What should I absolutely 100 percent do, and what should I absolutely NOT do as Japan?
I’m sorry I don’t have the 100% answers, but I can give you a few ideas that have been around for a while.
1. Aim to have 4 transports at the end of J1. They will unlock quick expansion as well as provide naval fodder in the off chance that America goes after you. Going dual complexes off the bat is actually viable if the Allies completely ignore you, but remember that you are purchasing before you see the dice, and naval battles that go badly will unscrew your game very quickly.
2. Try to take out China on J1. Bury and India can both be too difficult to take out on J1, so you have to expand at least into China before that door is shut to you as well.
3. Don’t expect the Kwangtung transport to survive. It’s one of those tragic facts of life, like having to pay $30 for gas, just accept it.
4. When presented with many battles, be careful of how many you take on. Japanese moves tend to be extremely consequential early on due to the high value of naval units and also because of how few mainland units they start with. Try to take the fewest losses and consolidate the Japanese fleet, that is where the strength is.
5. Don’t be lazy. Don’t deploy transports that are vulnerable. Take a few moments to observe the range of Allied aircraft - would it surprise you that the bomber from E. US can hit SZ60 and land in Buryatia? Buryatia is a crazy landing spot for Allied aircraft.
6. Take a good look at your transport options. You can grab infantry from areas such as wake island, okinawa, philippines, etc, and still land them on the continent on the same turn. That can help save a few IPCs. You can also offload into F. Indo from SZ60, then the next turn return to SZ60 and offload into Bury. There is some flexibility; you don’t have to make a double transport system like the US does in order to get forces to places.
7. Fighters are your best defense early on the mainland. 6 fighters + 1-3 infantry can really dissuade an attack.
8. Don’t push faster than you can sustain. While you may find Russia retreating endlessly, be careful of how far you pursue. Don’t send more than one infantry to take the land unless you have lots of backups following, because Russia can easily blow up a middle-large sized stack and push all the way back if that was the only force you had.