Growing up, I was lucky to have one of LEGO’s early sets in the castle theme, 375 Castle, which, along with several classic space sets catapulted my LEGO building creativity to a whole new level. And it seems I am not alone in my nostalgic feelings for this set. Galaktek has built a LEGO model inspired by this set, featuring a central section, with four hinged wings that open up for further play and display options. This one perfectly represents feudal Japan with an arched front gate, very detailed stone foundations and vegetation, and a lovely pagoda with ornate gold details.
And if this castle mash-up feels familiar, it’s for a good reason. You may have seen this model in person if you were in Seattle for Brickcon 2019 in early October, where the builder had several castles all built as an homage to the original castle LEGO set. We also covered another of these castle mash-ups recently here on TBB.
In Japanese mythology, the giant catfish Namazu lives in the mud under the islands of Japan. When this creature thrashes, violent earthquakes result. Not a good thing, but that hasn’t stopped Japan from embracing Namazu as a mascot of sorts for earthquakes. Catfish are a common image on earthquake-related signs, and even appear on the Earthquake Early Warning (EEW) logo. And, as you might expect from a monster-turned-mascot, sometimes those catfish images are just adorable. Case in point: [Jack Frost] has built a LEGO version of Namazu that will melt your heart, even as it shakes your world.
There are a lot of fun aspects to this build. Although a couple of studs can be spotted, the majority of the body is sculpted in smooth black elements including Hero Factory armor. Meanwhile, the flame colors in the Legend of Chima energy effects used as fins invoke the destructive aspects of earthquakes. But the large and expressive eyes and charming smile somehow try and make that seem like not a big deal.
Somehow, though, I think we should probably just be terrified.
I met Javier Soravilla at Japan Brickfest in Kobe a couple of weeks ago, and I swore to him that if he ever looked the other way even for a minute, I’d steal his Queen of Hearts away from him. This lovely character was one of my favourite builds on the floor. It looks so perfect with that solemn pose, graceful stance, and beautifully shaped back bow down to the rubber belts for the sandals.
I’m also heartbroken to say that though I did make a proposal, she did find her way back to Javier in the end.
In Japanese cuisine, bento is a meal in box for take-out or eating at home. Leonid An has built a delicious looking LEGO bento, which includes sushi rolls, nigiri, vegetables, wasabi, and a hearty serving of white rice. Each dish is able to stand on its own, thanks in part to a diverse range of colors and building techniques. The pieces of nigiri use a mix of curved slopes and constraction figure elements to form slices of raw fish. Black tires and white tires are cleverly used to represent the seaweed and rice in the sushi rolls, and lime green Bionicle Krana Za masks are used to form the side of wasabi. Meanwhile, a pair of chopsticks at the base of the box signals it’s time to eat. Itadakimasu!
The world-famous Great Wave Off Kanagawa print by Japanese painter Hokusai gets the LEGO treatment in this great piece of work by koffiemoc. The model’s inspiration is immediately recognisable — from the overall colour scheme, the towering wave threatening the three boats, through to the triangular white peak of Mount Fuji in the central distance. The builder has added in some of the more subtle details of the artwork too — the crests of the waves are tipped with clips, capturing Hokusai’s depiction of the water having claws. There is also the triangular shape of the foreground wave, mirroring the form of the background mountain. This is a beautiful brick-built tribute to a beautiful image.
The cherry tree in blossom has a particular significance in Japanese culture, acting as a metaphor for the Buddhist idea of the transience of life. As a result, Ayerlego’s choice to showcase the vibrant pink blooms in his LEGO recreation of an elegant Japanese garden adds an extra level of authenticity to his build. The tree is expertly constructed, carefully arranging its multiple flower stem elements to create the symbolically significant firework-like burst of colour. Setting it against well-selected additions such as the ornamental fish statuettes at the bridgehead, and kimono girl mini-figure completes an aesthetically pleasing display of traditional Japanese life.
Two or three carefully selected elements are all it takes to create something truly elegant from LEGO and ItouN’s samurai girl Suika makes this a case in point. Combining inverted wedge and red ball joint elements to create flared britches is inspired building at its best. It’s a trend that continues throughout, from the clip plates that double as braided hair through to the pointed red boots; everything here works towards a coherent aesthetic vision. Simplicity in this instance is the very essence of beauty.
The flower-laden gardens and open paddy fields that surround Rollon Smith’s Snake Samouraï Temple create a beautifully secluded retreat for the noble Japanese warrior. What I find really appealing about this scene is the way the well-selected decorative details, such as the serpent reliefs and the various printed tiles, are balanced against an obviously tended natural landscape.
Zooming in you find the minifigure inhabitants of the temple caught in the acts of harvesting rice, pruning plants and raking gravel; and it’s this little nod to Zen aesthetic practice that ultimately makes for such a satisfying build.
When it comes to Japanese art, one of the most iconic pieces produced during the late Edo period was Hokusai’s “The Great Wave off Kanagawa.” This masterpiece helped to inspire the character of Hatsusika Hokusai, found in the free-to-play role-playing-game (RPG) Fate/Grand Order. Mike Dung has made two versions of this character, including a cute chibi figure. In the chibi-build, Mike’s brick-built wave is instantly recognizable and beautiful representation of Hokusai’s artwork. The wave in the other model is cleverly built with several trans-light blue garage door pieces.
If you’ve never seen a red-crowned crane, they are certainly a site to behold. Standing at 5 feet (1.5 meters) tall, with a wingspan of 7-8 feet, and weighing up to 25 Lbs (over 11 Kg), these endangered creatures are among the largest birds in the world. Their mating dance is also incredible! Native to East Asia, the sacred cranes have significant symbolism in Japanese tradition. They represent luck, longevity, and fidelity, and they often show up in art, like this elegant diorama by ggwingx.
The background and base are a perfect tribute to the homeland of these beautiful animals. But what really stands out is the terrific use of those white clamshells, and black and white feather pieces to really give them dimension. The legs, necks, and heads are also clever. Altogether it’s a great use of simple parts to make something that truly embodies the gracefulness of these creatures.
Some of the best builders are the ones who are constantly trying to push the envelope of what LEGO can do. And arguably, some of the best builds are a tale of two parts. When you get two great builders together, there is no telling what innovative works of art they might come up with. Shinmizu Village by the brother-sister duo of Geneva (Kai NRG/Geneva) and Isaiah (Robert4168/Garmedon)is a great example of such a creation. At first glance, it’s a beautiful little village on a cliff. But there is more to the story! According to the builders, it’s a mash-up between Venice and Japanese design. And apparently, achieving the angles of the layout was quite a feat!
Click here to read more about the two halves of this collaboration!