The Kawanishi N1K-J Shiden (紫電 "Purple Lightning") fighter began to be developed by the Kawanishi design team in 1941 as a variant of the successful N1K1-J Kefu fighter. The first of five prototypes flew in December 1942, followed by a rather long period of test programs, after which a series of 998 N1K1-J aircraft was built in three versions, differing in different weapons.
The N1K1-J fighter was very unreliable in operation and difficult to maintain due to the complicated chassis and capricious engine, already in the middle of 1943 it was decided to develop its significantly improved version, designated N1 K2-J "Shiden-KAI" (KAI - modernized). The main purpose of the work was to simplify the design of the machine. In accordance with this, the number of wing parts was reduced, and panel skin elements were used in the fuselage design. The landing gear was shortened by using a low-wing scheme and the mechanism for their double cleaning was eliminated. The aerodynamics of the aircraft was somewhat improved by changing the shape of the hood and tail. The armament was made according to the model of N1 K1 -Jb. Unfortunately, the Homare 21 engine could not be replaced, and in the future it remained the main source of trouble for pilots and mechanics. As a result of the described modifications, the empty weight of the fighter was reduced by 240 kg, which had a positive effect on the aircraft's flight characteristics.
The first flight of the prototype N1K2-J, manufactured at the Naruo plant, took place on December 31, 1943, and in March of the following year it was decided to start mass production of the aircraft, without waiting for the completion of its state tests. By June 1944, the plant had built seven more prototypes, and then the serial Siden-KAI, which also bore the designation "sea fighter-interceptor model 21", began to leave the assembly line of the enterprise.
The N1K aircraft proved to be a fairly efficient fighter, although it was equipped with a not very reliable engine. In total, the factories in Naruyu and Himeya built about 1000 N1K1-J aircraft of various versions.