The design of the Nakajima J1N started in 1938 and it was to be a land based long range escort for the Imperial Japanese Navy bombers in China.
In 1938 the Japanese Navy issued 13-Shi specifications for a twin engine long range fighter with a crew of three.
- Speed: 322 mph / 280 knots
- Range - Normal: 1,300 statute miles / 1,496 statute miles
- Range - Maximum: 2,000 nautical miles / 2,302 statute miles / 2,302 miles
- Armament: forward firing 20 mm and 7.7 mm guns, and a 7.7 mm machine gun in the rear of the cockpit
Katsuji Nakamura designed the aircraft with two Nakajima Sakae (1,130 HP) engines with propellers rotating in opposite directions.
LCDR Kozono / Commander Yasuna Kozono, of the 251st Kokutai based at Rabaul, equipped a J1N with oblique firing machines guns. It proved successful and more planes were converted.