Friday, 30 December 2011

Last post for 2011

Well 2011 has been one hell of a year for several reasons... and I won't remind everyone about what they were. We all know.

It was a year of a few firsts for me: first (and last) time flying with Air France, first experience of an earthquake (only a 3.2 but still my first), and creating my first real blog (this one).

There were happy times: meeting up with friends after a long time, seeing the Great Buddha in Kamakura and the  ocean from there, and making new friends.  There were also sad times: my dad suffering a mild stroke (95% back to his normal self), losing an uncle and two aunties, and the fear that close friends and loved ones had died in the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan (luckily they were safe).

And then there were the weird times... such as when the world was supposed to end in October.

So what will 2012 bring?
Belatedly I will be taking driving lessons in the spring (and maybe buying my own Japanese car).  I took lessons when I was 17 but failed the test.  I should have resat it but I was too depressed.
I will hopefully be going back to Japan in October (if the bottom doesn't fall out of the economy).
I also hope to actually finish a model, hahahaha

To all of you who drop by I would like to wish you a Happy New Year!
Here's to happier and more prosperous times!!


Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Torii arrives

Well, with the Christmas mail delays sorted my Torii arrived from Miniature Park in Tokyo this morning, and what a lovely, simple model it is.
Whereas the Verlinden version has vague location points the Japanese model has very clear pin and socket locations, and more importantly it actually fits together without masses of sanding and shaping.

It is moulded in a light grey resin which is extremely light, and comes in a simple zip-lock bag with a header card showing the painted model.

Here are some photos of the model built up.

This one shows the size of the model compared to a 1/35 Mini-Art man.  I would say that this is roughly the size of the Torii you would find either on a path leading to a shrine, or to a small temple.  As you can see it does look 'right'... true design and just looks like a Torii should look.

Here is the Torii compared to the Verlinden item, which I have now taken apart and put away to use as something else at a later date.  It just looks so... bland and uninteresting, certainly doesn't look like an authentic Japanese Torii.

 While looking at it I thought about other scales.  It is meant for 1/32 and 1/35 figures and dioramas, but how would it look with, say, a 1/64 Taxi?  It works perfectly with this scale, is the answer.  And using 1/80 people, vehicles and buildings it would look even bigger.  One model, so many uses.

 In addition to the Torii I also received a model for my non-Japanese cars in the form off a European or UK rural village road with what is called a barn, but could be anything.
The building and cobblestone road section are vac-form plastic while the details are normal injection moulded plastic.  I have a few of these kits by Mini-Art, a company from the Ukraine.  They seem to have mastered the techniques as the parts are very detailed and fit together well.
As with any vac-form kit there is a lot of prep needed, but to be honest the parts are so well engineered that this isn't too much of a chore.
The injection moulded parts show a fair bit of flash in places, but can be easily cleaned up.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Found a Torii model

As you may recall I was less than impressed with the Verlinden Torii model, which, as a model, is a nightmare to put together and too small anyway.  I had planned to make my own from basswood and doweling but then I saw  one on Miniature Park's site.
This link takes you to the page, and it's the fourth item from the bottom.

It's made by a company called Taisho Modelling and from what I can see is a good size and authentic in design.  Taisho also do a large stone lantern and a couple of Jizo, guardian deities for children.  If the Torii is as good as it looks I'll get these other items.  Modelling shrines and temples would give vehicles like small pick-ups somewhere interesting to be seen.

If I don't update this blog before it, Merry Christmas everyone, and to those who look in, a big thanks for taking the time.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Verlinden Japanese diorama parts

My Verlinden Japanese shrine kit arrived today and it's a mixed bag.

The gate/torii is too small and much too difficult to assemble without some sort of rig.  I'll make a larger replacement from dowling and basswood, using only the sign on my version.

The pool for washing your hands before entering the shrine is good, if a little lacking in places.  It needs to be a bit higher off the ground and also needs things like the ladle and a small dragon to fill the basin.

On the plus side the small Buddha is an excellent one-piece casting and is really well sculpted.  The face is crisp and the detail on the head and robes is lovely.  Placed onto a stone platform to raise it much higher it should really be an impressive little model.

The small.... thing.  I don't know what it's meant to be.  It's not a lantern and not a shrine guardian... whatever it is, it's cleanly cast and has some nice detail.

This photo shows how big the items are compared to a 1/32 Japanese schoolgirl.

I'll post more photos once they are painted and the replacement torii built.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Last Mini update for now

Using Superglue and treating this as a resin kit (thanks to the ABS used) I have built the Mini up into paintable sub-assemblies: chassis/floorpan, wheels, shell/dashboard and the interior details, grille and bumpers.  I decided to build the Morris version as the grille had the best surface detail and the bonnet badge was identifiable (the Austin one was almost invisible).

Here is the model as it stands now.

It needs mirrors on the wings, a rear-view mirror and window wipers.

When I was looking at the almost featureless dashboard I thought Airfix had slipped up, but then I did an internet search, and yes, there was only a single dial on that dash, as you can see below.  The Airfix/MRRC dial will need a printed off dial added to it as it is quite featureless.

When the weather gets better and I can start spraying bodies I will get some of these kits finished.

Incidentally the cobbled base the car is sitting on is a 1/35 scale village road from Mini-Art.  It's a vac-form sheet of good quality plastic with lovely surface detail.  Once painted it will be the perfect photo-base for European cars.  (I have also ordered a section of farm wall/entrance will will give a good backdrop.)

The Mini-Art kits are excellent models, relatively good value and large enough that quite effective photos can be taken.  If only we could get Japanese models like this... a section of Tokyo street, complete with phone box, barriers, vending machines, anything... or just state of the art diorama accessories as the Arii kits must be around 30 years old.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Mini Arrives

Well, the MRRC Morris Mini Minor arrived yesterday and I am so happy with it.
This kit was originally issued by Airfix in the early sixties, while this MRRC (Model Road Racing Cars) reissue came in the early 80s.

As far as I can tell the only parts replaced are the windows (they look modern and certainly not like the ones in the original Airfix Minis I've seen) and the headlights.  Luckily the windows are unscratched and clear (although thick), and I can replace the headlights (which are chrome plated) with clear lenses I bought in Japan.

The model gives you the option to build any of three Mini variants: the Morris Mini Minor, the Austin 7, and the Mini Cooper.  You get three optional radiator grilles and two badges for the bonnet.  

There is one puzzling aspect of this model - it's moulded in ABS plastic and not normal injection moulded styrene like nearly every other model kit.  Assembly could be done with something stupidly strong like Microweld, but I'll be using good old Superglue.  I'll treat it like a resin kit, which I'm used to working with.

Compared to an Arii kit of the same scale it seems old and antiquated, but it's accurate and has enough detail to allow me to build a nice model from it.

The MRRC packaging... unlike the Airfix release there are no illustrations on the header.  Pity.

This is the bodyshell.  It comes with the windows already snapped into place.  Luckily they can be snapped out again and permanently fixed once the model is painted.

Here are the other parts of the kit.  Cleanly moulded and lacking flash on nearly every part.

 Without the flash this photo shows the car in it's true colour.  The original release by Airfix was bright red, while this one is a darker shade.

Monday, 5 December 2011


Well, it's not Japanese but it IS '60s... I won an Airfix/MRRC Mini Minor from eBay.  MRRC bought some Airfix moulds and reissued the kits as racing slot cars, the Mini with them.  However, this is a complete kit, kerbside like the Airfix original.

I may finish this with a Japanese number plate as I have seen Minis in Japan.  Photos when it gets here.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Today it snowed... yes, Glasgow has been hit by the dreaded white stuff.
As usual the public transport system struggles to cope with 6cm of snow and the Councils fail to send the road gritters out.

Never mind, Christmas is coming and the tree should be going up on the 13th, 12 days before the day.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

December arrives

Well, December has arrived and Christmas is but a mere 24 days away... scary considering I haven't bought any presents yet, lol.

I have managed to find a scale Tori, or Japanese temple and shrine gate.  Arii did one of these, but I have bought the Verlinden one, which is resin, and also contains a small Buddha statue, a small water pool and a stone lamp.  These should go pretty well for a diorama depicting the Japanese countryside for car photos and displays.
Photo (photo from afv news.)

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Models update

Here is an updated list on the 1/32 car models I have in my stash waiting to be built:

These are all Arii:
1955 Toyopet Crown RS
1956 Mazda T2000
1957 Daihatsu Midget
1958 Subaru 360 (actually a 1960s version)
1958 Daihatsu Midget
1960 Mazda R360 Coupe
1961 Toyota Publica UP10
1961 Datsun Bluebird 1200
1962 Mazda Carol
1963 Honda T-360 Roof Type (green on the box, but all T360s were May Blue)
1964 Prince Gloria Super 6
1966 Hino Contessa 1300
1969 Suzuki Fronte SS
1971 Honda Z GSS
1984 Daihatsu Mira Walk-Through Van (Awful, toy-like model)
Isuzu BXD-30 Bonnet Bus

Aoshima "Seibu Keisetsu" Machine RS1 (actually 1979 Nissan Skyline RS Turbo with custom parts)
Airfix Vauxhall Viva HA
Airfix 1966 VW Beetle
Arii 1950 VW Beetle
CMK VW Type 1 (okay, really 1/35 but close enough)
Airfix Ford Zodiac Mk3 (this is a partial model and will be built using parts from an OCAR slot racer and some scratchbuilding)
Airfix Triumph Herald x2
Scalextric Ford Cortina Mk1 (converted from a Slot car to static model using Airfix Escort parts)
Revell Ford Cortina Mk1 (as above, but will become a "Carry on Cabby" Glam Cab)

I have also managed to get some period figures, but these are few in number at the moment and aren't Japanese (except for the Fujimi workmen and bus crew set, and the less-than-brilliant Aoshima resin bus passenger sets), so will require some creative use of 1/35 heads and the like.

Back home

Well, Friday arrived and it was time to say goodbye to Ryoko and Japan again, but I think I will go back in October.  I have other things to deal with in 2012, but a year without a trip to Japan is now unthinkable.
I arrived back in the UK on Friday night, tired and exhausted... and more than a little sad.  But all holidays have to end, and the good thing is waiting for the next one to arrive ^_^

I had hoped to see more old buildings and cars than I did, but finding that obscure Seibu Keisatsu 1/32 Skyline kit from the late 70s was a nice bonus.  If you are ever in Akihabara look for the shop called "Golden Age Toys" on the main road, over the road from Tam-Tam Hobby.  Other than toys from as far back as the 60s they also have the odd ancient model kit, and heaps of Godzilla and Ultraman figures.
They don't open on Tuesdays, so watch out for that one - caught me out once haha.

So now that I have the time I should complete the Mazda R360 so that this blog actually has something to show as far as completed models go hahahaha

See you soon!

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Almost a success

Today I decided to wander around Minami Nagareyama and the surrounding areas here in Nagareyama with my camera.  After failing to spot any old cars in the weeks previous I had given up seeing anything from the 70s let alone the 50s and 60s.  Then, only 5 minutes from my flat I spotted this beast!

Parked next to another imported car (a Jaguar... GO UK hahaha) was this monstrous Dodge.  I have no idea of the model, or even the age, but I would guess maybe early 1950s.  I've certainly never seen anything like it.
(Having done an internet search I can confirm that it's a Dodge Coronet from 1949.  On the bonnet there is a mascot in the shape of a ram's head.  This thing is built like a tank!)

So a success of a sort.  It's NOT Japanese, not even right hand drive, but it IS old, and it IS in Japan, so I suppose it counts as a Showa era car, haha.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Surprise in Akihabara

To console myself after failing to photograph any old cars on the roads I went into Akihabara.  It's a 20 minute ride on the Tsukuba Express from Minami Nagareyama to Akihabara TX station.  Now I would normally go straight to Yodabashi Camera's model kits section but today I decided to take a good wander around the Electric Town, as it's known.
Not for me were the Maid Cafes, the game and manga shops... no, for me it was Tam Tam Hobby and Golden Age Toys.

Tam Tam Hobby is a well-stocked shop on two floors of a modern building, but 1/32 cars are limited to the Arii kits, plus some of the Fujimi and Aoshima accessories.  I bought a 1/12 Fujimi Honda Super Cub from there, not cheap but a nice model.  I also got some modelling materials I can't get at home.

Then I went to my favourite shop in Tokyo: Golden Age Toys.  This is a cramped little shop, old-looking and a bit overcrowded with 2 people in it, lol.
Anyway, apart from typically Japanese action hero figures they also have old model kits... and I found something I have never heard of.  This:
After some research back at the flat I discovered it's a Nissan Skyline from a series called "Seibu Keisatstu", which was on Japanese TV between 1979 and 1984, so it fits in with the Showa era nicely.
From what I can tell it was a police series set in Western Japan and featured guns, explosions and cars... some of them heavily modified.
Apart from a fleet of normal cars they also had three armed Skylines and a custom Super Z.
From the shell retainer in the box Aoshima did quite a few of these models in 1/32 scale:
I have to get that B&W patrol car kit...

One thing about this, and probably the rest of the series, is that they came in two forms: motorised and display, which is what this kit is.  However this means they have omitted the motor and added some extra parts to fill the gaps.  Similar to what Arii have done with the older kits.

Here are some more photos.

Here is a page from the instructions showing the computer console which replaced the passenger seat.  I will have to add some detail to the rear of the driver's seat as, as is common for this scale, it's hollow.  Not a good look.

The bodyshell is nicely detailed and features moulded name badges on the rear.  The clear parts are unmarked and there are cut-outs for the roof-mounted twin machine guns... why police need machine guns is beyond me, lol.

The rather scary looking Western Police Department team.  The guy top left looks like a Yakuza!  Sunglasses were obviously in fashion during the late 70s and early 80s, haha.

It would be nice to find some more of these, but only the static ones.  I found a site about the series, and here is a link to that site showing the same car as this model:
They even had some sort of heavily modified Nissan Safari 4x4, and what appears to be a very small US armoured car.  These guys meant business!

I shall now have to research this series so learn more about how the car was used.  For something like this some background detail would be a LOT of help.

Sunday, 13 November 2011


Today we went to a place called Kamakura, two hours away by train - well, three trains to be exact.  Very very tiring.  However the trip was worth it as Kamakura is an amazing place, home to dozens of temples and the giant bronze Buddha.
As you can see the day was glorious... around 25C.  Very warm.

From the main perspective of the blog, however it was a relative failure.  There just aren't any 50s and 60s Japanese cars running around as far as I can tell, at least not in urban areas... so I have to admit defeat.

However, for diorama settings I managed to snap some nice reference type photos.
This is an old post box... faded and a bit battered, but still in use.  Arii produce this in the Showa diorama sets, and painting one up to look like this should be relatively easy.
The base of the Arii box needs a concrete texture and the shell itself could do with roughing up for cast iron bit it's a good start.

This would also make a nice setting for one of the Arii cars:
Although not 100% unchanged since the Showa era there's enough here to at least get the right look.

And the Honda Super Cub, maybe one of the most famous scooters after the Italian Lambretta.  Tomica do one of these but it's really a toy and needs a LOT of work to bring it up to anything like a good enough standard.

Well, leaving Japan on Friday so I still need to keep my eyes open!

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Random stuff...

We went to the Saitama Railway Museum today and saw a lot of trains... obviously, including the type featured towards the end of "Always Sunset on Third Street 2", but lurking in a glass case was this diorama featuring a large station.
I think it was to 1/32 but I can't be sure.  The cars certainly looked like Arii and Gunze Sangyo kits.

I really hope that these aren't the only 50s and 60s cars I get to photograph this year T_T

May 2009 and I DID get to photograph these from the Edo Museum in Tokyo... I actually forgot about these photos:

This is of course a Subaru 360, which, like the Arii kit is a later version of the car.

This is a Datsun pick-up but I don't know the model name/number.

In May 2010 while staying in Ueno for three weeks  I saw this relic from the past, certainly a Showa era building and probably abandoned.  It's just down from the covered Satake Dori shopping centre:

It would be fun to try and build a version of this in 1/32 for a background model.  I can only guess at how long it's been left like that.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Another Day

Going to Tojo-Tei the other day I finally saw some Showa era cars - a yellow Isuzu Bellett, and what looked like a 70s Skyline.  The Isuzu was going in the opposite direction to us so never really got a good look at it, but the Skyline was in the next lane to us for a while.  A lovely deep metallic blue... this thing had clearly been restored.  Really smart-looking, and totally different in concept to Ryoko's 2005 Toyota Raum, which is a large estate car.

Today I went to Sensou-Ji, the huge temple and shopping street in Asakusa.  While walking along I saw people looking back where I had come from and taking photos... I turned and saw this...
My camera was out of my backpack faster than an otaku at an AKB48 signing!  This is Sky Tree, a structure much, much taller than Tokyo Tower.  I couldn't tell you how far away the new tower is from Asakusa, but with the haze it must be quite a bit.

Sensou-Ji was pretty much like it had been the other few times I had been there: loads of tourists, schoolkids and older Japanese people.  The shops running up the entrance to the temple are a bit strange... I couldn't imagine St Paul's Cathedral for example allowing shops lining the entrance to the main doors.
I had a good look and there's all the usual tourist tat: Ultraman masks, PVC kaiju, over-priced key-rings and mobile charms, headbands, plastic swords and more rice cakes than you could eat in a life-time.

Here is a side gate to the temple:

I still have over a week and a half in Japan so I am determined to find that elusive little Subaru 360, Prince Gloria or Daihatsu three-wheeler.