Building a tiny Japanese town – step by step

Day One
After picking up a 40″ x 20″ sheet of chipboard earlier in the day, I began the hard work of planning out my first proper diorama. As you’ll see from reading on, this was the fun and relaxing part of this process, but it still offered a fair amount of challenges. I’ve collected all my buildings haphazardly with no plan for this diorama. That means I have to make everything fit.

For inspiration, I spent a while looking at Google Earth images of Japanese towns. First thing I noticed: almost no grids. Streets flow in every direction, like someone threw spaghetti at Japan. So I abandoned my original plan and instead put a train track angling right through the diorama, forcing streets to change course. To make the layout assembly easier, I marked all the building and track locations in pencil.

I think what I have envisioned, although not a replica of any exact place in Japan, will serve my giant monsters and robots well as I’ve tried to leave lots of empty space. But trying to plan for how all the street markings and signs will line up, that has me a little nervous…

Day Two
Today was pretty straightforward – painting the asphalt. I had practiced on the backside of the board and discovered that if I first did a coat of grey acrylic paint, it would help to seal the chipboard and create a more even surface.

For the asphalt, I used Woodland Scenics Top Coat. Lovely stuff that goes on smoothly and evenly. And since the grass and buildings should cover the edges, I didn’t have to be too careful. Hopefully…

Day Three
Today was all about grass and tracks. Fun but very, very nerve wracking. Again, I had practiced a little on the underside of the board, but large areas are another matter.

The grass, more Woodland Scenics stuff, goes in layers, each separated by a mist spray of Scenic Cement. It’s tricky, trying to add just the right amounts of “burnt undergrowth”, “weeds” and “grass” but also kinda fun playing God.

The tracks presented their own challenge. I had originally planned to attach them to the board with putty, so I could reuse them later. Unfortunately, the putty doesn’t hold that strongly, and the ballast didn’t fully cover it, leaving nasty white blobs every track length. So I’ve gone with Super Glue. At least nothing should shift. Ballasting the tracks was fun, spilling piles onto the tracks and then dry brushing it all just how I like it…

Day Four
Placing the buildings is the beginning of the hard work of figuring out the details, like which ways will the streets run and do those make sense – ok, I know no one will actually drive through this town, but I just like knowing that if I was shrunk to 150th my size, I could actually live here.

I’ve decided to only putty a few of the buildings down to the asphalt so that I can move the other ones around as I sticker on the road markings and start erecting sign posts and such…

Day Five and Six and Seven and…
I have new-found respect for city planners. Even though my town’s layout is tiny and contained, it has taken me hours and hours to figure out not only how traffic will flow, but how to sign it. I’ve even had to re-arrange some of my buildings so that traffic moves in a logical way. Plus, there’s the fact that they drive on the left in Japan, giving my brain an extra workout flipping everything “backwards”.

I’ve also spent countless hours so carefully studying Japanese road markings on Google Maps that I am convinced I could pass a driver’s test in Tokyo.

But there is still so much work to do that I will have to blog about it all later, when I have time to actually finish this town properly. I still have to put up more road signs, telephone polls, traffic lights, lamp posts, commercial signs, catenary polls, electrical towers, trees and so on and so on.

It’s going to take far more time than I had planned, but my god, it’s going to be beautiful…

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2 comments so far

  1. The Muffin Thief on

    This is simply amazing, I look forward to seeing the finished product.

  2. allniteraver on

    wow! this is awesome!!


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