Building a tiny Japanese town
For years I didn’t do much with my robots and figures other than just line them up, facing out, on my shelves. They looked awesome but it never felt like I was really playing with them.
Then, about 3 years ago, a visit to a Magic Pony exhibition of designer toys inspired me to build dioramas. These started simple but soon evolved into ridiculous and fantastic scenes. A real turning point came last year at Aberdeen Centre mall in Vancouver when I discovered the world of N gauge (1/150) railroad diorama accessories.
And what a world it is. There are several companies outdoing each other to replicate, in miniature, every aspect of Japanese life. I started with some mid-20th century buildings and I love the detail and sheer feeling of scale they’ve added to my dioramas. Then, at the beginning of this year, I laid out all my buildings on one of my shelves and built my first village diorama. As I stated at the time, this only whet my appetite.
<dramatic music> I have now started planning a fully detailed and realistic, 2′ x 4′ diorama of a Japanese town! I already have a whole set of tiny, tiny cars, plus street signs and lamps, vending machines, road markings and a gorgeous set of commuter trains.
But the pièce de résistance arrived last week – a full Shinto shrine. It took about an hour to assemble and once complete, I was blown away by the detail. Not only that, but what you can’t see is almost masochistic – between the temple and the main shrine there’s a covered walkway with intricate woodwork. I don’t plan to take it apart, so it’ll never be seen again, but the spirit of this little place glows brighter for me knowing it’s there.
Now the really hard work begins. I have to lay out the town grid and start painting road surfaces and grass on a board big enough for the whole village. The real fun will begin when this is all done because unlike most diorama builders who seem content just making as realistic a scene as they can, I intend to have constant robot wars and invasions besieging my little village.
[A lot of people have asked me where I found these models. Other than that one store, no one in Toronto seems to stock Japanese N gauge stuff. But thankfully, there’s the internet. I’ve made successful purchases both from Plaza Japan on eBay and Japan Model Railways in Germany. Great selection and customer service from each. So get building!]