Development of the Type 2 began in 1928 and was the Army's attempt to turn the Type 95 Kyu-Go light tank into an amphibious vehicle by adding flotation tanks. This concept failed so the designers switched to pontoons to provide the buoyancy needed though the designers retained the main components of the tank that became the Type 2. This was a effectively and all-new design and the Imperial Japanese Army's first amphibious tank. The Army worked on the concept model for 12 years with many experimental plans being produced with none actually put into production as making a tank float proved to not be such an easy task. In 1940 the Navy took over the development of the project and within two years the Type 2 was in production. In 1942 Type 2 was delivered to the IJN for amphibious operations in the Pacific islands that did not have ports to land troops for invasion - or for use in special missions.
Less than 200 were built due to complex machine requirements with most of the components having to be hand-built. The complexity of the design necessitated that an onboard mechanic was part of the crew. Even so, the Type 2 was the most common amphibious tank used by the Japanese during the war. Some of the blueprint designs were new with innovations being a radio and telephone intercom system for the crew. Some of the armor rivets were replaced with rubber seals to make her water tight. Large hollow pontoons made from steel were attached to the front and rear decking making Type 2 buoyant.
The main weapon was a 1 x 37mm gun with a rate-of-fire between 5 to 20 rounds-per-minute. The munitions for the cannon were either HP and AP rounds that weighted in at 1.5lbs each. The tank also had 2 x Type 97 7.7mm machine guns for suppression fire. Crew protection was covered in the form of 6- to 13-mm of armor plate. In the rear of the hull was a Mitsubishi air-cooled 6-cylinder diesel engine. The tank could travel 37 km/h (22.9 mph) on land over moderate terrain and nautical travel was accomplished by using two large rear-mounted propellers able to propel the tank 8.7 kts (10 mph) in mild seas.
The Type 2 was not available for the Japanese invasion of Guadalcanal where she could have been used as the tank was originally intended. After Guadalcanal the Japanese Army was on the defensive and island invasions shifted to the Allies. The Japanese, having a light tank amphibious vehicle with no mission, used the Type 2 just as another infantry support vehicle. In many cases, the Type 2 became a fixed pill box position to repel U.S. Marines - particularly in the Mariana and Marshall Island groups.