One year ago on this day, on March 11, 2011, several cities in North-Eastern Japan were devastated by a magnitude 9.0 undersea earthquake. Within minutes, these cities were hit by tsunami waves that were reported to have reached heights of 133 ft (40.5m). Several video footages exist of the horrors that these tsunami waves unleashed upon the Japanese people and their homes. Thousands of people lost their lives. Many of them were children. I watched helplessly on television as Japanese mothers struggled to cope with the lost of their toddlers. It was truly heartbreaking to see Japanese fathers breaking down in tears as they searched frantically for their children who were swept away by currents that moved at unbelievable speed. I sat speechless and I had difficulty focusing my eyes on the tv set as the tears kept getting in the way. I’m not Japanese but it’s hard to ignore the pain of other human beings regardless of where they are from.
Even now, one year after the North-East (Tohoku) tsunami and earthquake disaster, many Japanese are struggling to cope with the
loss of their loved ones, their homes and their livelihood.
But out of the rubble, stories of courage and perseverance started to emerge. People coming together to provide comfort and hope to complete strangers, restaurant owners providing free meals to those left homeless, student volunteers spending whatever free time they had to help those in need. There was even a touching news clip about a faithful Japanese dog that had survived the tsunami onslaught. When newsmen and camera crew arrived at the disaster area to provide news coverage, they found this dog guarding and looking after its canine companion that was injured in the disaster. The companion couldn’t walk but its faithful friend never left its side. You can watch the video on Youtube. I can never watch this video without getting a lump in my throat or biting my lower lip to prevent it from quivering.
Touched by the Japanese mentality of not giving up and perseverance, I knew that as a modeler, I had to do something. Even a small thing – such as building a model-- to commemorate the Japanese ability to survive against all odds.
Towards the end of January 2012, Hasegawa released a limited reissue of the 1/72-scale Japan Air Self Defense Force (JASDF) F-2B kit in a two-kit boxing with markings for three aircraft marked with "Ganbarou! Tohoku" (Fight, Northeast!) as an encouragement to those in Northeast Japan following the massive earthquake and tidal wave of March 2011. “Ganbarou” is the Japanese word for “Let’s give our best”. The units represented in the kit are 21 Squadron, 8 Squadron and 3 Squadron.
The aircraft from 21 Squadron, serial no 03-8105, in particular, has a story to tell. When the tsunami struck North-Eastern Japan, Matsushima airbase, home of the 21 Squadron ( 21 Hikoutai) was also hit. 18 F-2Bs were damaged. 12 were beyond repair and written off & the rest were salvaged for repair. 03-8105 was a lucky survivor because at the time of the disaster, it was undergoing overhaul at the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries facility. I was really tempted to build
one the other options from 3rd Squadron because it was more fitting of my intentions. The reason for this is the Blue Samurai unit symbol on its tail. I felt that the symbol of the Samurai was more fitting for the tenacity, determination and fighting spirit of the Japanese. But after some thought, I decided, to go with the 21 Hikoutai airframe because it was from North Eastern Japan and one of the areas hit by the disaster. Not to worry, I'll still build the “Samurai” at a later date since this particular Hasegawa boxing gives you 2 kits in 1 box (this was a good thing as I will find out later).
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Newbie Airbrushing. Many trials & errors. Much teeth gnashing. Many times wanting to throw hands up in the air and giving up in frustration. But I couldn’t give up. After all, the theme of this build was ‘Not Giving Up and Keep Fighting’. I began trying & re-trying until a smooth paint surface was achieved. Problems compounded by the fact that no out-of-the-bottle colours seem to exist for the F-2’s unique blue camo. The reference I used for this build, the excellent Model Art book on the F-2, states that the two blues are FS35109 & FS35045. These didn’t seem to be readily available in acrylic form (can’t use enamels because of the smell & fumes). Also, pictures of JASDF planes seem to vary in camo tones depending on the time of the day and the sunlight condition. The boxart for the Ganbarou Tohoku airframe shows it to have a slight greyish tone to the lighter blue and a darker, greenish/navy bluish tone for the darker blue. Reference pics of this same airframe from Airliners.net show brighter blues. Yet others of the same bird taken by different photographers show darker blues. The same for many of these JASDF F-2 birds. Unable to get the exact colours, I trawled the modeling forums. Everyone seemed to have their own unique mixes for these colours...each different from the others. I finally narrowed down the colours to this:
Lighter Blue: Tamiya XF-14 Sky Blue + a few drops of XF-18 Intermediate Blue.
Darker Blue : Tamiya XF-18 + equal parts of XF-4 Flat Blue.
After much vexation and paint mixing trials and errors, I ended up with these:
Masking was done with blu tac and Tamiya tape. I’m not too happy with these colours. They do look comparable with some of the F-2s I’ve seen but not the particular 21 Sqn bird that I was building. I felt the lighter blue should have been a touch greyer and the dark blue a touch more midnight blue. Also, studying the reference pictures, I got the camo wrong at certain places on the airframe, especially the forward fuselage area and the vertical tail near the parabrake housing. But the March 11 dateline was approaching & I just didn’t have time to play. I went with what I had.
I’ve heard many horror stories about gloss & flat coatings turning into ‘frost’ and spoiling the model. If this happened to me -- because of the dateline-- I wouldn’t have time to strip the coat and redo everything. I had to get it right the first time. I used Tamiya Clear for the gloss coat & nearly gave up. It’s a good coat but my airbrushing left much to be desired. Some parts of the model seem to have ‘rough coats’ while others looked too thick. But after leaving it overnight, I was pleasantly surprised to find that, somehow, the gloss coat had smoothed over and everything looked good. I proceeded with the decaling.
I then discovered that I hadn’t used enough gloss coat on certain areas and this resulted in ‘silvering’ decals, especially for the wing-walk lines. I screwed up the yellow “RESCUE” decal for the starboard side. The Hasegawa decal was so thin that it folded over itself. After struggling with it for quite a bit, I gave up and used the spare decal ( I told you this was a 2-in-1 boxing). Then the second decal tore into two pieces….ARRGGGHH!!!
Didn’t give up. Salvaged what I could. Due to time constrains, I left out some of the smaller data stencils.
Due to limitations in molding technology, the Hasegawa canopy has a seam right in the center of the main canopy. I decided to leave it there because it would take hours of sanding & polishing to remove it. Time I couldn’t spare. Also, I didn’t want to spend so much time only to have a heavily scratched canopy as I have never done seam renewal from canopies before. Another nerve-wrecker was masking & spraying the canopy. A first for me since I usually used a fine-point brush to paint the canopy frames. This time, I had no choice. I had to airbrush. I made sure I had burnished down the Tamiya tape along the edges of the canopy frames. Didn’t want any over-spray. After spraying, I held my breath and removed the masking tape. I was very surprised to find that the paint was pretty well done without any over-spray. But then, I screwed up again. I had somehow missed spraying the central frame that separated the front seater & the backseater. The grey undercoat that I had sprayed earlier was still there instead of the dark blue. The clock was ticking. No time to re-mask & re-spray. So I left it as that. Will work on it later.
I literally finished this model hours before the dateline on the night of March 10, 2012. I'm only mildly satisfied with how this model turned out. Not too happy with the camo patterns but didn’t have time to get it just right. I could have done better if I just had more time and had a bit more airbrush experience. Overall, though, it was an emotionally gratifying build for me. Not only because of the subject matter but also because of several 'firsts' for me. One: It's the first model I've actually managed to finish in years. Two, It's the first model I've airbrushed. Three, it's the first time I've used gloss coats. Four, first time modifying pilot figures. And finally, it's the first time I'm submitting a build report online.
THE MOST IMPORTANT PART...
The Tohoku disaster has thought me to cherish my loved ones more. Seeing video
footage of the carnage that the Japanese disaster brought, only made me realize how lucky I was to have loved ones with me.
I'd like to dedicate this model to my mother, Sulochana, who has always, without fail, supported my hobby and who has always motivated me throughout my life. I love you, Ma!
I would also like to dedicate this model to the people of Japan, particularly in memory of those who lost their lives & their loved ones in the Tsunami & Earthquake disaster of March 2011. You will not be forgotten. To the survivors of the disaster and to the Japanese people as a whole, I say this to you:
Your bravery, your willpower to live, your incredible determination to carry on no matter what and your "NEVER GIVE UP" attitude will always inspire and encourage me.
NEVER GIVE UP!
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