichi Ioki was forced to commit suicide after the battle. On the other hand the overall Japanese Commander, General Michitaro Komatsubara, was criticised for losing the battle but never for his decision not to order his troops to break out of the pocket.
      • The reason to this decision may have had something to do with the fact there existed a rumor that he was a spy as the result of a 'Honey Pot' trap laid for him by the NKVD during his time as a military attache at the Japanese Embassy in Moscow, but it's not what matters here. What matters is that no one in Tokyo ever questioned the decision to not retreat as wasteful, meaning that the Japanese brass was perfectly okay with wasting the good two thirds of their troops.
    • Note that while suicide-as-atonement was always romanticized in Japanese culture, it wasn't necessarily promoted for most of their history. Quite to the contrary, the historical records are full of examples of surrenders to the superior enemy, vanquished samurai openly changing their allegiance and swearing fealty to their victor, and even outright selling one's own lord to the enemy in hopes of negotiating a better position. Only in the peaceful Edo era did the idea of preferring suicide to surrender start to gain recognition, never mind popularity, and even at the height of Meiji era, the percentage of surrendered Japanese troops didn't vary that much from what was usually expected in the European wars. The ultimate turning point came with the militaristic frenzy of the late Taisho and early Showa eras, and it took wave after wave of heavy propaganda load and at least a couple of decades — some of the bigwigs in the ruling oligarchy of the time looked at the results of the Russo-Japanese War and felt that it was insulting to the Japanese Spirit that so many of the troops surrendered. Thus came the propaganda campaign, fuelled by the IJA's utter contempt of and relentless brutality towards their own soldiers.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Many Americans felt this towards the Filipinos and the Chinese - for the latter, they felt they had done a lot to prevent China from being carved up between the other Imperial powers, for instance, as a result of their 'Open Door' policy to China (the USA feared that a China dismembered by the other Imperial Powers would tax or even ban goods imported from the USA. As in her dealings with Latin America, an 'Open Door' policy suited her interests as it meant she could continue to trade with them on her own terms without the expense and unpopularity of actually having a formal Empire). FDR in particular strongly believed that China had a rightful place as one of the world's great powers, a belief that tended to blind him to Chiang Kai-shek's shortcomings as China's leader (such as being an authoritarian military dictator and not making serious efforts to end government corruption until too late). Likewise the Japanese government promoted this kind of pan-Asian-solidarity as a post-facto means of legitimating their Asian Empire.
    • The Japanese legitimately believed their propaganda. Tojo was crying actual tears of joy during the official formation of the East Asia Prosperity Sphere in 1943.
      • Arguably some of the southeast Asian people believed it as well, at first... since the Japanese appeared to have liberated them from the European powers (Britain, Holland and France) that previously held so much sway over them. But it didn't take long for them to realize that Japanese domination was little better and often worse, particularly when the tide of war turned against Japan. The Filipinos were already well along in the process of becoming independent from the U.S. so they never really bought into it (nor did the Manila massacre of 1945 help matters). Indonesians and Burmans, though, did, and the fact that the Japanese did more than any other power (by leaving all their arms to them) to help the Indonesians win their independence still haunts their politics.
  • Bigger Is Better: Some of the ship designers in the IJN had this idea when they built the Yamato-class battleship, which still holds the record for largest battleship ever afloat. However, as the war demonstrated (detailed in Impossibly Cool Weapon below) size is not everything when it comes to battleship construction. Due to lower quality steel available to Japan, inferior projectile design, and less advanced fire control, the Yamato would actually have been pretty evenly matched with an Iowa-class battleship, despite having larger guns and outweighing by more than 10,000 tons. Except the Iowa-class battleships were a good 20% faster. Add in that the Yamato used absolutely insane amounts of oil - the exact resource Japan was critically low on and started the Pacific war to obtain.
    • The Yamato versus Iowa debate continues to rage on internet forums, but it is more likely that at short range the Iowa would be outclassed by Yamato's brute firepower and armor thickness, but at long range the Iowa's superior fire control and speed would allow it to dictate the terms of the engagement and pound away at the Yamato. A moot point in reality, because the Yamato was sent to the bottom by aircraft.
  • Blatant Lies: After the disastrous defeat of the Battle of Midway, the Japanese militarists claimed a victory in their propaganda saying that the Allies were cowed. The Imperial Navy even lied about their losses to the Imperial Army. As defeats mounted, this tendency created major problems for the Japanese military and government, as no one knew the actual strategic situation.
    • Indeed, General Tojo, who was the prime minister, did not know what happened at Midway until seven months after the battle.
    • Eventually, this came to haunt them, as their increasingly exaggerated claims made it look like the Allies had unlimited resources—you can't repeatedly announce the sinking of dozens of enemy battleships without raising the question "how many do they have"—while anyone with a map could see that each new "great victory" was closer to home than the last one.
  • Boring, but Practical: The Japanese 7.7mm machine guns were considered by some to be this. Despite upgrading to larger 20mm and later 30mm cannons, Japanese ace pilot Saburo Sakai found the 7.7mm's to be more practical due to their greater rate of fire, ammunition load, and explosive capabilities. He was quoted as saying "The decision to adopt the 20mm cannon on the Zero is generally believed to be an epoch making advance in fighter design. However, having used the cannon in combat, I had always held this weapon in doubt, despite its great destructive power.", and "70% of my kills in fighter vs fighter combat was made with 7.7mm machine guns"note . There was even an American intelligence report titled Don't Tamper With Japanese Explosive Bullets, which found that a 7.7mm explosive bullet could blow a 3-inch hole in a sheet of aircraft Duralumin.
    • This trope (or, rather, the lack of adherence to it) was a major weakness of the IJN's destroyers. On paper, their speed and range, as well as armament (including the legendary Type 93 torpedo), were formidable. In reality, they have extremely cramped living spaces, tended to be fragile and unstable (in no small part due to the heavy weight of all that armament), and are severely lacking against aerial and submarine threats (not helped by their lack of dual-purpose guns and high-angle directors).
  • Bottled Heroic Resolve. Methamphetamine, called shabu in the Army parlance. Oh God, meth. The whole Japanese army basically ran on meth. Under the trade name Philopon (by Sumitomo Pharma), meth was freely distributed the combat units, and Sumitomo Pharma had a dedicated methamphetamine factory to fulfill the needs of the army. The whole army basically was on tweek until 1944 (when logistics became a problem). The generals considered the side effects as assets - the dulling, emotion dumbing and empathy killing side effects of the meth were actually desired effects. The Japanese army wanted their soldiers to become drug-induced pseudo-psychopaths. The result was wanton cruelty in unassumable scale. Most Japanese war crimes were committed on methamphetamine.
  • Bullying a Dragon: What else can you call it when a resource-poor island nation with no geographic allies and an already overextended military attacks a country that has such an overwhelming advantage in supplies, industry, natural resources, manpower, logistical capability, and scientific research that there is simply no comparison? This is pretty much also What Were You Thinking? and Broke Your Arm Punching Out Cthulhu, and led directly to many a Curb-Stomp Battle that culminated in the surrender of Japan.
    • China was this to a much lesser extent-while extremely poor, wracked by civil war and corruption, plus losing huge amounts of ground and all their coastal ports to Japan, their armies still fought them to a stalemate and maintained it despite being horrendously underequipped for the most part. Additionally, Japanese atrocities and terror tactics against the Chinese simply increased their refusal to surrender.
  • Cannon Fodder: The Imperial Japanese Army was notoriously callous about the lives of its troops. Nicknames for the common infantryman such as "senrin" (0.011 yen, after the price of mailing a conscription notice) or "teppodama" (literally "bullets", in being that expendable). The Imperial Navy achieved this reputation among its airmen during their duty in the South Pacific: of the pilots who went to Rabaul, almost none ever came back, the IJN's pre-war aviators wasting away under the strain of combat in the most malignant theater in which a major war has ever been fought. Pilots were known to state that no one went home unless they were dead.
    • Averted in China, where 'ordinary' Guomindang troops were almost always outgunned by their Japanese counterparts. 'Help' from regional and local militia, and warlord troops , was little better and often worse than no help at all, especially when they ran for it (although Guangxi clique and Guominjun troops were decent help at times). A trope frequently used by the Guomindang itself when they were forced to fight set-piece battles- they would use the militia and warlord troops (strengthened by as small as possible a force of 'corset-stiffeners', regular and better-equipped Guomindang troops) on the defense while they used their own troops to encircle the attacking Japanese forces (who were notoriously easily lured into frontal attacks in which they would frequently 'outrun' their supply lines).
      • Also averted in the Philippines where General Homma was conservative with his troops, to the point of being criticized by other officers.
  • The Captain: Hara Tameichi, captain of Amatsukaze and later commander of Destroyer Squadron 27 aboard the legendary Shigure, which came through several of the fiercest naval engagements of the war unscathed under his leadership. He was the captain of the light cruiser Yahagi which had accompanied the mighty Yamato on its death ride, and miraculously escaped unhurt despite his ship taking a nearly equal pounding as the giant battleship. He was highly critical of his superiors' inflexibility during the war and the only Japanese destroyer captain at the start of the war to survive and write a memoir of his experiences afterwards.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: During World War II, it was known to tie the wounded to a tree, torture them and leave them with a sign that said "It took him a long time to die". Naturally, the Allies didn't like that.
    • A common favorite of Japanese soldiers was to force bayonet blades or katanas into the vaginas of non-Japanese Asian women, most infamously during the Nanjing Massacre.
    • Also notorious is when Japanese soldiers in trucks held bayonets and katanas off the side as they drove past the POWs of the Bataan Death March. Many times trucks and tanks would swerve to run over any prisoner who collapsed or otherwise fell out of the column.
    • Unit 731 had an entire campaign where they casually vivisected civilians or prisoners of war to remove various organs or perform violent abortions without any anesthetic whatsoever.
    • Then there were the many, many cases of captured soldiers or unlucky civilians being bound, beaten and promptly used for bayonet practice by fresh conscripts. However, the conscripts tended to get nervous and struggle to find the victim's heart, resulting in some victims becoming bored in frustration and yelling at their killers to hurry up.
  • Combat Aestheticist: Japanese were into this in a big way, often to the detriment of pragmatism.
    • Case in point: Japanese aviators preferred coordinated dogfighting maneuvers like loops, rolls, immelmans, etc. while their allied counterparts preferred uncoordinated evasive maneuvers like skids, slips yaws, and snap rolls. Uncoordinated maneuvers weren't nearly as pretty but they were much more effective if your main goal was to live to fight another day—provided you didn't lose control of your aircraft, which may have killed as many Allied pilots as the enemy.
  • Complexity Addiction: The Imperial Japanese Navy had a serious problem with creating incredibly complex battle plans which involved a half-dozen groups of ships that couldn't support each other or be easily controlled, exposing them to defeat in detail. While as theories their plans were often highly elegant, they were also stupidly vulnerable to Murphy's Law and usually based on incredibly optimistic assumptions that the enemy would do exactly as predicted. Considering that they were unaware that the Allies had long broken their military codes, the Japanese didn't know that would rarely be the case for their big operations.
    • Along these lines, Japanese engineers recognized early on that the famous Zero was becoming outclassed by new Allied fighters. However, while the engineers would continually attempt to build new fighter types, they would constantly put off the upgrades or go back to the drawing board entirely whenever a newer, better bit of tech came along. It didn't help that the Navy kept putting in constant demands for Zeros, and that Navy fighter pilots were notoriously unforthcoming about possible areas of improvement. The new fighter types thus had their production repeatedly stalled or went through dozens of prototypes with nothing to show for it, as the now-outdated Zeroes were shot down by the hundreds.
  • Cool Plane: The Japanese had many of these, but the most iconic of them all is the Mitsubishi A6M Type 0 Naval Fighter (Zeke to the Allies), otherwise known as the Zero. Paid a unique tribute among Japanese aircraft in that most Allied pilots referred to it using the diminutive of its name rather than its assigned Allied codename, the Zero was quite probably the best dogfighting aircraft of the Second World War and had incredible range, with a combat radius of over 550 miles. But it lacked engine power, armor, sufficient quantities of ammunition, and self-sealing fuel tanks. Never outturned, the Zero could be defeated by first generation Allied fighters using superior tactics and proved a death trap in the face of later Allied fighters that could easily outclimb, outdive, and outrun itnote .
    • Not to be outdone by the Navy, the Imperial Japanese Army's Nakajima Ki-43 Hayabusa (Peregrine Falcon, Allied code name "Oscar") was actually less heavily built and armed than the Zero and consequently even more maneuverable and eventually even more vulnerable once allied pilots figured out not to dogfight it. The Hayabusa also suffered in terms of armament, only armed with two machine guns (7.7mm for the 1st version, while the 2nd version had 12.7mm ones) which left it hopelessly underpowered against heavily armored Allied fighters, unlike the Zero which still has cannons.
    • By 1944, Japanese had developed high performance fighters that could theoretically go toe-to-toe with the Allies' best, notably the Ki-84 Hayate (Gale, Allied codename Frank) of the Army and the N1K1 Shiden-Kai (Violet Lighting, Allied codename George) of the Navy. However, by this time, the quality of manufacture from Japanese industries had fallen to unacceptable levels, there were hardly any good pilots or maintenance personnel left, high-grade fuel was impossible to come by, and Japanese flying units were outnumbered by absurd margins, meaning that none of these excellent planes had a chance to shine.
    • Japan had aircraft still at the prototype stage when it surrendered such as the Kyushu J7W Shiden (Magnificent Fulgor), that did not pass from the prototype stage and was going to have a never-developed jet-engine version, the Nakajima Kikka, a jet engine-powered aircraft inspired by the well known German Me-262, or the Mitubishi J8M Shūsui (Autumn Water), rocket-powered and based on the famous German Me-163 Komet.
  • Cool Ship: Japanese destroyers were feared in the Solomon Islands. They were well commanded and tended to get the better in night surface actions for a long time. Their speed, excellent optics and torpedoes meant that in the right situations-like poor visibility or night combat, they could cripple or sink battleships with ease.
    • To show how much of a Cool Ship the destroyers the Japanese had were, these destroyers pretty much had the same firepower as World War I cruisers, but in a smaller, lighter, faster and easier to make package, and they effectively rendered all the destroyers made in the last 20 years obsolete overnight almost in the same matter the dreadnought changed the way battleships were looked at.
    • Japan had, hands down, the best heavy cruisers in the world. A larger main battery than U.S. ships (and much larger than British ships), comparable armoring, and torpedo tubes to boot. It wasn't until the post-war Des Moines-class CA that the U.S. produced a truly superior ship, via automatic 8" guns.
      • Those very same torpedo tubes, however, would prove their undoing on several occasions due to the Type 93 torpedo, which was powered using highly volatile compressed oxygen instead of compressed air. The results when the loaded tubes were hit by aerial bombs or even relatively small caliber fire were predictably disastrous. All three Japanese cruisers lost at Samar were wrecked by the detonation of their own torpedoes—Chokai may have been lost because a shell probably from a escort carrier White Plains's single 5 inch rear mounted "stinger" managed to set off the bigger cruiser's "long lance" torpedoes. (This would be the only confirmed case of a aircraft carrier beating another ship in a gun battle if true but the battle situation was so confused there is no way to prove it, see Made of Explodium for more details). Japanese captains frequently elected to dump these torpedoes after battle damage rather than risk them being set off and taking the ship with them. Ironically, their renowned battle reload gear made them even more vulnerable, as it meant they were also carrying backup torpedoes they couldn't easily jettison.
      • More importantly, the emphasis on surface combat of Japanese destroyers left them dangerously deficient in ASW gear, unlike their American and British counterparts (and also AA, but that was a problem everyone had). This would prove problematic as the war dragged on and the Americans dealt with issues to their submarine torpedoes.
      • Finally, since all warship design is always a compromise, Japanese cruisers and destroyers paid a price for their speed and firepower as they tended to be relatively fragile and unstable due to the topweight of all of that heavy armament. This was also demonstrated at Samar where several US ships were able to continue fighting despite heavy damage while several of their Japanese opponents were put out of the fight by single hits and even near misses. It also forced the Japanese to rebuild much of their fleet after a typhoon exposed these shortcomings, negatively impacting seakeeping and speed due to added weight they weren't designed for, and also costing considerable sums of money.
    • And of course, there is always Yamato (and Musashi, her sister ship), which was not only the last and biggest battleship but also enigmatic and strikingly handsome as exemplified by the iconic photograph of her running at full power surrounded in spray.
    • Last, but not least, the submarines of the I-201 class deserve mention thanks to their high speed underwater and having been designed to both for the best performance there, unlike most other submarines of the era, and mass production. They came too late to be used in combat.
      • Supercarrier Shinano, same weight as Yamato and Musashi as Shinano was planned third ship of Yamato-class converted to carrier. Lack pilots and maintenance crew means by the time she is commissioned makes her only good as mobile anti-AA platform.
  • Cool Torpedo: The Type 93 "Long Lance", the longest-ranged, fastest and most powerful shipboard torpedo of its era, a weapon entirely without equal during the war. Also, its less-famous and smaller submarine version, the Type 95, which was used to lethal effect in the attacks on USS Wasp and USS Indianapolis.
  • Cool vs. Awesome: IJN versus USN. The two best navies of World War II; even the closest runner-up, the Royal Navy, simply didn't have the doctrine, ships, technology or aircraft to have fought either of themnote . This couldn't contrast more when comparing the IJA and U.S. Army, however. The U.S. Army had a huge advantage over the IJA in terms of logistics, supplies, armament, fire support, and tanks. They were both about even in number because most Japanese troops were in China and most American troops were in Europe.
    • In some place, Japanese had defensive bunkers so complex and strong which manage to negate some of US shelling either by tanks or by ships. Japanese in turn has inferior doctrine for their tanks and infantries, which make them lose in open battles.
  • Crippling Overspecialization:
    • The Type 93 torpedo made Japanese destroyers deadly in night surface engagements, but most of them lacked dual-purpose guns and high angle directors, making them dead weight as far as fleet anti-aircraft defense was concerned, and largely ineffective at even defending themselves against air attack other than by dodging. A lack of advanced antisubmarine weapons and doctrine also made them relatively ineffective escorts. Both proved to be major disadvantages in a war fought mostly against aircraft and submarines.
    • The Japanese conceived of a number of missions for their submarine force and tried to create the ideal submarine design for each one. As a result their submarine force consisted of small classes with wildly varying characteristics, each designed for a specific mission but lacking the flexibility to accomplish all of them while their US opponents built large classes of general purpose submarines, taking full advantage of their flexibility and the resultant economies of scale.
  • Cultured Warrior: Well, that was the samurai stereotype anyway. But don't expect much from the troops.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: The Battle of Malaya, and following that the Battle of Singapore, lasting a grand total of 77 days. Meanwhile Hong Kong honestly stood no chance, with British and Commonwealth forces getting steamrolled over 17 days despite plenty of valor and fierce resistance.
    • The reconquest of Burma by the Allies took it in the other direction. note 
    • The wrong end: most later operations in New Guinea. A whopping 97% of Japanese casualties came from exhaustion or drowning crossing the mountains, or dying of malaria and beri-beri. In battle, troops could only get a few shots off before they were crushed by Australian mechanized power, artillery and aircraft. Food and water went short thanks to a US naval blockade, with some soldiers resorting to cannibalism in desperation. Others actually went insane out of sheer hopelessness and the daily deaths.
    • There's a reason the Battle of the Philippine Sea is more commonly known in the U.S. as the "Great Marianas Turkey Shoot": the IJN's air power effectively ceased to exist.
    • The Battle of Leyte Gulf did the same thing to the surface fleet.
    • About a year after the empire declared war on the US, every battle turned into this in favor of the Americans. Iwo Jima, Saipan, the (land) Battle of Leyte, the Philippines Campaign, etc. The latter had 14,000 American and Australian soldiers killed, and 340,000 Japanese soldiers killed. On the other hand, the Japanese still performed decently against the British, Indians, and Chinese in Burma and China. Until Bill Slim and Sun Li-jen got their number and unleashed a huge can of whoop-ass.
    • Operation Ten-Go, the last sortie of the famed Yamato. Much before she and her escort vessels could reach Okinawa or even engage the US fleet, several hundred of carrier-based aircrafts sank the Yamato and most of its fleet with the loss of around 4,000 men. The Americans lost just 12 airmen and 10 aircraft.
    • The Soviet invasion of Manchuria. It makes sense, since Japan had pulled back its best and most loyal soldiers to the island, their marines, navy, and airforce had been wiped out, and the majority of the forces in Manchuria were poorly equipped and low-morale conscripts, but damn.
    • The Battle of Tsushima. Granted, the Japanese did outnumber their Russian foe, but they still sank or subsequently captured almost all of Russia's Baltic Fleet, while losing only three torpedo boats.
      • This could be in large part attributed to the Russian Admiral Zinovy Rozhestvensky, who had no battle plan to speak of and was going to conduct the battle by the seat of his pants (see his infamous quote "I will lead is as I will!"). He might've at least hoped to pull it off (even though Togo, already notified of Russian advance, had managed to ambush them and cross Rozhestvensky's T, putting him at distinct disadvantage), but he was incapacitated early into the battle, and his second-in-command, Adm. Nebogatov, had even less idea of what he was doing.
      • And to be totally fair to the Russians, they were anchored off Madagascar for a month or three while Rozhestvensky was a bit busy having a nervous breakdown in his cabin, likely contemplating the fact that the Russian navy hadn't won a sea battle since 1723.
      • And finally, credit must be given to Rozhestvensky for even getting the fleet there in the first place. The full story of the voyage 'to Tsushima is too long for this article, but suffice to say Rozhestvensky is practically a miracle worker for pulling that off.
    • In the CBI theater, whenever the New 1st Army had to engage Japanese troops, they always won. It helped that they were lavishly supplied and had plenty of close air support and actual artillery, something that the Guomindang's forces had always lacked. The Chinese Expeditionary Force suffered plenty of losses, but were one of the most successful GMD armies of the war.
  • Curb Stomp Cushion:
    • The Britain vs Japan subset of the war in general was this. Britain and Japan's conflict was largely even, partly because both sides saw the theater as a secondary concern. In 1941-1942, the Japanese utterly curb-stomped the British and their allies out of Malaya, Burma, Singapore, and Hong Kong. They also sunk a significant amount of RN ships for no losses themselves. 1943-1944, when the Japanese were getting utterly rolled back by the Americans, they managed to repel a British-Chinese attack on their positions in Burma. It wasn't until 1944-1945 after William Slim got things together that the tide of the war against Britain turned against Japan, and even then it wasn't 100% one-sided.
    • The China front was largely a Curb-Stomp Battle in favor of Japan for the first few months, until the Chinese finally won a major victory at Taierzhuang in 1938. From that point, China turned into this trope, suffering many defeats yet being able to get a few good victories in, such as the three defenses of Changsha from 1939-41, the campaigns of the US-equipped forces in Burma, and the Salween offensive of 1945. Even after Operation Ichigo in 1944 saw large areas of East China in Japanese hands, the Japanese were still nowhere close to capturing Chongqing.
    • The bombing of Pearl Harbor was one for the USA, if you look closely. Yes, a number of battleships were sunk, but because they were sunk in a harbor rather than the open sea, they could be recovered, and all except the Oklahoma and Arizona were eventually raised and sent back into the fight. Not only that, but none of the more modern aircraft carriers and fast battleships were present, and the Japanese decided not to send a third wave of planes to take out the oil refinery, repair shops, and drydocks, which would have put a severe cramp on US Navy operations in the Pacific until they could be restored. When the Japanese made their main front in the Pacific against America, it was a Curb-Stomp Battle in the USA's favor for the most part.
    • Happened to the Soviets again at Khalkin Gol. Zhukov's forces won, and ultimately the Japanese wouldn't dare to disturb them again, but the high command of Red Army was left wondering why the casualties on their side were still so high, especially since the Soviets had superior equipment for the most part.
  • Cycle of Revenge: the inevitable result of a war that was grounded in mutual racial prejudice, started with a sneak attack and quickly proceeded to atrocities.
  • David vs. Goliath: In all of its major campaigns, Japan (and later, their small empire of Korea, Taiwan, Japan, and Manchuria) was out of its weight classification. This was modified by the fact that the Manchu and Russian Empires were highly vestigial at the time, wracked with financial problems and having to fight Japan at the limits of their ability. The situation for the Chinese wasn't any better in World War II, being a poor and low tech nation in the middle of a civil war. But the last time around was a very different matter; Japan could never have mustered the economic and logistical power to defeat the United States, the richest nation on the planet, and one of the most high tech. The best it could have hoped for (and indeed, it was the grand strategy for the war) was to press the U.S. and inflict such damage that they would deem it not worth the trouble and expense to rebuild and recapture their conquered territories. At their most mouth-frothingly optimistic, there were plans to capture Hawaii, perhaps after a Curb-Stomp Battle at Midway wiped away most of the surviving American forces, but those never made it off the drawing board. Unfortunately, Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor infuriated their enemy so much that, apart from having to divide its efforts with the European Theatre of the war, was prepared to stomp Japan at nearly whatever price. The Dutch East Indies were in disarray following the Netherland's defeat in Europe and taken by surprise, as were British Malaysia and Hong Kong, French Indochina, and the American Philippines, but after that All bets were off.
  • Death from Above: A very valuable strategy they often employed on all fronts. The Americans proved to be far better at it, however. The Fragile Speedster nature of Japanese aircraft and their lack of decent radios made them ill suited for close air support.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: After defeating Japan, the U.S. occupied it with some real intelligence to allow it to rebuild a healthy and prosperous industrial economy. As a result, Japan has been largely a close ally of the USA ever since.
  • Determinator: Do we really need examples?
    • Because of the nature of ocean warfare, the entire conflict between Japan and the U.S. boiled down to a contest of who could out-determine the other. A lack of resources meant that Japan didn't have the long-term replenishment capacity of the U.S., but because of Pearl Harbor, they started out with a head start and more ships on the balance sheet. If Japan blinked first, they would sue for a beggar's peace and likely give up their Pacific conquests with harsh terms. If America blinked first, they would see the time and effort of rebuilding their fleet to recapture those conquests as not being worth the cost. And say what you will, but as time passed and Japan's new territory shrunk island by island, ending with hundreds of thousands of Allied troops poised to invade the home islands themselves, they never blinked.
    • Some holdouts continued fighting the war for up to thirty years after it was over. They had to locate Lt. Hiroo Onoda's former commanding officer and fly him to the Phillipines to relieve him of duty before he would lay down his arms. Fortunately he'd survived the war and was still alive, otherwise Onoda might have never given up.
      • Onoda's subsequent life was telling: having become a stranger is his own land he briefly flirted with right-wing politics before spending the rest of his life organizing programs that provided wilderness experiences for children. Maybe he just liked it out there?
  • Defiant to the End: Many, many times. So much, that it could pretty much be the standard MO of almost the entire Japanese military. When given a choice between surrender or death, many simply elected for the latter, either by Suicide Attack or ritual suicide. There's a reason far fewer Japanese prisoners were taken compared to German ones.
  • Didn't Think This Through: The Imperial Japanese military had this trope as their most glaring flaw, as detailed under And Then What?.
    • Launching a surprise attack on a country that had such a huge advantage in resources, manpower, manufacturing, industry, and technological innovation that there was literally no comparison definitely falls into this.
    • While China was Japan's punching bag for the most part, nobody considered that repeated atrocities against the locals just made Chinese troops more determined to fight back, while the GMD grew even more convinced that surrendering was an idiotic idea.
    • The Japanese Navy and Army Air Forces didn't distribute their pilots parachutes. They figured out that if the pilots had a means of escape, they wouldn't be committed enough to fight. Nobody thought that training a fighter pilot was far more expensive and time-consuming than building planes - and that if the pilot had a means of escape, he would be much more committed to fight than without - and if rescued, he'd become more experienced.
  • Driven to Suicide: In the Battles of Saipan and Okinawa the Imperial Japanese military did everything they could to encourage their civilians to commit mass suicide. They had every reason to expect their civilians would receive the same harsh treatment they had inflicted on the Chinese, and stood to lose a great deal of face if the Allies turned out to be magnanimous.
     E to H 
  • Easy Logistics: As is usually the case in real life, this one was consistently averted. They didn't have enough oil for their ships and didn't have enough transports and other cargo vessels for their ground troops and equipment. Working off a shoestring managed to get them through wars against China and Russia, and through the SW Pacific / SE Asia operations early in World War 2, but during the Guadalcanal campaign these difficulties cost them big time. Even in China, the Guomindang was able to score several successes, mainly by taking advantage of the IJA's horrifically overstretched supply lines. Nationalist and Communist guerrillas, meanwhile, made things a living hell for Japanese garrisons by not only ambushing their convoys, but utterly trashing their infrastructure on a regular basis. This included Chinese railroads, which had been torn up by the retreating GMD and painstakingly repaired with slave labor, only to see damage that took months to repair, preventing the Japanese from transporting reinforcements and material quickly. Which meant that Japanese columns often had to march instead, but this made them even more vulnerable to guerrilla attacks, most famously the Communist ambush at Pingxingguan.
  • Eats Babies: Some "comfort women" (forced sex slaves) testified that they were forced to eat meat stew made from the chopped remains of babies cut out of other sex slaves. There are other recorded instances of Imperial troops engaging in cannibalism, either as an act of ceremony or simple desperation.
  • The Empire: At its height, Japan ruled one of the largest empires in history, expanding out of the home islands in all directions, though most of it was empty ocean: westward into China and Korea, eastward into the Pacific islands, southward into the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia), southwest into British Burma, Singapore, and Malaya, southeast into the American Phillipines and Guinea, and north into Sakhalin. The only place they didn't briefly annex when they invaded was the Soviet Union's puppet state in Mongolia in the undeclared Soviet-Japanese Border Wars, or the very short Second Russo-Japanese War of 1945.
  • Enemy Civil War / Interservice Rivalry: The bureaucrats of the IJN and IJA had this going on constantly. This is not uncommon of course, but in this case it was taken to extremes that severely hurt Japan's war effort. There was also within the IJN a distinct rivalry between the aircraft carrier sailors and the rest of the navy.
    • The entire war against America was arguably the result of an Enemy Civil War within the IJN; Headquarters didn't want to attack Pearl Harbor or the Philippines. Combined Fleet did, and their entire staff threatened to resign if not allowed to, in essence hijacking the strategic planning process. Midway came about in almost the exact same way.
      • This is also what happened in course of sparking off the "Manchurian Incident," The Second Sino-Japanese War, and the undeclared border war against Soviet Union in 1939. They were all started by local commanders while the high command was internally divided or even disapproving of adventurism.
    • From Japan's perspective, this helped them a lot in the Second Sino-Japanese War. General Yan Xishan (warlord of Shanxi province), Chairman Mao Zedong (guerrilla leader based in neighbouring Sha'anxi province), the Guangxi Clique lead by the extremely competent General Li Zongren (of warlord Guangxi province, natch), and the Guominjun (of Qinghai province) under the utterly ruthless warlord Ma Bufang basically wanted absolutely nothing to do with one another and would have been perfectly happy for the Japanese to wipe out all the others if it meant that they got to rule over what was left of the country afterward. The only partial exception was Mao Zedong, who at least pretended to get along with the others but wasn't fooling anybody, his forces only launching two conventional battles against Japan, either continuing guerrilla warfare or sitting back to watch the GMD get violently dismembered daily. It was the national GMD government (under party Chairman Lin Sen and his boss, military dictator Chiang Kai-shek) at Nanjing, and later Chongqing, suffering the misfortune to have to deal with this irritating clusterfuck daily, combined with their other problems (corruption, infighting, etc) for eight years. And then a four-year civil war after that, which the GMD lost badly, resulting in China going from a brutal authoritarian dictatorship under Chiang to a nightmarish totalitarian dictatorship under Mao. Hooray.
  • Fascist, but Inefficient: Between the weak civilian government and the We ARE Struggling Together verging on Enemy Civil War dynamic between the Imperial Army and Navy the militarists failed to organize their economy or properly allocate scarce resources. Any second generation weapons they did manage to develop were all hamstrung by poor workmanship and inadequate materials.
  • Final Battle: Leyte Gulf doomed Japan even though there was considerable land fighting afterwards. Leyte was also the last large fleet action ever to be fought - some say in all of time.
    • Operation Olympic/Coronet, the invasion of the Home Islands, would have been the ultimate in final battles as far as World War II went, with even its planners describing it as a "blood-soaked apocalypse". Fortunately, the atomic bomb rendered it unnecessary.
  • First Sino-Japanese War: The first of the three major wars against the Qing Empire, and a resounding victory.
  • Former Regime Personnel: Up to 5000 ex-IJA personnel ended up helping their former enemies, the Viet Minh, fight against the French during the First Indochina War. Meanwhile in Indonesia, Japanese volunteers helped train and equip the burgeoning independence movement for their war against the Dutch.
  • Fragile Speedster: The Imperial Japanese Military had this as its entire war doctrine.
    • As shown by their operations in the Phillipines, the East Indies, New Guinea, Burma, Malaya, and the other pacific islands, the Imperial forces were adept at launching fast, coordinated, surprise assaults with their powerful navy and elite marines supported by light armor. The fact they had the second best navy of the time only made them more mobile. Their actual army however was, compared to the Americans, Australians, Soviets, and British, rather low tech and crude, never employing anything bigger than what a Soviet commander would consider 'light' tanks. Even though it was large and fanatically devoted, it was at a severe disadvantage against the Western Allies and the Soviets in drawn out land battles.
    • Their air forces were also an example of this; the infamous Zero fighter had relatively light armament, no armor, and no self-sealing fuel tanks, but they were very maneuverable. Their main bomber was similar, only moreso: There, strength and armament were sacrificed for speed and range and needlessly so, as the extra range was essentially useless since flying beyond the range of their fighter escorts was suicide; all the extra gasoline did was make them burn better. Ironically the Zero wasn't particularly fast at its top speed, but it was very nimble which meant it could almost-literally fly circles around heavier fighter craft, an obvious advantage in a dogfight. However, this was only an advantage if Allied pilots chose to dogfight. Instead, Allied pilots quickly learned to avoid dogfights with Zeros and instead rely on boom-and-zoom, hit-and-run attacks which usually resulted in the Zero exploding into little pieces.
  • For the Evulz: Some of the things Japanese grunts did for fun were truly horrifying and pointless. For example, see Eats Babies. Generally speaking, living in Japanese-occupied territory was close to living hell if you happened to be the "wrong" kind of person.
    • Japanese soldiers and sailors on bypassed islands tended to go a bit psychotic from pent-up fear and frustration, especially since the US liked to use their islands for target practice in what amounted to live-fire exercises. They tended to take out their fear and frustration on the locals, captured enemy aviators, and even each other.
  • Glass Cannon: The IJN aircraft carriers. They had excellent air wing capacity, but they were abysmally bad on enduring any damage, either bomb or torpedo.
    • Also any warships armed with the Type 93 Torpedo.
  • God-Emperor: Hirohito was treated like this, as were earlier Emperors.
    • This had a political purpose as well. It represented an anchor in the past during the Meji Reformation.
    • Post-War MacArthur forced the Emperor to deny he was divine in a speech but it was not the best phrased and was ambiguous, apparently.
      • In fact, MacArthur maintained a version of this in order to make the U.S. occupation of Japan work as smoothly as possible, by adding the Emperor's seal of approval, figuratively speaking, to the policies of the U.S. military in Japan. It worked reasonably well at the time.
  • Government Conspiracy: Elements in the Imperial Japanese Army and Navy. The requirement that Army and Navy Ministers be serving officers gave their respective general staffs effective veto power over the civilian government, but the conflicts among and within factions within the two services meant that Japan was a military-industrial anarchy, more or less. There wasn't even a single cabal of generals that made all the decisions (primarily because their own juniors frequently assassinated them for not being militaristic enough!). There was an Emperor with a defined but small power, and a military force with an undefined but massive power. General Hideki Tojo was named Prime Minister largely because it was hoped his role as the head of the Kempetai (military state police) gave him the power to bring the rest of the military to heel. It didn't work.
    • It did not help that General Tojo, as the prime minister, was the head of government, but he was not the top general in the army so that he actually had superior officers above him, which did much to confuse who was really in charge.
  • Insane Troll Logic: The Allies "forced" Japan to attack them by refusing to sell their own oil, which Japan of course absolutely needed to sustain their brutal colonization of China, while said colonization was definitely the best thing to happen to the Chinese people, ever (daily bouts of civilian brutalizing and mass murder by the IJA notwithstanding).
  • Honor Before Reason: Or "honor without reason."
    • As an example: When the U.S. landed at Guadalcanal, there were 16 Japanese dive bombers sitting at Rabaul, Nine of them were loaded for a ground-attack mission against a target in New Guinea. They did not have the range to strike Guadalcanal and return, nor were they armed with weapons that could significantly harm a ship. The dive bombers were ordered to attack at once. This gesture was absolutely relished by apparently every officer involved except the squadron leader, but it cost them nine perfectly good aircraft and eighteen veteran aircrew for nothing.
    • Similarly, after the USN destroyed 3 of Nagumo's 4 carriers in a matter of minutes at the Battle of Midway, Nagumo could have pulled the surviving carrier, Hiryu westward and engaged the USN at extreme range—or even better, retreated entirely to the safety of Yamamoto's Main Force. Instead, Admiral Tamon Yamaguchi, the carrier division commander who flew his flag on Hiryu, closed range on the USN, which allowed him two near-fatal sorties against the USN (both expended on Yorktown) but kept him in range of the enemy long enough for Hiryu to be attacked and destroyed.
      • Admiral Yamaguchi and Hiryu's captain, Tomeo Kaku, then compounded the error by Going Down with the Ship instead of living to fight another day, thereby depriving the Japanese Navy of the services and expertise of two of its most talented carrier officers.
    • Events such of these are attributed to the IJN officer corps rewarding the "physical courage" of charging headfirst into battle at the expense of the "moral courage" to recognize the value of saving near-irreplaceable IJN war assets. So you have a situation where a very high-ranking IJN officer did the math and (perhaps subconsciously) decided it was better to see his fleet sunk than to concede defeat and ensure (as best he could) the continued existence of the IJN's carrier forces.
    • See above for the aftermath of the undeclared war against Soviet Union in 1939. Putting up a successful defense for days against hopeless odds and saving many of the men by pulling out sensibly when the battle is already lost is a "disgrace" while stupidly keeping the whole army stuck in the death trap by not pulling out is "honorable." This was repeated countless times during World War 2, with Japanese troops staying put in badly exposed positions for far too long then senselessly getting themselves killed in suicide charges.
    • In the 1920s Japan, Britain, and America (and France and Italy to some degree) signed 2 treaties limiting naval construction, especially of the very expensive battleships, because otherwise they would all try to outbuild the others and mutually drive themselves nearly bankrupt. The difficulty of such a treaty was how much to limit which sides to. In the end, it was known as "5:5:3" because the USA and Britain, having multiple oceans to patrol (and more economic capacity than Japan), got to retain 5 tons of ships for every 3 that Japan retained. This was actually an excellent deal for Japan because it held back the American shipyards - who could have outbuilt Japan much worse than 5:3. And since as mentioned the US Navy had to patrol two oceans, roughly half of the fleet would normally be in the Atlantic and thus at the start of any conflict this would be a de facto 3:2.5 ratio in Japan's favor.note  On top of that, Japan lacked the industrial capacity to even match the treaty-restricted outputs of the USA and Britain; the amount they were allowed to built wasn't that much less than the maximum they were capable of building. However, many Japanese felt it was a national insult to get a lower ratio; they considered it a temporary concession and a necessary evil that should be repudiated. As usual Yamamoto was the voice of reason, saying "The agreement is excellent for us - it is a treaty to restrict the other parties", but he was overruled because anything short of an equal ratio was dishonorable. On December 29, 1934, Japan gave the requisite two-years notice that it would withdraw from the treaties - freeing the United States up to outbuild Japan by insane margins. Had the Japanese not repudiated the treaties, the United States would have only started on its massive shipbuilding campaign after Pearl Harbor was attacked, meaning they wouldn't have been churning out unbeatable numbers of carriers and battleships until 1945-1946. As it was, the early start allowed them to, from 1942-1944, outproduce Japan 5:1 in carriers and battleships, 4:1 in aircraft, 15:1 in destroyers and escorts, and 8:1 in cargo ships.
  • Hopeless War: The Pacific War became this for the Japanese at the conclusion of the Marianas campaign. The loss of Saipan placed Japan within range of American bombers and submarines, and meant the island nation would either starve or burn. Simultaneously, the Combined Fleet had just been humiliatingly defeated at the Battle of the Philippines Sea, and was clearly no match for the now-enormous U.S. Navy. That the war was lost was obvious to anyone, but the Japanese military's inability to admit failure and defeat meant that Japan was in for a year of pain far worse than anything they had yet experienced.
    • Isoroku Yamamoto did warn his government that a war longer than six months would be this when the Pearl Harbor attack was being planned. Unfortunately, the militaristic government, way in over their heads and unwilling to back out, ignored him. They would eat his words six months later at Midway.
  • How the IJN stole Christmas : "Yesterday December 7, 1941..."
    • Hong Kong surrendered to the Japanese on the 25th of December, 1941. Merry Christmas!
    • Singapore surrendered on 15th February, 1942 — And a happy (Chinese) New Year!
     I to L 
  • Impossibly Cool Weapon: The Yamato. Which did almost nothing but is the most famous ship in the IJN because it was the largest battleship ever and thus fulfills the Rule of Cool.
    • Also katanas, though perhaps "impossible" in the other direction. The Japanese soldiers were kind of obsessed with blade weapons, going so far as to stick bayonets on machine guns. They were also among the last to abandon the "sword bayonet" (actually a knife blade, just a ridiculously long one) in favor of the more practical knife bayonets that every other major power in World War II was using.
    • Many of the IJN's destroyer designs, but in particular the Shimakaze. 42 knots flat out for an extended period, fifteen torpedo tubes to sink an entire opposing squadron at a crack, six 5" guns. The most powerful destroyer of the Second World War. Like Yamato, she did barely anything worthy of mentioning and was destroyed by overwhelming air attack along with nearly her entire task force.
    • The I-400 class submarines. Submersible aircraft carriers that actually worked... but they took nearly three years to build and could only carry three planes each. Enough to attract an enemies' attention, but not enough to inflict significant damage. An impressive technical achievement, but militarily near-useless.
  • Improvised Weapon: Kamikazes, satchel charges, pipe bombs, and even bamboo spears (and bizarrely enough, bayonet lugs for bamboo poles, perhaps the ultimate expression of the above-mentioned obsession with bladed weapons) at the bitter end, all more-or-less suicidal.
  • Irony: Japanese pilots who came from a culture that subordinated individual goals to the group effort (individual scores were not officially tallied, just squadron totals) predominantly fought as individual warriors following the samurai aesthetic while the American pilots, who came from a society that prizes individuality and did tally individual scores learned how to beat their enemy by fighting as a team.
    • Furthermore, this went further into each air force's basic operational philosophy: The Japanese kept their individual warrior pilots on the front lines for as long as they could survive, racking up tremendous totals of kills, but all too often dying with only woefully inadequately trained replacements left. Meanwhile, the Allies noted their aces, and pulled them out of combat to train new pilots in the interest of a greater fighting force as a whole. The result is the Japanese unwitting emphasis on individual duty and glory left their air force as a whole no match against the Allies whose increasing superiority in technology was complemented by new pilots well trained by aces who sacrificed their chances of individual glory for the greater good of their nations.
    • The Japanese pilots' level of cooperation also wasn't helped by the poor-quality radios in their planes.
      • It's worth noting that their strategy of pilot quality over quantity made perfect sense prewar given the limited production capacity of their aircraft industry. They just failed to anticipate that once the shooting starts it's much easier to ramp up aircraft production than pilot training; a plane can be built in days but a good pilot takes at least two years to train. They also failed to account for pilot attrition from non-combat causes like malaria and other tropical diseases.
    • In short, they've intentionally prepared for a brief war because they knew they couldn't win a long one, hoping that they could somehow force this on an enemy.
  • I Surrender, Suckers: In line with the "surrender is dishonorable" propaganda, this was one of the most famous traits of Imperial Japan's armed forces during World War II. They did this so much they hindered actual attempts to surrender.
  • Japanese Spirit: They had plenty of this. What they needed was more Japanese firepower.
  • Katanas Are Just Better: The IJN officers had cheap, mass-produced katana-styled swords, called shin-gunto (New Army Sword) that were regularly used for torture and executions rather then fighting. Of course, fervent about the samurai spirit, they did use these for combat but few if any were trained in their proper combat use, and often broke or chipped their swords.
    • Indeed, the swords also caused said officers to have a Highly Conspicuous Uniform on the battlefield, and they often found themselves drawing fire from Chinese and American troops as a result.
    • Officers from the old samurai families often took their ancestral swords, placed into the mass-produced hilts, into battle. While the blades were of much higher quality, it didn't make any difference in modern warfare. It did, however, result in quite a few high-quality blades ending up in GIs' duffle bags on the way back to the United States.
    • When Japan began modernizing in late 19th century, the army forbade use of old katanas and issued European-style straight-swords and cutlasses in their place. Katana-style swords were reintroduced in the Japanese army only in the 1930s!
    • Nowadays, any WW2 shin-gunto swords are often immediately confiscated and destroyed if found. With all the atrocities committed involving them, it's not surprising. They're also banned in Japan, the US-written weapon laws allowed only "artistically significant" swords to be preserved. As such the majority of shin-gunto were melted down at the end of the war, and the majority of surviving examples are those that Allied (especially US) soldiers took home as war trophies.
  • The Laws and Customs of War: Played straight and then subverted later. Interestingly the Japanese were complimented widely for their gracious adherence to this during the Russo-Japanese war. They did not have this reputation during World War II.
    • Imperial German POWs during WW1 so enjoyed being interned by the Japanese that some of them emigrated there after their release!
  • Karmic Death: The architects of the U.S. firebombing campaign considered it a justified response to Japanese atrocities. After the war Japan was essentially a pre-Industrial Age wasteland with almost no cities still standing and came very close to mass famine as their transport system was in ruins and civilians were struggling to plant vegetables in the blasted, dried-up landscape.
    • Many Allied soldiers also considered the executions of surrendering Japanese soldiers to be a justified response to Japan's brutal atrocities.
  • Karma Houdini: Arguably many Japanese officers and grunts from the war. Particularly the ruling family.
    • Zig-zagged with Unit 731's chief scientists. Headed by Shiro Ishii, many were involved in or oversaw inhumane experiments such as vivisections without any anesthesia, forced abortions, freezing people alive, infecting entire village populations with bubonic plague and testing gas shells on prisoners. Although some doctors did produce useful data from researching infection rates of diseases and making artificial blood (and Ishii himself did invent a useful water purifier for the IJA), the majority of experiments from Ishii's team were nothing more than new ways to torture people. When Japan surrendered, the unit did not tell the Americans how they got their data, talking about bioweapons they made instead. As a result, the entire team got war crimes immunity. Some were sent to work on bioweapons projects in America, while others returned to Japan. But when the Americans discovered what the unit did to get data, they were so horrified that they pulled all unit scientists from US bioweapons projects, and handed them over to the Soviets, who imprisoned or executed many.
  • Klingon Scientists Get No Respect: The Japanese Army was modelled on the Prussian Army. It is often stated that this meant that it shared certain strengths (discipline, morale, initiative) with its role model. What is not, is that it also shared its weaknesses: intelligence, staffwork, supply, engineering, and maintenance. All 'non-combat' services were neglected or ignored, with disastrous results. Even the famous Pearl Harbor raid suffered from insufficient planning and poor staff work. It only succeeded because the airmen were sufficiently skilled to overcome the flaws in the plan. For instance, they failed to attack the oil tanks because they were never even considered as targets believe it or not. (Any face-saving assertions to the contrary were invented after the war.) Their otherwise intrepid destroyer forces spent little or no effort on the tedious and unromantic subject of anti-submarine warfare, much to their later cost as their merchant fleet is largely wiped out.
    • By comparison, the US Navy created two entire fleet staffs, Third Fleet under Halsey and Fifth fleet under Spruance, for the US Pacific fleet. The two staffs took turns, one running the current operation while the other planned the next one, allowing them to maintain a tempo of operations Combined Fleet could not match. Either one of these staffs had far more resources than their Combined Fleet counterparts, and the US Navy's long-established bureau system freed them from the petty details of construction, logistics and maintenance.
    • Allied often found Japanese airfields they'd seized littered with derelict aircraft that had very minor issues; things like needing a couple of new sparkplugs or a spare tire, while another aircraft not more than a few hundred feet away had the sparkplugs or tire but needed a carburetor. Japanese maintenance crews were either only trained to or only allowed to replace parts by rote with new parts; there was no concerted effort to get the maximum number planes into the fight by stripping parts from a few to get the rest working. (the one exception was Rabaul, where Japanese junior officers and men proved quite resourceful after they were cut off from high command.) The relatively mechanized nature of US and Australian agriculture meant that many more of their their soldiers entered the service already accustomed to cannibalizing broken machinery to get through planting or harvest season.
    • Said airfields - and Japanese bases in general - were often built by hand without mechanized construction equipment, and the few Japanese engineers present could only dream of the small bulldozers and other mechanized equipment used by the Americans to build and outfit a fully functional base in the middle of the jungle in a fraction of the time.
    • This was especially apparent with regards to the development of the Japanese radar. During 1920s and 30s, Japanese scientists were at the forefront of the technology that would eventually lead up to the operational radar. However, Japanese military leaders remained ignorant of these developments—even though several of these scientists (such as Yoji Ito) were serving in the army and navy when World War II broke out (in capacities that had nothing to do with radar, at least at the beginning of the war). Proposals for using radio waves for direction finding and detection, made by scientists like Kinjiro Okabe in 1930s, (when British and Germans were starting their own radar development in secret) were turned down by the military as "impractical."note  Most Japanese military leaders did not become aware of the radar until they captured a British set in Singapore and, even then, they were not aware that the radar's "Yagi antenna" (later "Yagi-Uda") was named after Japanese scientists who invented itnote .
    • Intelligence in general was a major Japanese weakness, for primarily cultural reasons. Japan, long an isolated and xenophobic culture, had no tradition of ascertaining the capabilities, tactics, and strategic objectives of enemies who were not Japanese: instead, they simply assumed the enemy would obligingly show up and then he would be beaten. Japan's easy early victories against the Chinese and Allies seemed to validate this belief, that intelligence against such hapless foes was redundant. This conceit would later come back to bite them in the ass something hard, as the Japanese would be repeatedly wrong-footed by Allied offensives and traps (Midway being the most disastrous example).
  • Last Stand: Banzai charges, which can be summed up as "there's no question that we're gonna die here, so let's do it awesomely and take down as many of them as we can too."
    • As a practical matter, however, they were silliness of the first order; a massed assault was American Civil War/Austro-Prussian War/Balkan War stuff (and the sort of propagandized insanity that got people worked up to them belonged to wars hundreds of years older than that). To be fair, it was effective against many of the poorly-trained, poorly-armed, and poorly-supplied (i.e. often fighting with nothing more than literal handfuls of ammo) Chinese warlord armies and militia who often broke and ran against such charges. It also worked well against the better-trained and equipped (although with atrocious supply) Guomindang and Guangxi Clique troops, who lacked automatic weapons to counter banzai charges note . However, the British and the Americans were a much different sort, with well-trained troops with plenty of artillery, machine guns and powerful semi-automatic rifles/extremely fast, high capacity bolt-action rifles with nearly limitless ammunition supplies, which created defenses more numerous and deadlier since the days of breaking such assaults on the Somme. The results were... predictable, and the Japanese would have been better served by staying on the defensive.
  • Leave No Survivors: The armed forces of Imperial Japan during World War II came frighteningly close to treating this as standard operating procedure. Note that they also applied this policy to themselves: Japanese units were expected to suffer 100% casualties (no unwounded survivors) win or lose (note the lyrics of the Imperial Navy Anthem above) and a surprising number actually succeeded.
    • U.S. soldiers in the Pacific Theater came pretty close too for various reasons. The fact that Japanese soldiers were taught to consider victory and death the only honorable outcomes of battle was a major factor; it was rare that a Japanese soldier would even attempt to surrender, though it did become more common once the war was obviously hopeless. Made even worse in that some who pretended to surrender were carrying live grenades or trying to lure their enemies into an ambush, leading the Allied forces to shoot many Japanese soldiers who actually may have been trying to surrender. Finally, it simply is not possible to underestimate the sheer, unabashed, unadulterated racism of both sides due to wartime propaganda.
      • Allied soldiers sometimes misused the common image of the Japanese soldiers as those who believe that it is Better to Die than Be Killed; they would kill Japanese prisoners, claiming they had "committed suicide". These killings were motivated partially by revenge for Japanese atrocities, and partly by simple racism. George Macdonald Fraser mentions, without censure or approval, several occassions in Burma where Indian and British troops "failed to take prisoners". This includes a massacre of Japanese wounded by Indian soldiers.
      • Curiously, the Guomindang's Central Army soldiers had every reason to hate the Japanese, yet took prisoners after battles regularly. Historians have noted that the Chinese still recognized the Japanese as human. It helped that lots of the NRA high command (including Chiang Kai-shek himself) had studied in Japan, and that with the Chinese not packing as much punch as Allied troops, the Japanese could afford to fight them face-to-face regularly, instead of hiding and sniping. Another explanation was that the Chinese had been fighting the Japanese long enough to know that surrendering and getting interned to the Chinese was considered a Fate Worse than Death by Japanese soldiers, especially given Japan's xenophobia towards the Chinese. That said, any Japanese captured by the Guominjun's warlord army were not so lucky, often being sold into slavery to face miserable treatment or simply being killed en masse.
    • The Japanese Sixth fleet actually issued explicit orders to Leave No Survivors from torpedoed merchant ships, ironically at the behest of the Germans. Approximately half of their submarine captains simply refused to obey these orders, most of the captains who did obey only did so once, and the orders were dropped after those captains complained that the massacres were ruining morale.
      • This attitude characterized some U.S. submarine captains and pilots who sank Japanese ships, both warships and civilian. Machine gunning of Japanese survivors by U.S. submarine crews and planes was commonly reported (for example, by USS Wahoo against survivors of Japanese freighter Buyo Marunote ) and Japanese survivors from sunken transports were deliberately massacred after the Battle of Bismarck Sea to prevent them from reinforcing Japanese troops ashore.
  • Lensman Arms Race: Sort of during the years around World War I, when Japan would build and field both battleships and battlecruisers more powerful than the ones in service on both the United States Navy and the Royal Navy, with the latter two building warships that countered the Japanese ones. The Washington and London Naval Treaties would stop this escalation until the eve of World War II.
     M to P 
  • Macross Missile Massacre: Or rather "Torpedo massacre". The Type 93 torpedo had a very important role in the Navy's strategy to defeat the US fleet in a single, climactic battle, where cruisers and destroyers would attack in swarms at night the American battleships before letting in theirs centered on those of the Yamato-class. This was carried to the extremes of the already mentioned one-of-a-kind Shimakaze destroyer or especially the light cruisers Kitakami and Ōi, each for a short time with forty torpedo tubes.
  • Made of Explodium: The already mentioned Type 93 "Long Lance" was a scarily good torpedo. It was significantly faster than other World War II torpedoes and had longer range than even most heavy cruisers' guns. They even developed battle reload gear so they could launch twice as many as anyone else. But it got its range and speed from using pure oxygen (where other torpedoes would have compressed air). A lot of Japanese destroyers (and several cruisers) were lost when their torpedoes exploded. The reloads just made the problem worse.
    • Heavy cruiser Chokai may be the only warship to have ever lost a gun duel with an aircraft carrier, much less an escort carrier; the 5" gun crew from USS White Plains claimed that one of their shells detonated inside her torpedo room and the resulting explosions wrecked her to the point she had to be scuttled. While this claim is certainly possible, it's not supported by any other evidence; all of Chokai['s] crew was lost and the only surviving Japanese account (cruiser Haguro['s] action report) blames the explosion on an air attack that was taking place at the same time, and those pilots also claimed to have hit Chokai.
  • Mid-Season Upgrade: As war dragged on and warship losses caused by air attacks increased, the Imperial Japanese Navy upgraded the anti-aircraft weaponry of thei remaining warships, often to More Dakka extremes. However that was not enough to save them, as both the Yamato and Musashi battleships can attest.
  • Moment of Awesome: Battle of Tsushima in the Russo-Japanese War. Albeit the Russians had to fight on foreign waters halfway across the globe. The word "Tsushima" means in Russian usage an absolute disaster.
    • Their simultaneous invasions of the Philippines, Malaysia + Singapore and the East Indies count. Heck, the fact that they could hold off the U.S. as much as they did (it could have done much better in several battles) is a case of sheer awesomeness.
    • Churchill himself considered the utter curbstomping of the British, Indians, and Australians by the Japanese at Singapore the greatest disaster in the history of the British military. This is mainly because the British outnumbered the Japanese three to one, the Japanese were starving and out of supplies by the time they attacked, and the British were in a fortified position. And they still lost.
      • Granted, the reason they lost was because Lieutenant-General Arthur Percival, the man in charge there, wasn't aggressive enough, deciding to surrender rather than fight on despite being ordered by Field Marshal Wavell to there was not to be a general surrender in Singapore. The Japanese commander, General Tomoyuki Yamashita, actually admitted that he was afraid the British would force him into street fighting, since he didn't have the men or supplies to win such a fight.
    • Sinking Prince of Wales and Repulse off Malaya. With their planes, the Japanese sunk not only the two major battleships of the British Navy, but the primacy of the warship class once and for all.
    • Some of the naval battles in Guadalcanal too, such as Savo Island.
    • Lake Khasan. The Japanese managed to penetrate Soviet territory, seize a fortified hill position in a daring night attack, and garrison it. They then proceeded to hold off a Soviet force with three times as many men, eight times as many artillery pieces and mortars, and five times as many machine guns. The Soviets also had hundreds of tanks and hundreds of aircraft, while the Japanese had a bare handful. The Japanese were eventually forced to pull out, but the cost for the Soviets was enormous considering the forces involved; the Soviets suffered over four thousand casualties (792 killed, 3,297 diseased/wounded) and lost dozens of tanks (at least 9 were outright destroyed, and another 37 needed extensive repairs). The Japanese only suffered about 1,400 casualties (526 killed, 916 wounded), and lost a few tanks. This was primarily because the Japanese coordinated their troops a lot better than the Soviets did, making good use of their limited amount of machine guns and anti-tank guns. This would color their perceptions for their next battle with the Soviets at Khalkin Gol- where the Soviets were a lot more prepared, and had a much better general in charge.
  • Military Maverick: A textbook example of why this trope is often less than ideal in Real Life. Imperial Japan's military had a tradition of what's called 'Gekokujo', often translated as 'the lower rules the higher.' This meant that lower-ranking officers would disobey orders when they considered them wrong and harmful to the country, while taking advantage of opportunities to expand Japanese territory or attack the enemy even in the face of orders from above not to do so. In practice, what this meant was that the 1930s were filled with assassinations, attempted coups and 'incidents' from mid-level officers with a dim understanding of how limited Japan's resources were, drawing it ever further into the quagmire of China and ultimately culminating in the disaster of World War II.
  • Moral Myopia: The widespread use of methamphetamine in the Army, leading into callous disregard of soldiers' lives on one side and in atrocities in unseen scale on the other side.
  • The Neidermeyer: The IJA pretty much ran on this trope, with officers and NCOs ruling their subordinates with a regime of brutality that seemed intended to make their troops more fearful of their superiors than their enemy. Not only did the inflexibility inherent in this trope cause problems, but the brutalized soldiers more often then not found ways to enact their own brutality.
  • Never Live It Down: In parts of East Asia, Japan's reputation can still come off like this due to the excesses of the imperial military.
    • Hatred and suspicion of Japan lingered for a long time in Britain once details of the treatment received by prisoners of war became common knowledge. This wasn't helped by the postwar Japanese government's refusal to pay compensation or even to apologise to "guests of the Emperor" who survived captivity. This attitude is fading as the survivors of that war dwindle and younger British people are developing a more positive opinion of things Japanese. note .
  • Never Recycle Your Schemes: Inverted. The IJN in the South Pacific had a bad habit of repeating successful operations, in part due to their lack of fleet staff officers. They sometimes got away with it twice, but they rarely got away with it thrice, either running into a U.S. Navy ambush or more often a minefield.
  • Normal Fish in a Tiny Pond: Essentially this describes the Imperial Japanese Army. On a global scale the were rather average in training, note , equipment, size, and coordination (more or less). However among the rest of East and Southeast Asia the IJA was truly a seemingly unstoppable powerhouse. Their rival the, Imperial Japanese Navy, was strong enough to be considered a 1st class force internationally, much to the army's chagrin.
  • Off with His Head!: Two Japanese officers used to have contests to see who could decapitate a hundred Chinese prisoners with their swords. This even made positive headlines in papers back in Tokyo, although one of the officers didn't feel like it was a big deal. Both were taken prisoner and executed by the Chinese government after the war, as part of the Nanjing war crimes tribunal.
    • Prisoners-of-war were also subject to execution by Katana. A well-known example of this was Leonard Siffleet.
  • Officer and a Gentleman: Almost always averted with the IJA, who happily participated in or ordered war crimes too. More often played straight with the IJN, because naval warfare is commonly thought of as a battle between ships, not between men; in addition, both sides in a naval battle have a mutual common enemy - the ocean that doesn't play favorites or choose sides and leaves everyone at it's mercy regardless of their origins.
    • Played straight with Lt. Colonel Baron Takeichi Nishi, Officer, gentleman, nobleman, and Gold Medalist in equestrian showjumping at the 1932 Los Angeles Olympiad where he made many Hollywood friends. Posted to Iwo Jima, he may have been the only Japanese officer the U.S. specifically wanted to capture alive, as they broadcast daily appeals for his surrender.
  • Oh, Crap!: Not just any one moment, but a series of them that started before Pearl Harbor and continued through the end of the war. Examples:
    • The Imperial Army after Taierzhuang, where China won its first victory, when they realized that the world now knew that they weren't invincible.
    • The Army again after their defeat at Khalkhin Gol, when they realized that their positions in the Japanese government were now compromised and that the Navy would now get all the political support.
    • Admiral Yamamoto, when he realized that his country was serious about starting a war they couldn't win, and that even his own prestige and warnings about America's industrial might couldn't dissuade them.
      • Yamamoto again, when he realized immediately after Pearl Harbor that instead of withdrawing from the area, they should have launched a third strike to take out the fuel depots and repair yards.
      • Yamamoto once more, when he found out that because of bureaucratic inertia and the time it took to translate and deliver messages, the attack on Pearl Harbor had occurred before Japanese diplomats had informed their American counterparts that they were breaking off negotiations. This meant that the attack occurred when both nations were technically in the midst of diplomatic talks and therefore at peace with one another. Yamamoto basically suffered a massive BSOD when he found out about this, because he knew American society well enough to fully understand how they were going to react to this.
    • The Imperial Navy right after Midway, when they lost four fleet carriers that simply could not be replaced.
    • The Imperial Army, who didn't learn how badly the Navy had been reduced after the Battle of Midway until months later, and upon finding out knew that all the plans they had been making to hold their conquered territories would never happen because the Navy didn't have the aircraft carriers which were needed to protect the transports which were needed to get the soldiers and supplies to where they needed to be.
    • Prime Minister Tojo, who didn't find out how badly Japan had been beaten at Midway until months after the Army did, and immediately realized that practically everything the Army and Navy had been telling him for seven months was bullshit.
    • The Japanese people, as food became scarce, cities were reduced into pre-industrial wastelands and firebombing raids became so commonplace that they realized that not only were the home islands very vulnerable, but they had picked a fight with a country that was so infuriated after Pearl Harbor that they simply were not going to stop until all of Japan was smoking rubble.
    • The Japanese government again, when the USSR rejected their pleas to broker a peace deal and promptly launched an offensive against Japanese forces in Manchuria. The Emperor, after realizing that the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were only the beginning if Japan did not surrender.
    • Most of the military, after learning that Hirohito intended to announce Japan's surrender.
    • The Japanese people once more, when they realized the horrific cost that the war had had upon their country, and how much work they had ahead of them to rebuild their country.
  • Older Than They Think: Japan's ambitions for a trans-Pacific empire goes back centuries.
    • In 1592, Hideyoshi first tried to force an alliance on and then invaded Korea in order to secure it as a staging ground for a wider assault on China in a bid for domination of the Far East. This may have been part of his efforts to end the Warring States (Sengoku Jidai) period by occupying his samurai and allied warlords with a hopeless war of conquest while he rebuilt the country. It's generally assumed that Oda Nobunaga would've done the same had he lived to complete the unification himself.
    • In 1798, Honda Toshiaki (a vocal opponent of British imperialism) said Japan should rule the entire Pacific Rim and relocate the capital to the Russian Far East peninsula of Kamchatka—because he reasoned that Kamchatka, being at the same latitude as London, would have the same climate.
    • The First Sino-Japanese War, Russo-Japanese War, and Second Sino-Japanese War were pretty much a repeat of Hideyoshi's actions, but without the same possible motive Hideyoshi had.
  • Only Sane Man: Isoroku Yamamoto is a weird example of this trope. While he has a penchant for coming up with elegant but highly complicated plans, won't listen to criticism and often used the threat of resigning to pressure his superiors into accepting said plans, he was apparently the only person in Imperial Japan that thought attacking the US unprovoked was a bad idea. When his nation decided to do that anyway, he still helped because he was utterly loyal to his nation and crafted the Pearl Harbor attack, reasoning that if they were going to do something that audacious, they might as well go for the knockout blow rather than just opening by attacking US-controlled Philippines.
    • Subverted by Homma and Yamashita, other "sane men".
    • Admiral Raizo Tanaka, considered by many Americans the best destroyer commander in the IJN, was relieved of duty for pointing out Imperial General Headquarters had set impossible objectives during the Guadalcanal campaign.
    • Captain Tameichi Hara raised eyebrows and hackles for daring to protest the complacency and inflexibility he saw in his superiors, especially since events kept proving him right. Most notably when his Shigure was the only ship to survive the Battle of Vella Gulf after he was the only Captain who objected to repeating the previous operation without changes.
    • Even before World War II, there was Lt. Col. Eiichi Ioki, who put up heroic defense against the main Soviet offensive at the strategic Fui Heights for five days during the Battle of Khalkhin Gol against overwhelming odds and had the good sense and skill to extract his surrounded, outnumbered, starving, worn out, but still mostly alive battalion (500 men) when the situation became hopeless (which, itself, took a masterful maneuver). Naturally, he was forced to commit suicide after the battle and died in disgrace. General Michitarō Komatsubara ordered his division (20,000 men) to counterattack and got them annihilated, and naturally he was commended for his conduct.
    • General Tadamichi Kuribayashi was already considered an oddball within the IJA by the time he commanded the Iwo Jima garrison. He visited wounded men in hospital - unheard of for many IJA officers - and was labeled a defeatist for proposing that negotiating peace with the USA was a far better option for Japan instead of getting curb-stomped across the Pacific. When the Marines attacked, he dissuaded his men from using banzai charges, instead encouraging them to fortify the mountain's interior and drag the battle out as long as possible, hopefully causing enough American casualties to let the US government stop firebombing Japan. Of course, given the sheer levels of firepower that was unleashed on Iwo Jima combined with lack of supply for the garrison, it was a hopeless cause, but Kuribayashi's tactics did work well, with the Japanese managing a 1:1 kill ratio on the Americans.
  • Poor Communication Kills: played out on two levels:
    • On a general level, the Japanese language and cultural tendency to avoid frank or blunt wording and open disagreement sometimes led to overly complex plans couched in excessively vague terms, and sometimes they even resorted to Blatant Lies in order to save face. The results were predictable: the Army lied to the Navy (and vice versa), the military misled the government, and soldiers wildly exaggerated their accomplishments to their superiors (far beyond ordinary Fog of War). From nearly the very start of the war, the Japanese high command was hopelessly deluded about the actual strategic situation.
    • On a specific level, the Allies's more advanced radio equipment gave them superior tactical flexibility if used properly. For example, fighter team tactics were only possible with effective voice radios, which the Allies had and the Japanese lacked until the end of the war (Japanese radios themselves weren't that bad, just fragile and prone to interference because they lagged in developing shielded ignition systems) . Ironically, this outlook wasn't actually that unpopular at the times, and even among the Allies there were some (most notably Russians, though largely because they had difficulty with producing enough radios to equip everyone) who subscribed to the idea that the radio was overrated for the lower level of the chain of command. On the other hand, when this proved a wrong assumption, the Soviet Union invested an enormous effort to fill its ranks and vehicles/aircraft with as much equipment as needed, while Japanese continued to stick to it, once again demonstrating their lack of flexibility.
  • Propaganda Machine: Like all totalitarian governments, Imperial Japan exercised near total control of culture and media. However, while the Japanese militarists were (initially) quite effective at propagandizing their own population they proved to be unusually bad at foreign propaganda due to their rigid cultural prejudices. Eventually their efforts even failed at home because their reliance on Blatant Lies became impossible to sustain as the war turned against them. Anyone with a map could see that each "major victory" was getting closer to the home islands and constant claims that they'd sunk dozens of warships and shot down hundreds of airplanes gave the unwitting impression that the enemy had overwhelming numbers of both.
  • Proud Warrior Race: The concept of Yamato damashii, the spirit of the Japanese race, played a major role in the self-image of Japan's armed forces. This pride became hubris, as it made the Japanese extremely reluctant to learn from their enemies or improve their methods, with predictable results when these enemies turned out to be better at war than the Japanese.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: The Russo-Japanese war, especially after 'The West' (Europe and North America) essentially forced Japan to give back their conquests.
    • The Imperial Navy's fleet faction spent years fulminating against the Washington and London Naval treaties, which limited their forces to 60% of the U.S. Navy. But when Japan finally withdrew from the treaty regime in 1934 (which went into effect in 1936) their celebrations were cut short when the U.S. responded with a huge naval construction program they could never dream to match. They'd been so focused on breaking the treaty limits they'd forgotten they had no hope of staying even close to 60% without them. Part of the thinking behind the Pearl Harbor attack was a desire to strike before bulk of the new ships arrived in 1942-1943 and the odds became insuperable.
    • Operation Ichi-Go. On paper, it accomplished its main objectives of linking up all Japanese controlled territory in China, inflicting heavy casualties on the Kuomintang, and destroying air bases that the US was using to launch air raids on the Home Islands. In reality, it failed to really accomplish anything other than overextending Japanese forces even more than they already were and losing 100,000 soldiers and pieces of materiel that could no longer be replaced. Chinese forces were largely able to safely withdraw from danger and regroup for later attacks, and the IJA was spread so thin that they were unable to exert any effective control over their new conquests outside of major urban centers. As a final insult, one of the main successes of the offensive, the destruction of the American air force bases, was rendered moot due to the fall of Saipan, which was well within bombing range of the Home Islands and was quickly converted for this purpose. Overall, the Japanese were no closer to victory at the end of the offensive than they were at the start of it, and it did little to delay their final defeat.
      • Special mention goes to the Battle of Hengyang, which followed soon after the Japanese capture of Changsha. On the one hand, the city was captured, the Chinese garrison was nearly wiped out, and the Chinese general, Fang Xianjue, was taken prisoner. On the other hand, the IJA lost considerably more men than the Chinese, they were unable to use the city as a rail junction like they had planned due to guerrilla activity in the countryside, and General Fang was rescued that December by a special forces team sent by Dai Li anyway. Despite technically being a Japanese victory, the battle was such a costly failure that it forced the resignation of Hideki Tojo's cabinet that year.
     R to U 
  • Rape, Pillage, and Burn: Often used as a reward to soldiers for winning battles, and later became the standard counterinsurgency tactic in China note . IJA soldiers themselves referred to this as the three "alls": kill all, steal all, burn all. This was especially prominent in China's countryside against suspected communist hideouts, and the brutality eventually spread to most Japanese-occupied territory, which still causes bad blood between Japan and other Pacific nations. The IJA also gets compared to a barbarian horde for this very reason.
  • Recycled In Space: The anime Space Battleship Yamato literally recycles the Yamato's wreck by turning it into a spaceship. Some commenters have described the series as "Imperial Japan Saves The World".
  • Reliably Unreliable Guns: Other than the generally excellent Arisaka rifles, most of the small arms the IJN and IJA were saddled with were mediocre at best.note  Not only did the army and navy use different machine guns, they often used different cartridges, unnecessarily complicating supply and manufacture. Though with the prevailing athmosphere of militaristic anarchy that reigned in Japan at the time, they probably considered that as an advantage, because incompatible cartridges couldn't be pilfered by one branch to the detriment of the other.
    • Oddly enough, most of Japan's machine guns and all of its pistols of this era were designed by the same man, Colonel Nambu, who designed the exceptionally strong and reliable bolt of the Type 38 Arisaka (replacing the considerably less rugged bolt his mentor General Arisaka designed for the original Type 30). While some of his machine guns had innovative concepts, "innovative" doesn't always mean "effective", and they weren't. His best machine gun designs were blatant copies of European weapons, such as the Type 96 light machine gun, which was a copy of the Czech ZB vz. 26 note . While by itself a decently reliable weapon, the 6.5x50mm cartridge it fired was underpowered.
      • Nambu consistently failed to understand the need to provide a primary extraction cycle to gently unseat the fired cartridge case before ejection, which meant that the cartridges had to be coated with oil that attracted dirt which jammed the guns. He even engineered the primary extraction sequence out of most of the European weapons he copied. Nambu's designs are notorious for poor use of energy throughout their action cycles, which gives them a distinctive staccato "stuttering" sound when fired and prevented him from developing a functional belt feed system.
      • Perhaps the ultimate example of Nambu's work was his type 11 machine gun, which used an innovative feed mechanism that took the standard five round stripper clips or chargers for the 6.5mm Arisaka rifle. In theory this simplified supply and allowed any soldier to top up the gun in a pinch. In reality it had the same primary extraction problems and required an oiler. The hopper tended to collect dirt and mud which the oiled cartridges then carried into the action. The standard rifle round proved to be too powerful for it, meaning the Japanese had to issue special ammunition anyway, and since the special MG ammo was physically interchangeable with the rifle ammo misloading one into the other invariable resulted in a jammed MG or a missed rifle shot.
    • Imperial Japanese artillery was generally of fair to good quality with some of excellent quality, especially their naval guns, but the shells they fired tended to be unreliable and prone to low-order detonations if they went off at all. For example, only half of shells that hit USS South Dakota at the Second Naval Battle of Guadalcanal exploded, and none of them penetrated her armor. Their aerial bombs were just as bad, though the armor piercing bomb that blew up USS Arizona worked perfectly.
      • Ironically, during their previous major naval war the reverse was true. Russia lagged behind in upgrading its artillery to the high-explosive shells, and their fuses were of atrocious quality. So while the Russian gunnery was generally no worse (and maybe even better) than the Japanese one, about half of the (old-fashioned, black powder charged) shells that hit, refused to explode, and those that did often weren't powerful enough to break the armor, while the Japanese picrate-based shells were devastating.
  • Required Secondary Powers: The Imperial Navy's obsession with outranging their enemies explicitly required their ships to be have a significant speed advantage over their opponents in order to control the range of an engagement. As a result the Japanese Navy tried to make their ships 5-10% faster than comparable US ships, but since all ships are compromises they were forced to sacrifice other characteristics to get that speed. Comparatively low habitability standards helped in this, as did the US Navy, albeit unwittingly, by prioritizing stout construction over speed. However controlling the range also requires constant knowledge of your opponent's location and intentions, something the Imperial Navy signally failed to do, preferring a belief that the enemy would conform to Japanese intentions to actual reconnaissance. Extreme range was only a factor in two sea battles: the surface battle of the Komondorski islands, where limited visibility rendered any range advantage moot, and the carrier battle of the Phillipine Sea, where the US proved willing to sacrifice their aircraft in a long range attack.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: They were on the receiving end of one. Remember Pearl Harbor!
  • Russo-Japanese War: One of the Imperial Army's three main wars. A minor victory (if at all) for Japan, but major in the sense it grew more audacious and the European powers (save Britian, who'd already signed an Alliance with and built all their battleships for them) started taking it more seriously.
    • While the losses were about even, and Japan gained very little out of the war, Russia still came out of the war a lot worse for wear, as the people trusted the government less, many prisoners were taken, and over fifty thousand people died due to economic deadweight.
    • Another preview of things to come: during the war, the Japanese military actually had many soldiers captured, at about the 1/2/1 (killed/wounded/captured) ratio that most other nations at war expect. The Japanese high command decided the idea of Japanese soldiers giving up was entirely unacceptable, and began the culture of no-surrender, which blossomed fully in World War II.
  • Schizo Tech: While the Imperial Japanese Navy and its air arm were easily a match for any force until 1942 (when the US Navy handily surpassed them), the Imperial Japanese Army was just only adequate by the time it started its invasion of China in 1931. Although far better organized and equipped than the disunited Chinese military forces (which were often led by warlords nominally aligned with the Nationalist government, or incompetent/corrupt officers in the case of the government themselves), the Japanese military had made few attempts at improvement since the 1920s and was severely lacking in motor vehicles and automatic firearms, never mind armored vehicles and artillery. As the invasion proceeded deeper inland, it stalled for reasons that had a lot to do with over-extension of their forces. Although there were attempts at modernization of the IJA after their major defeat at the hands of the Soviets at Khalkin Gol, the changing political and strategic situation involving the United States meant that this had to be put on hold, with the unenviable side-effect of complicating logistics as they were half-way into replacement of older equipment with newer weapons chambered for newly-developed and entirely different ammunition. By 1945 the Japanese army was woefully out of date, and contemptuously swept aside by the Soviets in Manchuria.
    • The main reason why the IJA was so woefully equipped was that the IJN took priority when it came to resource allocation and development, resulting in the Navy getting 2/3 of the military budget compared to the Army's 1/3. Case in point, the IJN's marines, the Special Navy Landing Forces, were considerably better trained and equipped than most of the Army's rank-and-file. Whereas their ground-based counterparts largely had to make do with obsolete bolt-action rifles and a number of old heavy machine guns, the SNLF could count upon getting first pick of the latest armory goodies, including the few submachine guns that were in the inventory.
    • Perhaps the ultimate example: The famous Zero fighters were delivered from the Mitsubishi factory in oxcarts because the roads to the nearest airfield were too primitive for anything faster. Late in the war they were finally able to upgrade to horse-drawn wagons and they had trouble finding enough suitable horses to even do that. Upgrading the roads proved to be beyond their resources.
      • Aircraft operating in China were often refueled by hand, with buckets.
  • Senseless Sacrifice: Japanese fatalism meant many Japanese pilots probably died needlessly because nobody even bothered to look for them after they were shot down. Japanese veterans envious of the extensive Allied air-sea rescue system noted that aside from the obvious morale benefits it was inherently wasteful to not even look for men they'd spent years training.
    • Even stranger is that, prior to World War II, Japanese pilot training was more rigorous than their counterparts elsewhere in the world, with relatively few successful graduates, meaning that the pilots being lost earlier in the war were even harder to replace than their enemies'. Yet, Japanese leaders were, in general, incredibly careless with this irreplaceable resource.
    • Another odd example seems to stem from a miscommunication between the Japanese and the British, due to the former basing their navy on the latter's example. Common British naval practice was that, if the ship was sinking, the captain would be the last one off to ensure that everyone got to safety: the "captain goes down with the ship" trope being more related to the ship sinking before everyone (and thus the captain) could escape. The Japanese decided to put their own unique spin on this, which held that every captain should go down with the ship, along with any admirals who might be on board. This dovetailed nicely with the national practice of Seppuku to apologize for one's failings, in this instance the loss of one of the Emperor's ships. However, the suicide of experienced captains and fleet admirals severely handicapped Japan's performance once the war started going badly, as they started running out of seasoned commanders.
    • Neither the Japanese Army Air Force nor the Japanese Naval Air Force did issue their pilots parachutes until late in the war, the rationale being that if the pilots have a means of escape, they would be less determined to fight. This Insane Troll Logic combined with the Attack! Attack! Attack! mentality and the Fragile Speedster aircraft, cost the Japanese almost all their top pilots. Only after summer 1944, when the Japanese fought above their home islands, did they begin to take parachutes and rescuing themselves off a mortally wounded plane (as opposed of just dying) seriously.
    • Harry Truman actually stated that part of his reason for deciding the drop the Atom Bombnote  was the Japanese Navy's decision to sacrifice IJN Yamato in operation Ten-Go. In his view a nation that was at, that point, trying to intimidate its enemy into a ceasefire had sacrificed one of its most powerful assets on a mission they knew had a near zero probability of success or even causing a fraction of the casualties Japan was guaranteed to sustain.
  • Sentai: The real Trope Namer in history, some Imperial Japan task forces do carry this name during operations.
  • Seppuku: A fatalistic culture, the Japanese were extremely devoted to suicide, preferring (what they believed was) an honorable death to captivity. At least in theory (read: propaganda). The Japanese people had been told that capture by Americans would be A Fate Worse Than Death, and given what soldiers who had returned from fighting and occupation duties in China had done to civilians, (not to mention the Allies' own propaganda) it didn't seem far-fetched that the Allies would be their equals in barbarity. Some survivors of Saipan and Okinawa murdered their whole families before being captured by American soldiers to "save" them from the barbarians. The survivors were surprised by the relatively civilized way in which the occupiers behaved (yes, rape and murder happened, but just at the level you'd expect from a typical occupation force and not on anywhere near the scale they were expecting), despite their brutality during the battle itself. Finally, more Japanese surrendered on Okinawa than in previous battles, in part because the war was clearly lost and because the U.S. made a deliberate effort to convince Okinawan civilians to surrender using their Hawaiian relatives.
  • Shoot the Medic First: The Japanese were notorious for targeting Allied medics. Because of their fatalist culture, they had virtually no medics of their own.
  • Sociopathic Soldier: Types 1 and 3 were ubiquitous within the Japanese army, in part due to the traumatic training every soldier went through.
  • So Last Season: Ironically, the Type 93 torpedo. Any torpedo could be dodged if you knew it was coming and had room to maneuver. A successful torpedo attack usually required surprise and most took place in darkness, restricted waters, or in the middle of a melee. Once the Allies fielded radar Japanese torpedoes became much less effective, and it's worth noting that the only successful torpedo attacks during the ultimate sea battle at Leyte Gulf were launched by the U.S. Navy.
    • The Yamato class battleship. While one of the best battleships ever built, the concept of heavily armored battleships with massive guns had been increasingly obsolete by the time that they were designed, only hanging on a thread that aircraft carriers were still a new and unproven concept, until the Battle of Toranto and ironically, Japan's own attack on Pearl Harbor put the nails in the coffin. Both ships that were completed as battleships proved to be utterly hapless against American aerial attacks when they finally made their combat debut.
      • Thought it can be argued that battleships didn't become truly obsolete until the development of long range surface missiles, its unquestionable the Yamatos had a lot of World War I and Russo-Japanese war ideas going on. They only moved at a speed of 27.5 knots, the same as their initial rivals the North Carolina class. They failed to realize that the North Carolina and South Dakota only moved that slow because the former was designed during treaty limitations and the navy wanted the later to be similar to the former. Or that both designs were stop-gaps and not their opponents ultimate goal. The Hood, Dunkerque, and especially Scharnhorst had shown that heavily armed and armored battleships at speeds of 30 knots and above were possible. It should have been clear that everyone was cooking up faster and faster designs and that the US would too. However Japan effectively used a WWI approach and built their trump cards only as fast as was required and prioritized armament and, for once, armor. This weakness meant that if they were only capable of hunting other slower battleships, where the new breed of battleships could effectively hunt cruisers and act as escorts themselves. When the US rolled out the Iowa class Japan lost the ability to kill all of the US capital ships even in a gun duel.
    • The brilliant Japanese offensives in 1942 were a textbook case of the disproportionate advantage that planning, speed, shock, and surprise provide to experienced veterans, which the Japanese had in abundance due to their previous decade's incursions into China. Their reversals in 1943 were primarily due to the allies closing that "experience gap" and becoming veterans themselves, By 1944 the Allies had the added advantage of second generation weapons while the Japanese were losing their most experienced men to attrition or trapped on bypassed islands.
    • The often-revered A6M Zero is designed around close-range low-speed dogfighting. Although undisputedly good in that role, its designed with only that tactic in mind, leading to it's ultimate downfall. It's ultra-lightweight airframe, designed for maximum maneuverability, led to extremely poor structural strength that severely limited its dive speed (there had been accounts of Zeros disintegrating from dives at speeds that are well within the safety range of most fighters from its time), as well as virtually no armor of any sort or self-sealing fuel tanks, which tends to make it burst into flames when taking hits, as well as having an insanely low rate of survival for pilots whose aircraft were hit, which Japan cannot replace. The Allies exploited the Zero's weaknesses to great effect once they were learnt.
    • Japanese tanks in general, and their last production model, Type 3 Chi-Nu in particular. For most of the war their designs were more or less rehashes of the same early-to-mid Thirties projects (like the ubiquitous Type 97 Chi-Ha) with their cardboard armor (Chi-Ha, with its 16 ton weight, better corresponding to a light tank by Western standards, had parts of its glacis only 10 mm thick), pea-shooter guns and anemic engines, when the rest of the world was rapidly transitioning to the 3"+ cannons, 300-500 hp engines and all-welded construction. Their riveted armor and archaic lever suspensions didn't bring any performance advantages either. Even Chi-Nu, which at least had a decent 75-mm cannon and acceptable 270 hp engine, still suffered from a thin, partially riveted armornote  and obsolete Hara suspension, being on par with the prewar T-34/Sherman/Pz.III at best. It was the last and the best Japanese tank that entered production.
    • To a somewhat lesser extent, the Arisaka Type 99 short rifle. A good candidate for one of the best bolt-action rifles ever, with a stronger 7.7x58mm bullet than the 6.5mm Type 38 (to counter the 8mm Mauser rounds of the Chinese, that outperformed the 6.5mm round), a great deal shorter than the Type 38 and a design that was in many ways revolutionary (for example, it was the first weapon to feature chrome-plated internals). But it was still a five-round bolt-action rifle, and when stacked against the semi-automatic M1 Garand (USA) and SVT-40 (USSR), it was found severely lacking. It didn't help that workmanship suffered during the latter part of the war.
      • At least, in a direct infantry battle. As a marksman platform from decent cover, it served as a remarkable snipers' weapon. This was not enough to prevent the US Marines from simply bypassing entrenched Japanese snipers, using napalm on their nests, or calling down mortar/artillery strikes, air support or naval gunfire. In Burma, snipers in high trees were effective at first, until the British and Chinese forces decided to simply spray an occupied tree with light machine gun fire until the sniper's corpse fell down.
  • Super Prototype: The one-of a kind destroyer Shimakaze. Very fast and armed to the teeth with torpedoes. However, as many other Japanese warships, she found that was useless against attacks by aircraft.
  • The Spartan Way
    • A Japanese Military School at the time was so rigorous that you could tell officers because they were the smallest and thinnest; they had been half-starved during adolescence. The IJN was out at sea in all weathers practicing. And so on. Officers-in-training were made to study and train relentlessly, fed little and given almost nothing in the way of basic amenities such as adequate heating in the winter. Ironically, rather than turning them into the core of a Badass Army, this extreme military education often just meant the officers were completely cocooned from reality and alienated from the soldiers under their command.
    • Japan decided to build its air forces (both Navy and Army) around small numbers of excellent pilots, rather than large numbers of very good ones. It paid off well in the carrier battles of 1942, where Japanese pilots pressed home successful attacks against great odds. It also resulted in the effective destruction of Japanese airpower in 1943 as the prewar aviators went to places like Rabaul and Wewak from which they would never return. Imperial Japanese airpower had to be rebuilt from scratch afterwards.
    • Saburo Sakai, noted IJN fighter ace and one of the few lucky enough to survive the entire war, opined that "the Navy placed almost superstitious belief in the idea that brutality made better enlisted" and by all accounts the Army was worse. The use of harsh physical punishment against an enlisted man was considered routine, and many of those men were so brutalised by this treatment they became capable of doing truly horrific things in turn.
    • One of the reason Japanese destroyers had such a fantastic performance was that the Japanese designers considered one cubic meter of living space per man (basically, a berth, a locker, and that's all) perfectly sufficient for destroyer crews, and the washing was done in a single communal bath per ship under a CO-mandated schedule, usually weekly. The space thus freed went to the engines and fuel reserves. Yamato-class battlships were nicknamed "hotels" by their crews because they had as much as three times more living space, real mess halls (instead of food being delivered from the galley directly to the berthing compartments), pool baths and public showers. Yet, space per crewman onboard even the Yamato class battleships was far smaller than their Allied counterparts (e.g. roughly half that of the Iowa class battleships).
    • The aforementioned food (for the enlisted, at least) commonly consisted of just plain white rice, and, maybe, some vegetable curry to break the blandness of the staple. Fish and meat were uncommon, and fresh fruit and vegetables only when available. While white rice was regarded as an upper-class dish by most of the enlisted men (who were usually conscripted from the peasant stock), it lacked B vitamins and has led to the resurgence of beri-beri in the IJN. The Navy had to issue the special rice-and-barley mix to combat it (ironically, the men hated it).
    • The Army, if anything, was even worse. Navy at least served its ratings' food already prepared, while in the IJA the soldier was expected to cook his own meals. Each week they were issued a bag of rice, several small cans of meat or fish, a bottle of soy sauce, a pack of miso and two cellophane bags of pickled radishes and plums, and that's basically it. While in garrison, the Army at least opened special stores where the soldiers might buy everything else, such as fresh vegetables (and gave them an allowance to do so), but in campaign the only way was foraging, which often led to the troops brutalizing the locals again.
    • There was no real means of redress upwards, so humiliation was taken out on lower ranks going down the chain of command, with ever increasing brutality. So what started out as a minor insult from a General to a Colonel ended up with some recruit being (literally) slapped into near total blindness. And for the recruits, there was only one set of people they could take these frustrations out on...
  • Stray Shots Strike Nothing: Shortly after midnight on March 1, 1942 the Japanese cruiser Mogami launched the deadliest torpedo salvo in history during the Battle of Sunda Strait, sinking five ships with one spread of six Type 93 "Long Lance" torpedoes. Unfortunately, they were the Japanese ships that she was there to protect: one minesweeper and four Japanese Army transports carrying the Java invasion force. The six torpedoes, fired at the cruiser Houston at a range of about 3,000 meters, struck the Japanese ships 11,800 meters down range about eight minutes later. The Type 93 had a 20,000 meter range at 48 knots, more than double any other torpedo in service at the time, and the transports would have been invisible from Mogami in the dark.
    • Averted by the submarine I-19 in a positive way. On September 15, 1942, she fired a spread of six torpedoes against the carrier Wasp. Three of them struck the Wasp and sunk her. Two of the other torpedoes, however, found their ways toward the battleship North Carolina and the destroyer O'Brien, damaging the battleship and sinking the destroyer along with the Wasp.
  • Sword and Gun: Japanese officers were equipped with a cheap, mass produced shin gunto and an eight millimeter Nambu pistol. The sword was almost never used for combat and the Nambu wasn't good for much more than committing suicide so Japanese officers often bought better swords and pistols privately.
  • Taking You with Me : Japan used this as its strategy in World War II, hoping the Allies would not have the nerve to go through with it. The Allies not only did "go through", but unfortunately for Japan, the Allies had More Dakka and used it well. Japan simply could not take enough with them to make up for what the Allies "took".
    • This was their plan in the event of an Allied invasion of the home islands. They pulled back as much troops and tanks as they could to Japan, drafted millions of citizens into militias (including elderly suicide bombers and schoolchildren with knives or sharpened sticks) commandeered all available boats and planes to use as kamikazes, and spread propaganda to convince their citizens to hold mass suicides. Had the invasion gone through, most estimates predict that it would've resulted in more American deaths than World War 2 and any other war they were involved in or would be involved in combined, and about fifteen percent of Japan's population.note  Fortunately, the Soviet invasion and the atomic bombs made it unnecessary.
      • This wasn't entirely unusual in this time period. Britain intend to do the same thing in the event of Nazi invasion; Churchill himself coined the phrase "You can always take one with you" and hoped that British Civilians would run up to German Panzers with a sticky grenade, slam it into the hull and blow both themselves and the tank up. Of course, in Britain's case, this was just chest-thumping; the Royal Navy made any such invasion of Britain by Germany impossible.
  • Tank Goodness: Mostly averted. Japanese tanks were, at the start of World War 2, decent vehicles for their time. Japan was at the front of tank development throughout the 1930s, and had the world's 5th largest tank force by 1940.
    • Their Type 97 Chi-Ha tanks were an even match for virtually any other light of that era with their low-velocity 57mm gun and were rarely taken out by Chinese forces, since KMT forces rarely risked very little of their (scarce) artillery in direct-fire roles (bar critical battles such as those of Shanghai, Wuhan, Taierzhuang and Changsha) and non-KMT forces had few or no AT weapons beyond IEDs and stick grenades bundled together. However, the few times the KMT did bring in their AT guns, the effects were deeply troubling for the Japanese. The standard AT weapon for China prior to US aid was a local copy of the German 37mm PaK 36 anti-tank gun. At Taierzhuang, Chinese AT gunners were delighted to find that they could destroy Chi-Ha tanks in one hit, to the horror of Japanese tankers.
    • By the time World War 2 started, the Chi-Ha was beginning to show its age and was upgraded with a new "Shinhoto" turret and a much stronger 47mm gun. Even then, the tracks were too fragile and armour too thin for it to withstand near- or partial-hits from medium and light artillery, let alone direct hits from mortar rounds and bazookas. In the rare instances (even rarer than in the European theatre) in which tank faced tank, the Chi-Ha's armour and armament usually placed it at a distinct disadvantage; Matilda, M3-Lee, Sherman, and T-34 tanks were all but invulnerable from the front and could consistently disable or destroy Chi-Has with a hit from their own guns. BT-5, BT-7, and Stuart light tanks were roughly equal in terms of (poor) armour and armament.
    • M3 Stuarts pulled hastily out of the North African theatre in 1942 and sent to Burma to provide support during the long retreat wiped the floor with Japanese tanks, despite being light tanks which fell in droves to the Afrika Korps' antitank and 88mm anti-aircraft guns. This was partly because the Japanese tanks in Burma were outdated even by their standards; Japanese tanks in the Philippines, on the other hand, traded more or less 1 for 1 with Stuarts.
    • The extent of that disadvantage is evident in the fact that late-30s Allied designs, such as British Matilda (even nicknamed "Queen of the Jungle" by the soldiers) and Soviet BT tanks, were successfully employed against Japan until the very end of the war, despite being long obsoleted in the European theater.
    • There's also the matter that while Japanese considered Chi-Ha a medium tank, by the world standards it was a light tank, and thus completely inadequate when faced off with anyone with better AT weapons. Japan never deployed a true medium tank, not to mention a heavy one, in any significant numbersnote , and all such designs remained in prototype or field test stages at best.
    • It's worth noting that an Australian constabulary unit on postwar occupation duty discovered that there wasn't a single bridge in their entire operations area (a rural prefecture in Southern Honshu) capable of handling the six ton weight of a Staghound armored car. It's hard to create much of a tank arm when you can't even deploy them within your own country.
  • Tanks for Nothing: As can be seen above, Japanese armor was, frankly speaking, crap by the time the Sherman and T-34 started being mass produced. To be fair to them, they did know that and did try to improve (the Type 97 Chi-Ha Shinhoto being an example), but the realities of a war in the Pacificnote  and the general unglamorousness of the whole affair meant that the progress was slow and production sluggish, and when they finally were onto something that was worth thinking about, their industry was already pretty much destroyed. So all the drizzle of the modern tanks that were made went straight to the Home Islands units, and the only remaining unit that did have the chance to see the tank warfare, the Kwantung Army, was essentially left with the tanks it used in Khalkhin-Gol. In 1939. Which were already archaic even then. Naturally, the Soviet offensive in August '45 barely ever noticed them. The Soviets were so contemptuous of Japanese armor and AT capabilities that they replaced all the T-34/85s issued to the divisions assigned to the Khingan Mountain Range thrust (south-eastward from Mongolia to Beijing) with BT-7s given that they were roughly as invulnerable and had much better speed over extremely rough terrain.
    • The Japanese were also the only major belligerent of World War 2 (unless you count the Italians...) to employ tankettes- small armored vehicles the size of cars with thin armor and only a machine gun for armament. In all ways, they were pretty much objectively inferior to the armored cars and armored personnel carriers used by the Soviets and Americans- but the Army had built thousands of them in the 30s and 20s, so they were stuck with 'em until they could get something better. In the case of the 2nd rate units in China, they never really did.
    • The British Matilda tank, a pre-war design, earned the nickname ''Queen of the Jungle" in 1944 whilst it had been obsolescent everywhere else in already late 1941. Its 40mm gun was more than enough to destroy any Japanese tanks. The Australians attached the Matilda a Hedgehog depth charge launcher - an anti-submarine weapon system(!) - to destroy Japanese bunkers and fortifications. The frontal armour of Matilda was so thick that it could be safely driven to point-blank distance with impunity.
    • In the similar vein, the American M4 Sherman with 75 mm gun completely outclassed anything the Japanese could throw in. The American tankers usually shot ordinary GP shells at the Japanese tanks since an armour-piercing round would just have penetrated the tank and gone out from the other side making no other damage than entry and exit holes.
  • Technician vs. Performer: The USN thought of itself more as a technician of war and the IJN more as a performer. This is especially apparent in the air war, where U.S. tactics were far more analytical and thus far more effective. On paper, Japanese warships were equal in most respects to their foreign contemporaries but with superior speed and armament, and they held important technical advantages in areas like optics and torpedoes. In reality, the Japanese scrimped in less visible areas like durability, stability, survivability and habitability to get those speed and armament advantages and they lagged in some other critical technical areas that were to prove their undoing. However the Japanese policy of making up for any technical disadvantages with superior training worked well on land, air and sea until eclipsed by the superior technical developments of the Allies and their more practical training regime (such as the aforementioned practice of pulling their aces out of combat to be Veteran Instructors).
  • This Means War!: Pearl Harbor and the Marco Polo Bridge incident.
    • Also, Port Arthur in 1904.
  • Underestimating Badassery: Both America and Japan did this to each other to some degree at the start of World War II. Indeed Japan's whole plan was based on the assumption that a nation of shopkeepers would give up pretty quickly in the face of a true Proud Warrior Race. Instead, the Japanese find themselves fighting an enraged nation with a colossal industrial base to create an unstoppable war machine that, guided by superior signals intelligence, is determined to stomp Japan into the ground, especially after they deal with Nazi Germany. Conversely, none of the Allies were prepared for the string of humiliating defeats Japan handed them during the six months following Pearl Harbor.
    • Khalkin Gol, where Japan learned you never, under any circumstances try to invade Russia's allies (let alone the country itself). The Japanese went in remembering the victory in the Russo-Japanese War, but they managed to forget how Pyrrhic it was. Unfortunately for them they were facing probably the most lavishly equipped, trained, and supplied corps that the USSR had, led by Georgy Zhukov (passably competent at tactics, but an excellent strategist who promoted and assisted such gifted commanders as Konstantin Rokossovsky in the planning of Operations including Bagration). This wasn't helped by Stalin personally insisting that the entire Far East's truck pool be put at Zhukov's disposal to give him all the supplies he needed to field the largest force possible, and that the first hundred production-model T-34s be delivered to the corps. His thorough planning and the brilliance of his subordinates enabled to him to launch an encirclement operation which captured all but one battalion (500 men) of an entire Japanese security division (20,000 men). However, the prospect of a Japanese-Soviet War was raised again in June-July 1941, after the Soviets performed notoriously poorly against the Germans and their allies. When Operation Barbarossa failed at Smolensk in July-August, though, they dropped it for good.
    • The New Guinea campaign, where the Japanese encountered Australians, their better in jungle warfarenote . The Japanese considered the Australians as their most bitter and most implacable foe.
  • Unobtanium: America and The British Empire placed an embargo on oil and other resources to Japan before the war as they really didn't want it to be used by Japan to beat up China, where they had their own interests including the local Balance of Power. The Japanese could not carry on military operations without such things and withdrawing would lose face. Thus they decided that they should attack Malaya and The Dutch East Indies, which was fair enough, but also the USA's Philippines - all on the grounds that a quick and successful offensive and a "magnanimous" offer of peace (to let them keep China and maybe some other stuff) would end the war. It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time.
  • We ARE Struggling Together: The Empire of Japan and Germany weren't very good allies. The Japanese actively ignored military strategies that would benefit their allies, i.e. expanding southwards into the Dutch, British, and American held territories in the Pacific rather than invading the Soviet Union alongside Germany and their allies. Germany also got pissed at Japan for launching a full scale invasion of China, as they wanted the Guomindang as allies against the Soviet Union, even briefly providing military aid against Japan until the Axis Powers were formed and they forced the recall of General Alexander von Falkenhausen and his team. On top of this, they actively worked to undermine each other's racist ideologies (it helped that both nations saw themselves as racially superior compared to everyone else, including their own allies).
    • Ironically, despite bringing America into the war being just as disastrous for Germany as it was for Japan, Hitler was delighted at the news of the Pearl Harbor attack. He saw Americans as a "mongrel nation" that lacked the good sense to maintain Aryan supremacy, and assumed that the warrior race of Japan would have no difficulty. His subsequent declaration of war on the US made US industrial production available to the Soviet Union just when they were beginning to mobilise in earnest (thereby allowing them to import high-quality goods e.g. vehicle suspension springs and focus on the maximum possible output of low-quality ones e.g. vehicle door handles).
  • We Have Reserves: After ordering pointless human wave offensives in the first few months of the war, the Guomindang ultimately resorted a to strategy of attrition and partisan warfare after the fall of Wuhan. Tactically, of course, they focused on training, arming, and supplying their forces as well as they could without any foreign aid. Things worked out surprisingly well, with Japanese casualties increasingly sharply with the new strategy. One factor that helped was how poorly-supplied Japanese forces were because of their complete disdain for maintenance and repair, engineering, and logistics - especially given that the Guomindang's own troops had even worse supply issues for the most part, yet they still managed to fight Japan into a stalemate prior to 1941. Japan's own attrition-strategy in the wider war against the USA and Commonwealth didn't work out, since while they had the manpower to replace their losses (well, except for pilots and sailors, who require much longer and more selective training, but whom the Japanese command wasted with the same reckless abandon as their ground forces) they didn't have the industry to give the replacement-forces adequate equipment and weaponry to match.
    • It is worth noting that the Japanese entered the war counting on a strategy of psychological rather than materiel attrition, as in "we can bear the pain longer than you can". They knew they couldn't win a war of actual attrition, hence their initial quality over quantity strategy.
  • What Could Have Been:
    • There were a lot of previous designs for the Yamato-class battleship, including some that had all the main gun turrets in front of the bridge a la British Nelson-class battleship, different gun calibers (from 16 inch guns to 18 inch ones (as finally happened), and propulsion that ranged from diesel engines to turbine engines (what was decided), or both.
    • The Navy had plans to build an even more powerful class of battleship than the Yamato-class, the Design A-150 often nicknamed Super Yamato, that was going to be armed with six 20-inch guns. The need for smaller ships such as carriers or cruisers, as well as especially the loss of four carriers in Midway, meant those plans were abandoned.
    • The unbuilt B-65 "super cruiser", that would have countered the American Alaska-class cruisersnote . Like the previous battleship, the defeat at Midway cancelled its building.
  • Worthy Opponent: Raizo Tanaka, the commander of the "Tokyo Express" (which smuggled much-needed food and ammunition to Japanese forces on Guadalcanal). He may be more admired by Americans than by the Japanese!
    • In Debt of Honor Tom Clancy referred to him as the greatest destroyer commander who ever lived.
    • Jisaburo Ozawa again. Raymond Spruance, probably the best of the American carrier commanders, considered him the only Japanese carrier commander who was any good in the entire war. The U.S. Navy official history of World War 2 refers to him as the best admiral America had to fight in the war.
    • In a gesture of magnanimity, Admiral Chester Nimitz visited Japanese military hospitals after the war.
    • Both Yamamoto and General Kuribayashi (he of Iwo Jima fame) seem to be regarded at least neutrally, if not positively, in the wider world. Both men had had travelled and studied abroad and knew that the U.S. would not behave as the Navy's leadership hoped it would, lending Kuribayashi a certain doomed poignancy in his final battle while Yamamoto is recognized to have at least counselled against attacking the USA before having to yield to his duty and fight that nation.
    • After the Battle of Khalkhin Gol, Zhukov singled out Eichii Ioki, the defender of Fui Heights, for praise among his Japanese opponents, noting that he almost derailed the entire Soviet offensive single-handedly (other Japanese commanders, on the other hand, Zhukov considered to be quite incompetent). Ioki's Japanese superiors did not agree with this view, unfortunately.
    • The former mayor of Tianjin, General Zhang Zizhong, was the highest-ranked officer to die in the Second Sino-Japanese war, and one of the bravest commanders that the Guomindang ever had. His constant valor under fire moved Japanese officers enough to express sadness at his death. It helped that how he died - fighting in hand-to-hand with his encircled men - was considered honorable in Japanese military culture, despite the IJA's prevalent xenophobia towards all Chinese.


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