As much as I like building LEGO cars, I never quite got into building contemporary car models. On a small scale it will never be possible to capture all the details. So, to make a LEGO car model recognisable, it helps for the real car to look distinctive. You can mess up a lot when building a Hummer or a Volkswagen Beetle and they will still be identifiable. Unfortunately, a lot of modern cars kind of look the same. Perhaps none more so than Japanese cars.
Last year I went to Japan BrickFest. If the COVID-19 pandemic won’t prevent it, I hope to go again next year. With that in mind, I’ve been building more and more Japanese cars. So far I’ve managed to build a fair few recognisable ones, including an ambulance and a rather wacky-looking courier van. I’m still looking for more distinctive examples, though. My most recent Japanese cars are the Toyota Crown and a Subaru Impreza WRX.
New Dehli had the Hindustan Ambassador, London the FX4 and New York the Checker Marathon and the Ford Crown Victoria. All of these taxis became instantly recognizable icons for their respective cities. What about Tokyo, you may wonder? On a visit Japan, you will occasionally see modern MPV-like vehicles, but the typical Tokyo taxi is a boxy contraption called the Toyota Comfort. They seem to be everywhere. I must have taken about ten taxi rides during my own trips to Japan and I’m pretty sure all of those were in a Toyota Comfort.
Toyota started building them specifically for use as taxis for a whopping 22 years, starting in 1995. You may expect them to be high tech, but these cars are actually fairly basic. A particularly Japanese exception is that the driver can open and shut the rear doors at the push of a button, from behind the wheel. The doors are an important part of the build, of course. On most of my LEGO cars, the rear doors cannot open without the front doors being opened first. However, I wanted this particular model to look good with the rear doors opened. They are attached to a little arm that slides in and out and I have added appropriate window frames. I also added a “Kawaii” passenger. The Comfort may not be as iconic as London black cab, but my collection of Japanese cars would be incomplete without one.
It’s a bit of a cliché, undoubtedly, but Japan is a land full of contrasts. Last year I was lucky enough to travel to Japan in order to attend Japan BrickFest. It’s a two-day LEGO exhibition that takes place on Rokko Island, an artificial island in Osaka bay, off the coast of Kobe.
Read more about Ralph’s LEGO adventures in Japan
It’s not often that a LEGO set transports me back home. But regular readers of The Brothers Brick know that I was born in Tokyo and lived in Japan until I was a teenager, so I was incredibly excited when LEGO announced 21050 Tokyo. I’ve enjoyed each of the previous LEGO Architecture skyline sets I’ve built, but how does this one stack up for someone who calls Tokyo their hometown?
Tokyo was revealed as part of the LEGO Architecture skyline series for 2020, alongside 21052 Dubai. Tokyo is built from 547 pieces and will retail for $59.99 USD | $79.99 CAD | £59.99 GBP. Both sets will be available starting January 1st.
Read our hands-on review of LEGO Architecture 21051 Tokyo skyline
If you’re not a fan of stage performances, but still want to go on a world tour, the new LEGO Architecture sets may find themselves on your 2020 shopping list. Two new sets, 21051 Tokyo Skyline and 21052 Dubai Skyline have just been revealed by Polish retailer Remix Kaja. It’s not the first theme’s visit to the United Arab Emirates, as 2016 saw 21031 Burj Khalifa set. This time, the tallest skyscraper in the world is surrounded by a number of other world-famous buildings. Unlike Dubai, this is the first appearance of the Tokyo landmarks in the LEGO theme. Naturally, the Tokyo Tower and Mount Fuji are here along with other Japanese symbols — both architectural and natural. We expect both sets to be available in stores early January 2020.
Don’t miss the rest of the LEGO lineup for 2020:
Click to check out all the new LEGO Architecture sets
Sometimes simplicity tells a great tale — a lone Japanese temple with a wide vast landscape with a battle in the snow, perhaps for the freedom of a prisoner of war. The 3×4 modified tile that comes with as the character stand in the collectible minifigures series, somewhat less commonly found in builds, is put to good use as the roof design for this lovely scene by Brickr. The toribusuma, which is the curved part at the edges of the roof, reminds us of a time when sometimes the only way to bring honour to the family is through “harakiri” sacrificial death.
Many years ago, builder aukbricks lived in Japan. Although they haven’t returned yet, there’s a seed of yearning that has grown into an evocative virtual creation. The central focus is a suitcase that contains a visit to a garden filled with greenery and sakura blossoms. The inside lid is a mosaic of more blooms and buildings in the distance; the blockier texture giving the illusion of depth from a slightly out-of-focus background. There’s also a guide book and a luggage tag that features features a brick-built Kanji for longing, a character which also carries the meanings of “yearn for” and “adore”.
Stepping into the garden, you can imagine a walk along the cobblestone path leading to the bridge over the stream. It feels just as peaceful and relaxing as you could hope for.
Consisting of nearly 6,500 bricks, this digital build only uses parts in LEGO-released colors. Longing may be a dream, but it’s nice to know it could become reality, too.
Builder Eero Okkonen is no stranger to The Brothers Brick. His large-scale figures are something of a legend around here, often featuring warriors, wizards, and sci-fi women. Today, he brings us a samurai warrior, joined by a maiko, or apprentice geisha sharing tea. He beautifully captures both the modest down-turned visage of the maiko and the tired pride of the old warrior. What makes this build unusual for Eero is that the stunning figures are set in a lush landscape, which features a blooming garden complete with Zen Buddhist shrines and a reflection pool.
I love the way he has used the texture of the undersides of 1×2 plates for the samurai’s armor, along with the decorative flowers stuck to them. The elbow brick in light bluish grey is used to good effect in both the facial hair of the samurai and the three legged shrine in the corner. You also don’t want to miss the golden chainsaw blade used as a hair ornament on the maiko! The whole scene is so tranquil that I wish I could go there and take part. Now where did I put my tea cup?
Nothing says peacefulness like a bonsai tree. And what better way to cultivate the perfect tree than to use LEGO to make it just the way you want it? From it’s beautiful base to the winding trunk, Brent Waller‘s bonsai is a picture of serenity. The shape is gorgeous, especially paired with the clean rockwork. The bridge and little fisherman are cute too!
Brent is also the creator of something completely different, but also 100% epic. He’s the fan designer of the LEGO Ideas set 21108 Ghostbusters Ecto 1. Additionally, you’ll need to zoom in on every detail of his incredible Wayne Manor and Batcave.
Home to almost 40 million people, greater Tokyo is the world’s most populous metropolitan area. Space is at a premium, so houses tend to be small and built closely together. To fight fires in the dense urban areas, the Tokyo Fire Department has a large fleet of exceedingly small fire engines. They are narrow enough to fit the streets between the houses. They also have a relatively short wheelbase, so that they can navigate tight corners. In preparation for a visit to Japan Brickfest later this year, I’m building a small collection of Japanese emergency vehicles. I’ve been looking forward to building the fire engine the most, so I’ve kept that for last.
At a first glance, it may not look all that small, especially if you are used to LEGO minifigure-scale builds. However, if you compare the pumper to the two fire fighters, it is obvious that it is a lot smaller than pumpers from Europe or the US. It is only about as wide as a typical American car and not all that much longer. Nonetheless, it has everything you’d expect from its larger counterparts and a little more. It is nice and red, obviously. It has pump control panels with connections for fire hoses, a few ladders stored on top and lots of compartments for tools. Typical for Japanese pumpers, it also houses a little separate wheeled cart in the back. Fire fighters use this to transport hoses down even narrower alleys. The model is like a miniature version of a miniature fire engine.
In many Asian cultures, koi ponds symbolize luck, good fortune, and abundance. They also tend to represent courage and perseverance. Perhaps that’s why, even with the abundance of rain, this geisha isn’t afraid of her makeup running!
Banter aside, this expertly photographed build by Architeclego is stunning. I personally find heavy rain beautiful and almost calming. From inside, its enveloping, rhythmic drone is even cozy. This is one of those picture that provokes those feelings.
While the photography in itself is compelling, the build is not to be overlooked! I’m a fan of the layout and recessed pool, and I especially like the inversion of the arch bricks for the roof. We certainly hope to see many more pieces of art like this in the future.
In a few months’ time, I’ll be attending Japan Brickfest in Kobe. I always find the prospect of displaying a model at an event motivating. So, for this occasion I am building a few new models with a Japanese twist. I presented my Tokyo Police car a little while ago and I’ve now completed an ambulance to accompany it. The typical Japanese ambulance is a Toyota HiMedic van.
Mine represents an example used by the Tokyo Fire Department. At a first glance it may look like a box on wheels. That box is a lot wider near the bottom than near the top, though. I got the sides to taper by attaching them to hinges, but getting all of this to fit was a challenge, in particular around the windscreen. Despite the angled sides, all the doors open, including a sliding door on each side of the van. I really enjoyed making the stickers. I got to draw kanji letters and little emblems that depict Kyuta-Kun, which is the super cute Tokyo Fire Department mascot. The end result looks very Japanese and suitably futuristic. Picture this with two nacelles instead of wheels and it wouldn’t look out of place in the shuttle bay of the Starship Enterprise. Befitting a culture known for politeness, these ambulances have a PA system with recorded sentences that kindly warn other road users to make way. That detail, unfortunately, is missing from my LEGO model.