In games with an “end game”, particularly MMO games, it is often necessary to have high “tier” vehicles available to players of a specific country. The Axis nations of WW2, including Japan, had a gap after the war ended of some years before they began developing their own indigenous weapons and vehicles again, and were often given Allied weapons such as U.S. tanks for their national defense forces. Add to this the fact that the end days of the war made it increasing difficult for Japan to research, develop, and manufacture new vehicles of war, and the “gap” between U.S. weapons of war during the mid 1940s and Japan’s ability to keep pace technologically became greater. This leaves games with the potential conundrum for an “empty” tier for Japan’s weapons of war that correlate to the late 1940s and early 1950s, one where “rebadged” U.S. weapons for the Japanese Self Defense Forces such as M24 Chaffee tanks are the only option.
There are, however, several vehicles including prototypes that the Japanese developed themselves in the 1950s and these can be used to fill out a high tier for Japan’s post-war weapons. It should be noted of course that Japan became one of the “Allies” and that in a historical battle, it makes no sense for a lower tier Imperial Japanese Chi-To tank to participate in a war against North Korea with Japan’s Self Defense Forces.
In the case of existing Japanese war vehicles, most were destroyed after World War 2 unless they could be re-purposed as civilian vehicles, and all development of Japan’s vehicles of war ceased as well. Strangely, while the Japanese Self Defense Forces were driving M24 Chaffee U.S. tanks, the Chinese and some other Asian nations like Thailand were actually still using captured or leftover Japanese tanks like the Type97 Chi-Ha and planes like the Ki-27 in their own fighting forces.
During the mid to late 1950s Japan’s self defense forces contracted several new Japan-designed vehicles from companies like Mitsubishi and Fuji. Some of these were not mass-produced until the early 1960s. These included the Fuji T-1 Jet, the Type 60 Self-Propelled 106mm Recoilless Gun, The Japanese SU Type 60 Armoured Personnel Carrier, and the Type 61 Main Battle Tank among others. The Navy also had ships such as the Harukaze, the first destroyer of the JSDF post WW2.
Less known perhaps are the neat-looking Type 56 105mm Experimental SPG, and the various versions of “STA” tanks that preceded the Type 61 including the STA-1, STA-2, STA-3, and STA-4. All of these are potentially useful in a game that seeks to seal the “gap” in Japan-only weaponry after WW2 and to continue the Japanese tech development tree, while allowing a few U.S. vehicles such as the F-104DJ to fill gaps where needed until the 1960s are in full swing.
Since pickings are slimmer for Japan than some other nations during the late 1940s to early 1950s, and some creative effort to research little known prototypes such as the Type 56 105mm Experimental SPG and to make jet planes like the Fuji T-1 Jet viable in game matches (by equipping with bombs and sidewinder missiles) is recommended for diversity, else the Japanese tree will become an uninteresting and weak shadow of the U.S. tree during that time.
Once into the 1970s and beyond, the mix of locally developed Japanese vehicles again began to flourish and Japanese manufacturers like Mitsubishi and Nakajima (name changed to Fuji Heavy Industries) once again became more involved in production of planes and tanks. Japan’s stringent anti weapons export laws based on its post-war constitution of self defense and peace have made the costs of developing complex new vehicles difficult as a solo venture, and so companies like Lockheed Martin have continued to work with Japan’s defense industry over the years. Japanese vehicles of war such as the Mitsubishi F-1 and Type 90 Tank proved that Japan could once again make world class weapons of war. Some vehicles, such as the Kawasaki P-1 are entirely local designs. For interest and variation in games, these local vehicles should be used where possible.