Japan was in the forefront of tank technology in the 1930s, introducing a number of innovations such as diesel tank engines. Tank production in the 1930s was also much greater than that of many European armies, due to the conflict in China.
In the period 1931 - 1938, the Japanese had built nearly 1,700 tanks, which put them into fourth place in the world behind only the Soviet Union, France and Germany.
| By the time the Japanese started their war with China in 1937, they had eight tank regiments in the field. |
Japanese tank units played a key role in the early victories of December 1941- January 1942 against the US Army in the Philippines and the British Army in Malaya.
Despite their success, after 1941, the shift in strategic focus of the Japanese war effort changed industrial priorities from the needs of the army
| to warship and aircraft construction, so tank production fell in the later years of the war. |
However, Japan did continue to build tanks, even to increase output during 1940 and 1941. But after reaching peak annual production in 1942 the tank building industry declined and was unable to catch up. Japan's most modem tanks were reserved for a last-ditch defense of the Home Islands in 1945 - a final battle that never took place.