Hearts of Iron IV – How to Play Japan in Multiplayer

Japan is pretty much unplayable in vanilla but you can do this to still kinda have fun, maybe, possibly, idk.

Guide to Play Japan in Multiplayer


Ok so tldr, all of Japan’s current mechanics were designed and balanced around what the game was like 4-5 years ago.

Since then, new overpowered focus trees and mechanics came out that powercrept Japan to ****. Every update after Waking the Tiger has been a Japan nerf.

Almost every good Japan player back in the day was in some shape or form severely mentally ill, and almost none of them still play the game or at the very least stopped playing public games. Therefore almost all public information about how to play this country competently is wrong or severely outdated.

This guide is not a META guide because there is no META for Japan, vanilla Japan is pure suffering and I have no idea why you would want to play it, but if you still do, here’s a guide that will show you the basics and allow you to at least win some random pubs.

I won’t waste your time and go over things like focuses, pp buys, and decisions, that’s up to you and should be intuitive.

China War

Important: Get a spy agency, get an illusive gentleman so you have 3 spies, collab government China 3 times.

Honestly, the China war can be handled in many different ways, and figuring out your own way around it helps you learn a lot about the playstyle of Japan. So go in singleplayer and keep trying until you can kill AI China by mid-slightly late 1938.

Your goal is to grind generals, there are a crap ton of guides out there on this, I won’t explain more. But more or less you need:

  • One guy with engineer + trickster + any terrain trait (preferably mountaineer but this is a bit tricky) so they can have improv expert. Grab fort buster and improv expert on this guy. This is your main general.
  • At least 2 other guys with infantry leader. Give them both ambusher and make one of them a field marshal, this is for garrisoning islands.

There are other good traits, but other than these just play around and find the build you like.

Note: If there is a player China.

Get out of the server, that’s not a serious game and if you don’t understand the problem and difference between a China player in today’s Hoi4 vs a China player in le epic tommykay 14/4 days you’re beyond saving so I won’t bother.

But if you really must, sigh, some tips:

  • Rush marco-polo first 4 focuses.
  • Put subs out around their ports and see which ports are unguarded, they should have like 90 divs max they can’t garrison everything and hold the north.
  • Suffer.


Build military factories day 1.

Don’t build civs, not worth it, killing China faster / getting a better grind and getting their civs pays off more.

After you have around 110~120 military factories, which sadly is what you have to work with for most of the game (like I said, pain and suffering), build the following:

  • Max infra on areas with aluminum (hope you did all the aluminum decisions).
  • Max infra on south sakhalin (oil).
  • Connect railroads so you can get all your supply from just crossing the east china sea.
  • Max airports in every zone where your planes can get into the malaya airzone.
  • Build some airports around the south China sea, because this may be needed for flexibility.
  • Build 2 ports on your boarder with british malaya, one on hat yai and one beside it (connect this other one with a railroad).
  • Build a port facing India in Siam, this is for naval range, supply flexibility, and potential naval invasions.
  • Max radar in the middle of the east China sea, and max radar in the province bordering british malaya, you should have at least level 2 radar tech.

After that it’s whatever. There are some small nuances I probably missed, I encourage you to testbuild if you wish.


**** out garrisons, 4 on each of your main islands, 18 for Taiwan, and license mech from the axis to make 2 mechanized last stand bricks for iwo jima.

IF allies can attack mainland Japan at any time. Don’t bother with any islands except the one in the east China sea, and just spam out around 70 divisions to garrison mainland Japan.

Don’t forget AA in your divisions, put AT (at least level 2) in there if allies are going to use tanks against you.

For pushing, most Japan’s don’t know how to do anything because of the following situation:

Omg! Epic 14/4 so good!

What?! The Americans have 500 soft attack and 3000 defense and I can’t break them? What!? Raj also has 3k defense? I can’t push any tiles?

Gun 2 infantry CANNOT push gun 2 infantry. Rush or license from axis gun 3 and arty 3, produce them only for a specific template (again, many tutorials online on to do this), make these divisions big and fat, 34~36 width, for support companies you NEED: pioneers with jungle upgrade, rangers with mountain upgrade, flame tank, military police (upgrade this for the HP), support arty.

Do GBP left. Put these under your good general, get max planning, use your super cheap last stand + makeshift bridges / siege artillery if it applies to concentrate and attack into the Americans.

There you go, your infantry are now human SPGs and can break anything they can pierce.


You don’t have enough fuel in vanilla to run a navy, period.

Instead do cruiser subs with max torpedoes, refit them with radar 2s once you have them (you should also have maxed out sub stats for the raiding naval designer).

Make sure you have long lance focus done.

Finish trade interdiction right side.

Get all military command with relevant buffs.

Take night fighting navy spirit.

Put them all under 1 big fleet under daigo (grab all relevant traits), and set the fleet to “engage at high risk”, they will now sink enemy dedicated ASW destroyers at a better IC ratio. Play with this doomstack as you see fit, just don’t let naval bombers touch them.

If the US player is VERY bad, build 5 1940 carriers and go base strike right side, get first air fleet + put yamamoto as your admiral and upgrade the naval bomber trait. Then grab cv navs with torpedo 2s. In any in between time with your dockyards spam light attack CLs.


You should license carrier fighter 2s (and 3s once they have them) from the axis, set the main slot to a bomb lock, then set it back to a fighter weapon and this plane now counts as yours and won’t suffer from the license penalty.


Fighter 2: 2 4x Heavy machine gun + 4x light machine gun, 2 extra fuel tanks + 1 self sealing fuel tank.

Fighter 3: Doesn’t really matter honestly, but I like 3 2x cannons, self sealing fuel tank and 3 extra fuel tanks. Dont use this if you dont have engine 4, or for some reason the axis also doesnt, engine 3 fighter 3 are not worth it.

Important: If anybody ever tells you to put single cannon 1s on ANYTHING, they are actually illiterate and you can go ahead and mute/block them. Just take a quick peak at the in-game stats and you will agree with me.

Then build a tac bomber, this doesn’t matter too much just make sure it has enough range.

Once you have enough infantry produced, set all your other equipment production to 1 factory, and put the rest on planes. 20 on tacs and rest on fighters.

Make sure to do fighter conversion to save aluminum (other tutorials online show how to to do this, tldr make a base fighter with no weapons, set to outdated, then add another variant with weapons, convert to the new variant while also producing the old variant, set the ratio right so you’re using just the right amount of base fighters for conversion, set air wings to only use new planes).

You will not trade well against the allies. You will not trade well against the UK/Canada, NOBODY can trade well against the UK/Canada.

What you do is use your airport advantage to force green air in a zone, and then put up your tacs to bomb their airports. Then cas and use your main army to quickly take the province. This is how you push as Japan.

Random Other Tips

  • Use spies to decrease enemy entrenchment where you can.
  • Make sure to go on closed eco in the China war.
  • Make sure you have torpedo 2s on your tacs so you can kill allied raiding in the east China sea, and make sure you have at least level 2 radar here.
  • Build some state AA in siam, helps against allied bombing.
  • Don’t get distracted, Japan is all about focusing, focusing, and focusing on one area until you’ve taken it. You have such a limited amount of power, if you spread it you will end up not doing anything.
  • Abuse the **** out of your cheap last stand.
  • Once you’ve had a few good games, go spend your time doing something more worthwhile and quit Hoi4.
Jan Bonkoski
About Jan Bonkoski 962 Articles
Jan Bakowski aka Lazy Dice, was always interested in gaming and writing. His love of gaming began with The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (Nintendo 64) back in 1998. He’s been making game guides since 2012. Sharing his gaming experience with other players has become not only his hobby but also his job. In his free time, he plays on Steam Deck.


  1. Regarding this, I have a few things to say. In order to compare, I’ll just add this in as someone who believes he has developed his own invasion strategy. First of all, I think the research and construction are fine and agree with all you said. I disagree with the marines as well as the naval invasions, though. Personally, I prefer to start the war early in order to finish it sooner and have more time to prepare for the dreadful march into Soviet territory (since most soviets either form a defensive line or lead the inf to trash). I start by placing five marines in each army, then I add nineteen trash inf to reinforce. I have two stacks of these; if you take coast plus Siegan City and defeat allies, you win.

    • I would delve deeper into other stuff, but aside from that, my beginnings are the same.

  2. Your musician strategy is excellent overall, but I have some concerns about your initial production setup. Infographics showing the kill ratios of obsolete fighters may not be familiar to you, but they are significant. Compared to fighters 1 and 2, interwar fighters lose 33% and 66% more fighters, respectively. As a result, they are ultimately worthless. However, because their role is not to trade favorably or evenly with other planes, CAS or TAC are valuable throughout the entire game. They can deal significant damage to any type of land unit.
    For my part, I prefer to use five lines on tactical bomber 1s over interwar fighters (I license from Germany until further research is done) and then I start making fighters after I get fighter 1s. In a ruleset where Russia is allowed to send planes, I would most likely ask my German opponent in advance for a fighter 1 lend lease while continuing to primarily produce tactical bombers or cas.

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