Thanks to the Lego Ideas challenge: “Celebrate Japanese Culture” we’ve been seeing a lot of Japanese-inspired creations lately and we’re all for it. Oskar tells us this 2486-piece mosaic was built for that challenge and that eventide- 宵 (yoi) is a Kanji character symbolic of the hours of evening until midnight. It also signifies the eve of an event, particularly of festivals. In celebration of the many various flower festivals held in Japan, he chose to depict a flower motif blossoming from the warm orange glow of the setting sun – symbolizing the growing merriment on the eve of festivities. With this intention, he went with a blend of inspiration from traditional woodblock motifs and modern graphic design to offer a broader imagery of festive values both past and present in Japanese culture. I’m rather smitten by each petal; made from four triangular tiles.
In a LEGO world of castles, spaceships, and battle mechs it’s sometimes nice to enjoy something a little different. Kristel Whitaker presents us with a stunning piece of art inspired by Japanese art. She tells us that the plum blossoms in Japanese culture represent hope, renewal and vitality, being the first to flower in spring (before the more famous cherry blossoms).The background is based on shoji, the paper sliding doors and windows common in Japanese homes. With the bold red sun against the white background, this piece almost looks like the Japanese flag, a notion that was surely not lost on a talented artist such as Kristel. This wouldn’t be the first time we were totally delighted by her LEGO creations. Please click the little blue link to peruse our Kristel Whitaker archives to discover more.
In just a few days, LEGO will celebrate an astounding architectural wonder 30 years after it was christened a UNESCO World Heritage Site with the release of a new Architecture set. 21060 Himeji Castle is a breathtaking example of the feudal Japanese style, having stood the test of time since 1333. And while the castle has seen countless wars, upgrades, and natural disasters over its nearly 700-year lifespan, we’ll have to see how the Castle of the White Heron does with a real test: a Brothers Brick review. The set is made of 2,125 pieces and is available from LEGO stores and Shop-at-Home starting on August 1st for US $159.99 | CAN $209.99 | UK £139.99.
The LEGO Group sent The Brothers Brick an early copy of this set for review. Providing TBB with products for review guarantees neither coverage nor positive reviews.
Inspired by his travel experience with beautiful Japan, Alanboar Cheung shares with us this wonderful LEGO painting. It’s built in the style of Japan’s kakemono (hanging thing), more commonly known as kakejiku (hanging scroll). This form of art typically contains paintings and calligraphy inscriptions on a flexible backing to allow for rolling for storage. Alanboar’s creation follows suit, depicting a pagoda, cherry blossoms, and the great Mount Fuji. There’s even a golden phoenix flying overhead! The scene stands out in its 3D glory, bringing it life for us the way that LEGO does. I love how Alanboar is able to recreate the kanji for Japan (Nihon) in LEGO styled calligraphy.
Here we can take a look at the whole scroll to fully appreciate the level of detail found in this build. The painting really pops against the neutral colors of the scroll! There’s no doubt this would be the center piece of any wall.
The balance of LEGO Technic and System parts in this ornate shogun design by Mohamed Marei shows some excellent prowess with the brick. Each piece seems to be specifically chosen to replicate the plated nature of ancient Japanese armor. The use of tread pieces here (large and small) is divine, both around the arms above the elbows and as the base of the warrior’s kusazuri (the plates draping over his thighs). And Mohamed has used nearly every type of gold 1×1 round plate in this build. There’s even one that isn’t actually a part, but a sprue for Ninjago weapons. It’s an ingenious choice, adding even more variety to the fairly monochromatic armor.
And I haven’t even started talking about my favorite part of the build: the kabuto, or helmet. If you haven’t been able to tell from my previous posts on here, I’m a sucker for a great brick-built face. And this mask, with the intricate details around the eyes and mouth, is truly exceptional! On the sides of the kabuto, you’ll find what has to be the best parts usage in the whole build. Those curves are made by an upside-down fairing from this Chima Speedorz set. You can better see how the part’s used in the side-view below.
This soba noodle bowl looks so good it’s hard to believe it’s made of LEGO! This creation comes from builder John Snyder for the annual LEGO contest RogueOlympics hosted by Roguebricks. John started with an idea for how to build the radish slices, and the rest came together from there. Bicycle wheels inserted into inverted radar dishes comprise the bright radish slices. Arm pieces from the LEGO Friends toy line make up soba noodles, which is a pretty cool use of parts I haven’t seen before. Even the chopsticks are brick-built! Of course, part of what makes well-crafted food look so good is the plating, and John doesn’t disappoint. The color balancing stands out, allowing the eye to pass over each part of the soup in a wonderful flowing movement. I don’t know about you, but now I’m hungry!
LEGO builder Mingki_5729 has built this classic enemy grunt unit, featured across multiple Mobile Suit Gundam series. The chunky rounded form of the Zaku is accurately recreated in this build, from the wide calves to its broad shoulders. The model also looks to be poseable thanks to ball and socket joints. That sand green horn which looks perfect on the shoulder is fairly rare, having currently only appeared in four sets in that particular colour. Fun fact, the design of the actual Zaku took inspiration from a standard business suit—it’s amazing where designers get their ideas from!
Recreating Japanese architect Keisha Kurokawa’s Nakagin Capsule Tower in Tokyo’s Shimbashi neighborhood, Stefan Formentano has created a LEGO version of this iconic structure. While the capsules are similar in design, Stefan has added unique details to the individual living spaces, such as clothes hanging out to dry and signs of aging on the exterior. The lettering at the top of the tower is excellently portrayed and barely even looks like LEGO. At the bottom of the tower there appears to be a shady deal going on while peculiar characters roam the street. The stacked construction of the building is also oddly reminiscent of the LEGO House in Billund. This model is perfectly suited for a cyberpunk display while suggesting congested living conditions for the inhabitants of a futuristic city.
I’m watching the delayed Tokyo 2020 Olympics right now feeling nostalgic both for my hometown and for my trip back to Japan two summers ago before the pandemic, when I spent several days in Kyoto as well as Tokyo, Matsumoto, and Kobe. Just south of Kyoto stands Mount Kōya, where Kōbō Daishi (Kūkai) founded the Shingon sect of Japanese Buddhism in the 9th century. My father became good friends with the head monk of Kōya-san during our time in Japan, and the temples and pathways there hold a special place in my family’s hearts. Inspired by the Japanese manga Mushishi by Yuki Urushibara, LEGO builder Ted Andes has captured a Buddhist pilgrim pausing at a Shinto shrine in the Okunoin graveyard where Kōbō Daishi is buried.
What’s truly wonderful about this scene is that it captures the unique Buddhist-Shinto syncretism that permeates Japanese spirituality, wherein Shinto (literally the “Way of the Gods”) beliefs are practices alongside Buddhism brought from China. In Ted’s LEGO scene, a shrine to a local Shinto deity and the god’s sacred stone — complete with a straw rope with lightning-bolt paper — stand amidst Buddhist graves on a sacred Buddhist mountainside. Well-researched, gorgeously detailed scenes like this are a welcome contrast from the generically “Asian” scenes far too many western builders toss together for build challenges and contests.
As part of the same Summer Joust contest, Ted also shared this atmospheric scene inspired by the same Manga. The same pilgrim from the scene above walks through a bamboo grove at night as ghost tendrils and a spectral hand threaten our protagonist. Rather than relying on LEGO’s bright green bamboo pieces, Ted has recreated the tall stalks using dark tan candles, with just a few leaves entering the frame near the top. This sort of scene is exactly why little kids like me growing up in Japan were afraid of bamboo groves at night!
“Give me odorous at sunrise a garden of beautiful flowers where I can walk undisturbed.” That quote from American poet Walt Whitman perfectly describes what we see here in builder vincentkiew‘s creation.
Walking through this scene must have been just as relaxing as building it. I really admire the roof work on the gazebo and the house, using various pieces to give an illusion of texture. The flower pots by the beautifully-crafted doors could not be built better.
The lily pads with flowers serve as a calm reminder to the walking wise man of the fragility of life. Perhaps this whole build reminds us all of the peace that comes to the soul when taking a solitary stroll.
Over the years Japanese car manufacturers have produced some iconic performance cars, such as the Impreza WRX, the Datsun 240Z or the Toyota AE86. However, unsurprisingly, most of their products are of a rather more practical nature. Few more so than so-called Kei cars or keijidōsha (軽自動車). This literally means light automobile.
They are a special class of tiny cars, restricted to a width of 1.48 m, a length of 3.4 m and a height of 2 m (4.9 ft, 11.2 ft and 6.6 ft, respectively). Their engine displacement is at most 660 cc (40 cubic inches). For comparison, this is roughly the same as the displacement of a single cylinder of, say, a V8 Ford Mustang. So, why would you want one? Well, they’re relatively cheap to buy and run and owners pay less road tax. And more importantly, in densely populates cities such as Tokyo, owners need to prove that have a parking space before they can register a car, but Kei cars are exempt. Consequently, about one in every three cars sold in Japan is a Kei car. They are exercises in maximising interior space within limited external dimensions. So they do tend to be small boxes on wheels. However, as these two examples show, some manufacturers do spend some effort on the styling.
The Daihatsu Move Canbus is aimed at a very particular demographic: single women in their thirties. Fewer Japanese people are getting married and apparently this is a sizeable group. In Japan, unmarried women also often still live with their parents, so the car should be practical (with good access, through its sliding doors) and yet cute. The Honda N-Box Slash represents the edgier corner of the Kei-car universe. It’s very boxy, seats four people and has a dinky engine, but its styling is a little bit sportier, with an up-swept beltline near the rear windows and the handles for the rear doors hidden in the C-pillar. I hesitate to think what the marketeers were thinking when they came up with the names, though. I guess English names sound cool to Japanese customers, even if they make little sense.
LEGO has a bit of an unwarranted reputation among the general public as a medium that doesn’t lend itself easily to organic shapes. Hobbyist LEGO builders have been disabusing others of this misperception for many years by sharing LEGO builds inspired by the natural world. LEGO’s in-house designers are certainly capable of creating official LEGO sets full of flora and fauna, as LEGO designer Nicolas Vás proves with the new 10281 Bonsai Tree from the new Botanical Collection. The set includes 878 pieces and will be available on January 1st, 2021 (US $49.99 | CAN $TBD | UK £44.99).
The LEGO Group provided The Brothers Brick with an early copy of this set for review. Providing TBB with products for review guarantees neither coverage nor positive reviews.