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.

dio_build_city.jpgAnd 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.

dio_build_train.jpg<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.

dio_build_shrine.jpgBut 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!]


4 comments so far

  1. Oliver on

    Hey Pedro

    This sounds like an ambitious project. How are you going to figure out the layout of the town? Are you basing it on an existing / fiction town? An amalgam of fictional towns? Or maybe there’s a typology or urban planning that these towns use that may inform your layout? Or do the sets come in a pre-fashioned modular system that dictates the layout?

    Then there’s the more conventional questions. How or where are you going to keep such a project once completed? are you going to make the base modular so that it all comes apart and you can stack it up? Or have you devised a pulley system to raise it to the roof? Alternately, have you excavated a cavity in the ground or basement that allows you to raise it up out of floor at the flip of the switch? I’m still impressed that Goldfinger put out the cash for that.

    Can’t wait to see what your scheming.

  2. Pedro the Otaku on

    Hi Oliver – well, I may have made this sound far more ambitious than it actually is – I’ve added the size I plan to make this to my blog post and it’s only a few feet square. That will make it much more manageable (and won’t require thousands of dollars worth of models to complete!).

    In terms of the layout, I’ve been studying Google Earth and real Japanese towns to get an idea of the organic flow of streets and train tracks. But even at this small size, it’s going to be challenging…

  3. daisuke on

    I am not fond of trains models but i love japanese culture and the idea of building a japanese town is really cool !
    mmmh… this give me some ideas 😉
    Good luck for your project !

    PS A robot war ? you mean you will put mecha figs in your town ?
    PPS If you speak french don’t forget to have a look at my blog 😉

  4. chat whatsapp on

    Good information. Lucky me I found your website by chance (stumbleupon).
    I have bookmarked it for later!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: