I just happened to notice this image - a photo from 1939 of the real-life Japanese destroyer Yukikaze
of the Kagerō class, with its name in katakana on the hull! Wikipedia isn't always wrong after all...
Pre-War Japanese practice when writing horizontally was to write right-to-left, or from front to back (bow to stern) on the sides of vehicles. Right, no more Japanese geekery, honest!