Japan must expand to thrive. Japan has the second weakest industrial base of all Major powers (better only than Italy), and limited resources. Japan is one of the most challenging, and also the most fun, major power to play because it requires a mastery of land and naval warfare. The need for expansion is not optional, as Japan will drive deep into the mountains of China to the jungles of Indonesia, and if successful far beyond.


  • Industrial: Japan's highest priority are techs that boost IC, IC efficiency, production time and research efficiency. Generally, oil conversion techs are also important due to Japans lack of this resource. Try to always be a step ahead with decryption and encryption techs, as these will help you win naval battles. Manpower techs might be good, but if you choose to rely on puppets to supply the bulk of your infantry, these techs can be safely ignored until later in the war.
  • Infantry: Good infantry and marines are essential, while cavalry and mountaineers are good but not necessary. Japan do begin with quite a few cavalry divisions, and it might be worthwhile keeping them up to date.
  • Air force: Fighters and tactical and naval bombers are most important due to the great ranges necessary in Asia and the Pacific, but you can also build airfields near expected fronts and research interceptors and CAS.
  • Navy: Aircraft Carriers and up-to-date support ships are a must, with Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto Japan can easily rival the US in leading the world in Naval Doctrine techs.

See a complete listing of all Japanese Tech Teams .



Japan begins the game with a puppet state Manchukuo, which is also its first ally. During the invasion of China, Japan will be prompted to create Mengukuko as a new puppet, which is always a good choice. Later in the game, Japan must decide whether or not to join the Axis. Joining the Axis too early is dangerous, as it will embroil Japan in a war against the Allies, and later, the Soviet Union. For these reasons, Japan does not typically join the Axis.


Japan receives several free slider moves. Assuming a historical direction, Japan will have 6 hawk moves and 6 interventionism moves by 1939. Since only 2 of each are needed in 1936, both can be safely ignored. Therefore, early slider moves are best towards Central Planning, which will provide immediate IC bonuses. With Central Planning maxxed by 1937, in 1938 slider moves should drive towards Standing Army.


Japan begins the game with decent ministers, but fortunately a good pool of alternatives. If Japan will listen to the demands after the 2-2-6 incident, no initial minister changes are worthwhile.

  • Chief of the Army: Satoru provides a -15% supply consumption bonus
  • Head of Intelligence: Shiro provides a +5% IC bonus
  • Armaments Minister: Gotaro provides a +5% IC bonus, and +10% industrial research bonus

Before the Sino-Japanese war begins in the summer of 1937, minister changes are essentially "free" due to the reduction of dissent the war causes. Changes can include:

  • Armaments Minister: Kazue provides +20% supplies
  • Chief of the Army: Satoru provides a -15% supply consumption bonus
  • Chef of the Navy: Jisaburo provides a minor carrier defensive bonus
  • Chief of Staff: Tashiro provides a +20% org regain
  • Minister of Security: Keisuke provides +15% foreign IC use, while Kesago provides manpower bonuses.


Japan will benefit from spying, particularly in stealing blueprints from the USA.



Japan has several resource shortages at the beginning of the game, including a deficit of rare materials and metal. In fact, without having Manchukuo as a puppet, Japan would have extreme resource shortages, which accurately reflects Japan's enormous reliance on foreign holdings to support its nascent industry. Japan's best trading partners are, in order:

  • USA: Japan's best trade partner before war. Trading the USA for money is a great way to free-up IC used on consumer goods.
  • Siam: Favorable trades, but not much to trade.
  • Germany
  • Italy
  • Turkey
  • Soviet Union
  • France

Industrial Production

Early industrial production for Japan is not wise nor necessary, due to the early war with China. Japan needs to perform all upgrades to ensure all infantry are 1936. Airbase production can be helpful for islands, since airbases lift the fog of war for the adjacent sea province.



For Japan's existing military, some players prefer to remove island based garrisons in order to use them to quell dissent in occupied China. The Japanese military begins the game very heavily brigaded, with a huge amount of anti-aircraft brigades, and some anti-tank brigades. AA brigades will only slowdown mainland China infantry, but can provide some benefit to island garrisons. For military production, Japan will rely heavily almost exclusively on Infantry without brigades and HQ units. Some players may also build Marines, Cavalry and Mountaineers for rapid movement in some terrain types. Militia can help bulk out Japan's armies in China, and are very affordable as Japan has lots of manpower to burn but not the best IC. Generally, Japan does not have the TC nor the fuel necessary for a serious motorized army until later in the game. After a summer of upgrades, Japan can build a nine-parallel run of infantry, creating around 45 infantry divisions before the war with China.

Mastery of the seas is vital for Japanese success. As such, the Naval Primer is required reading for a Japanese player, with particular focus on Carrier Task Force . All ships are useful, but carriers, light carriers, destroyers and submarines especially so.

The Japanese starting fleet is arguably the most powerful in the world, with the UK's Royal Navy being a close second. When the starting fleet is properly re-organized into a CTF and SAGs, the Japanese Navy is a formidable force. The main limitation of the older naval models is limited range, but these are still very useful for local defensive missions, particularly sub hunting. The entire starting fleet -- 97 vessels in total -- require 6.3 IC dedicated to supplies. A simple reorganization will create two SAG fleets (30 vessels each); two transport fleets (10 vessels each); a sub fleet (6 vessels); and a CTF fleet (3 carriers). The CTF, with a 3000 km range, is best accompanied by modern destroyers.

Despite its early dominance, Japan will need to dedicate considerable time and effort to its Navy, with a strong focus on carriers. No less than two parallel carrier builds should begin no later than 1938. Extra transports and convoy vessels are also particularly helpful.

Air Force

The vast distances and varied terrain over which Japan can expect combat make air power a good investment. The mountains and low infrastructure of China translate into long, ORG-sapping marches for your infantry, which means that anything you can do to ORG losses in combat is important. Bombers can keep Nationalist forces at low ORG, making for easy victories and a faster conquest of China. In the Pacific, the huge distances between island fortresses and both sides' dependence upon sea transport and supply means that careful use of aircraft give you freedom of movement and deny it to your enemies. However, Japan's relatively low IC means that fewer aircraft can be built and maintained. This forces Japan to concentrate on fewer types of aircraft than its primary opponent, the United States.

Japan starts with TAC, INT, and NAV. INT are less useful in the Pacific, due to their shorter range, but can still perform well, especially if you focus on Asia and Africa or even Europe rather than the US. As for bombers, Japan need only focus on TAC and NAV, though CAS can be great. STR are pointless in Asia, since IC is spread thin, and would only be useful against the USA after capturing Hawaii. Their high IC cost means that they will provide very little bang for their buck. TAC and NAV should be your highest aircraft priority. They benefit from the same doctrines and TAC is versatile enough to reduce ORG of land units and inflict some damage on ships. NAV is really a no-brainer for Japan.

Due to Japan's lack of IC, you might be tempted to skimp on ESC for your TAC and NAV. Don't. A couple of bad rounds of combat can end up costing more IC and time than it would have taken to build them in the first place.


The 2-2-6 Incident

This event occurs on February 25, 1936:

  • Crush this coup: Gain 1 dissent, 1 move to interventionism, 3 to democratic, 4 to political left, and 1 to closed society. Remain Paternal Autocrat.
  • Listen to their demands: Gain 3 dissent, 2 moves to interventionism, 3 to authoritarian, 3 to political right, 3 to closed society, 1 to hawk lobby. Become a National Socialist nation. Minister changes include Shiro to Head of Intelligence, and the loss of Social Conservative ministers such as Gataro.

For a normal game, listening to demands is a far more powerful choice, though as the game progresses a subsequent series of coups will cause Japan to alternate between Fascist and Paternal Autocrat regardless of the choice made here.

Anti-Comintern Pact

Beginning in January, 1937, Germany will likely seek agreement in the anti-comintern pact. If it does, Japan has the following options:

  • Sign the Pact: move 1 authoritarian, 1 interventionism.
  • move 1 isolationism

Marco Polo Bridge Incident

This event is among the most important events for Japan, as it signals the beginning of the Sino-Japanese war. The event may fire anytime between June 1, 1937 and August 29, 1937.

  • Teach the Chinese a Lesson: War with China. Loose 10 dissent, gain 1 interventionism, 2 moves to hawk, 50 new manpower.
  • We Cannot Afford a War: Gain 3 dissent, move 1 to dove lobby, and 1 to isolationism.

Panay Incident

After the Nanjing Massacre, the Japanese attack US vessels:

  • Compensation must be paid: Loose $500, and 1 move to isolationism
  • Let them know fear: move 1 toward interventionism, loose 1 dissent, gain 1% belligerence.

Capture of Automedon

This event will occur sometime in 1940:

  • These documents are important: Gain 1 interventionism, 1 hawk, and 1000 oil
  • These documents are irrelevant: Move 1 isolationism, 1 dove lobby

The Fate of China

After a Japanese victory against China, Japan has three options:

  • Install a loyal puppet: All existing Chinese warlords will be annexed. Nationalist China will be recreated in part, with Japanese holdings surrounding it. This is a powerful choice, and many players see this as the most gamey choice: Nationalist China will provide Japan an enormous number of free infantry.
  • Carve up the Chinese lands: Japan will recreate four Chinese warlords as puppets, while Nationalist China will disappear. Each puppet is larger than they were in 1936, but still relatively weak. This is often considered the most historical option, since Japan did historically create two puppet enclaves. This option also prevents any one puppet from being ridiculously strong, while still being strong enough to provide Japan with some assistance.
  • Total occupation: Japan will automatically annex all adversaries, with the exception of Sinkiang, and gain 3 dissent. Japan gains a total of 34 base IC with this option. In HoI2 and Doomsday, the partisan activity in such a massive land mass will seriously hurt Japan, and cripple Japanese TC . In Armageddon, partisan activity will disappear within 2 years, well in time for the war with the Allies.

There is a way you can choose both of the first two options. Click "Carve up the Chinese mainlands" when you get the event, then go to the diplomacy tab where you can create Nationalist China as a puppet. Interestingly, even though it's a puppet, Nationalist China will still annex the warlords if the latter lose enough provinces in a subsequent war. You can also use the diplomacy tab to create puppets if you chose "total occupation". Be sure to create Yunnan and Guanxi clique before you create Nationalist China. You won't be able to create Shanxi this way if you earlier created Northern China.

Changfukeng Incident

This will occur between July 15, 1938 and September 20, 1938. The player does not have a choice about the effects, which are: loose 3 manpower, loose 500 supplies, move 1 hawk.

Tri-Partitate Pact

Beginning January, 1939, Germany will likely seek agreement in the Tri-Partiate Pact. This is a meaningless agreement in game terms. If Germany offers the pact, Japan has the following options:

  • Sign the Pact: Gain 10 money, 1 move to interventionism
  • This Pact is not Needed: Loose 10 money, move 1 isolationism.

Nomonhan Incident

This will occur between May 11, 1939 and September 20, 1939.

  • We have lost this battle: Gain 1 dissent, loose 40 manpower, loose 1500 supplies, 1 step hawk.
  • This defeat must be avenged: War with the Soviet Union. Gain 1 dissent, loose 40 manpower, loose 1500 supplies, 2 steps hawk.

Colonies of Vichy France

After Germany defeats France and creates Vichy, this event will fire (usually around June 26, 1941).

  • Demand Indochina: Inherit all of Indochina, receive four garrison divisions.
  • Demand Airbases: Gain 3 militia divisions, and two territories in Indochina.
  • Demand Indochina and Madagascar: It is very likely Vichy will refuse this request. Otherwise, Japan will gain all of Indochina and Madagascar.

Pearl Harbor

As soon as the war against the USA starts you can choose to carry out the Surprise attack against Pearl Harbor or not.

If you do so you get

  • Ambush Chance +30%
  • Air and naval surprise chance +40%
  • Land surprise chance + 20%
  • one move towards hawk lobby

From now on there is a 10% chance every two months that the enemy recovers.

If Japan carries out the surprise attack the USA get

  • -1 dissent
  • +3 hawk lobby
  • +4 interventionism
  • +250 manpower
  • +50 relations with UK

So the benefit for Japan is relatively small, the benefit for the USA is huge. So consider carefully which option you choose, only a very fast moving and very aggressive Japan will find that the bonus may outweigh the bonus for the USA. It is, however, gamey to "cancel the operation" when at war with the USA.

Japan pressures Siam

After the war with the Allies begins, this event will occur:

  • Lean on Siam: Siam joins the Japanese Alliance
  • Siam is Unimportant: No effect.

Siam aligns with Japan

In Armageddon this event fires as soon as Japan and Siam are in the same alliance, no matter how that happened:

  • Siam becomes puppet state of Japan


Japan's militaristic expansion is the most complicated to manage of any other nation in the game. The war with China is fairly structured in terms of game events, and will proceed relatively easily. After a Japanese victory against China, however, Japan will not have any other events that lead into war until Pearl Harbor at the end of 1941.

Sino-Japan War

China has large tracts of land with low infrastructure and difficult terrain, so victory will not be swift: defeating China in one year is a good goal. All available forces can be dedicated to the war effort since Japan has complete naval supremacy over its neighbors: no invasion of the home islands, for example, is possible. Japan begins the game with three HQ units which is a reasonable amount to have for a successful Chinese campaign.

Japan's strategy during the war is to drive to complete annexation, and this can be achieved generally through force overruns, since the Japanese infantry and land doctrines are more advanced. Additionally, Japan can benefit from amphibious landings to split the Chinese force. Note that attacking the warlords (with the obvious exception of Shanxi) is not necessary and best avoided, since after the defeat of Japan they will capitulate. Otherwise, attacking a warlord means their nation and army will be annexed by Nationalist China after they've lost a few provinces. Communist China is not a typical warlord, and does not always join the war against Japan, but if it has it will be a thorn in Japan's side. The Communists have very defensible terrain due to land forts, mountainous terrain, and rivers. A containment strategy is effective -- dealing with them only after Nationalist China has been defeated.


During your advance (and later, occupation) partisans will prove to be a very annoying menace. This is especially true in HoI2 and Doomsday, but not in Armageddon. Partisans reduce your transport capacity and will likely spark random province revolts. Since Japan starts the game with 31 garrisons, a good portion of these can be redeployed to reduce the partisan rating of occupied provinces. Each garrison exerts influence not only in the province where it is stationed, but in adjacent provinces as well. Therefore it's not necessary to have a garrison in each province, and many players use a checker board pattern. Mountaineers are the best weapon in dealing with revolts, since the vast majority of China is mountainous.


In ARMA there are two puppets you can create DURING THE WAR. Northern China and China-Nanking. If you created Northern China during the war and then choose "Carve up the Chinese Mainland" in "The Fate of China" Shanxi will only consist of Anyang, and in some instances Changde.

Japanese-Soviet War

Historically Japan had several skirmishes with the Soviets which eventually led to Japan attempting to increase its borders by a few kilometers into Mongolia. The game models these essentially tactical level battles via events in 1938 and 1939. The Nomonhan Incident event will allow the player to declare war on the USSR. If Japan attempts to take on the Soviet Union in 1939, it will be an uphill battle. Japan will at best acheive a stalemate or some few gains in Siberia until the Germans attack; when they do, Soviet is likely doomed.

Some players suggest attacking the USSR immediately after Germany's Barbarrossa. This would allow Japan a fairly easy battle against the Soviet Union, especially by attacking through Sinkiang. This soft underbelly of the USSR will have vast amounts of resources and industry in a relatively short distance. Due to this extreme Soviet weaknesses, most players view this as a gamey strategy. You can also get around a non-aggression treaty by declaring war on one of that country's allies.

You can get around the Non-Aggression treaty from Nomahan by declaring war on Mongolia or Tannu Tuva. You'll get a notice saying the Soviet Union has broken the non-aggression pact.

Pacific War

Planning the war against the Allies is incredibly complex, far more than the planning required for any other nation. Specifically, Japan must develop distinct plans for:

  • Far West: formerly the border of Sinkiang, now Japan borders British India and Pakistan. This presents the fastest opportunity to take India.
  • South East Asia: Japanese border with British Burma. This is a difficult border and movement will be slow.
  • Hong Kong: British stronghold
  • Malaysia: Enormous source of British rare materials, with almost no defenses.
  • Indonesia: Annex the Netherlands government in exile after taking just 7 VP territories, usually without any defenses.
  • Philippines: A US puppet close to the homeland.
  • Australia: A friendly harbor for US and British forces
  • Pacific Islands: Guam, Wake Island, Midway, Johnson Island & Hawaii

A veteran HoI2 player can achieve all these objectives as Japan in less than 6 months. In fact, the key to such sweeping success is extremely rapid movement, as giving the enemy time to recover, especially the USA, will lead to disastrous results. Historically, Japan understood that while Malaysia and Indonesia were its main targets, the USA would ultimately interfere with its expansionism. For this reason, Japan's first most important target are the US Pacific Islands followed by the Philippines.

At least one major naval battle will occur, likely early in the war. The British fleet is no concern, but the US Navy will have a fairly powerful fleet. It is very important to engage relatively early (before the USA begins massive carrier building programs), and ensure enough carriers are in the battle. Typically, an eight carrier engagement (two 12 CTF fleets, for example) with 1941 CAG upgrades are sufficient. With advanced naval doctrines and upgraded CAGs, the US Navy will suffer a devastating blow. So long as at least one US carrier remains in the battle, Japanese carriers will continue sinking US ships beyond firing range.

Pacific Islands, Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Burma and India all cause zero dissent when captured. This makes it possible for Japanese TC to remain green despite tremendous expansion of the empire. Australia, however, has very high dissent when territories are taken, and garrisons are essential for quelling future revolts. Due to the horrible landscape and infrastructure, try to capture provinces using troops from transports. Even after troops make landfall, instead of moving them on the ground, load them back onto transports to take the next territory. It is not necessary to take every province when attacking the Netherlands, Philippines, and Australia: focus on the VP provinces for annexation.

Beyond the Pacific

After a complete conquest of the Pacific Theater, what will Japan do? Japan has three distinct options:

  • Defense: Defend all pacific islands captured, continue fleet building, and see how long you can last against the US Navy. This is the most realistic option.
  • Soviet War: Considering the Pacific War can be won by the summer of 1942, the German offensive against the Soviet Union has likely begun to stall. This option is fairly realistic considering past tension with the USSR. The Soviet far east, in particular, had long been sought after by Japan, and the nation of Primorsk can be released.
  • USA mainland: This can be challenging, but also surprisingly easy. The invasion route is simply: San Diego --> Panama --> New York. Focus all efforts on the North Eastern USA, as that will hurt the US the most.

Defensive Strategy

An effective defense relies on a good offense. Japan can take all islands in the Pacific and garrison them. Some islands, such as the Aleutian Islands in the North and Christmas Island in the South, can be a good place to build naval bases. A naval base on Christmas island can later be used to capture Panama, and make US naval travel a little more difficult. Airbases are also very useful, since they lift the fog of war for adjacent sea provinces, so massive airbase building and deployment to islands is helpful. Moreover, airbases provide a staging ground for naval bombers.

Soviet Far East Strategy

A good attack on the USSR needs a lot of cavalry or motorized infantry to quickly grab VP provinces before they can respond.

US Mainland Strategy

Gaming the System

Considerable abuse of the AI and game system (e.g. "gamey tactics") are possible. Almost all gamey tactics are completely ahistorical and unrealistic, and many players consider them cheating. For example, a puppet Nationalist China is extremely powerful, producing hordes of infantry. Even Communist China can be made into a puppet through a peace deal, giving Japan access to excellent commanders and a relatively advanced army of infantry and mountaineers.


Persio-Japan War

The year is 1936, we're in August and Persia is the key toward the world. Declaring war will be easy because most nations ignore the Persians. Landing in Persia is easy because they don't idolize a navy and can't stand up toward your mighty armada of death. you will need about 5 infantry units and 7 militias. once conquering Persia you will have entries into the middle east, Soviet union, Afghanistan, and India. Build up all troops into Persia and create garrison borders around you colony.

Congo-Japan War

After Persian Victory, you are at war at china. play correctly and you will win by 1938. This gives you 3 years until the next major war. During this period, Japan is having a peaceful year. We can change this. Quickly declare war on Belgium and land in there colonies. They never bother to defend them. After your conquest of colonies, build up units and hit the main land. Taking Belgium will give you a french entry point. More importantly, Ireland.

Ireo-Japan War

With your colonies, you are in the early 1939 period. Declare war on Ireland because they are weakly defended. land in the ireland with 2 Tanks and 1 infantry. Push them away from Dublin and move them west. soon Ireland is beaten and you have a great colonized empire.


Now you can attack France from Brest, North east France and all of western Africa. Once you conquer France, you should offer an Axis alliance so you can create the massive mega power.

United Front Against Soviet Aggression

In some circumstances Japan can form an alliance with Sinkiang . If Japan declares war on the Soviet Union while it's allied with Sinkiang--and it's not yet at war with Nationalist China and Communist China --the others will often side with Japan and Sinkiang because of an event they receive. If Nationalist China went Fascist at the Xian Incident, it will revert to Paternal Autocrat when it joins this United Front. Sinkiang will often formally change its alliance from Japan to China, which means it's likely to get annexed during the war, as is Xibei San Ma .

Further strategy guides