Iwakuni Castle Model from Woody Joe

While it’s not a ship model, I thought it worth mentioning here simply because this is a really neat looking kit. Over the holidays, I was visiting my mother who is 89 this year. She is from Japan and is interested in the Higaki Kaisen model I’m building. Looking at the Woody Joe literature included in the kit, she was surprised to see the selection of temple and castle kits, and was very interested in the castles in particular and wanted one for her 90th birthday.

The Woody Joe description says it takes about 30 hours to build the kit. Given my experience with the Higaki Kaisen, I’d say add about 50% for figuring out the Japanese instructions and extra caution in building it. Still, that’s a LOT less time than building even a basic ship model, so this should be a breeze and a nice change of pace, and Mom wants it, so how could I pass up the chance to build something so cool!

The actual castle was built in the early 1600s in Yamaguchi prefecture, which is at the southern tip of Honshu, Japan’s main island. It appears that the original was not around for very long as it had to be dismantled due to an order by the Shogun limiting the number of castles in each province. There is now a reconstruction of the original keep, which this model kit represents. A nice website called Jcastle has some pictures of the reconstructed keep.

The model is small at 1/150 scale, measuring only about 10-1/2″ by 8-1/2″ and 8″ high. But, it includes a base with nice edge trim and, from the pictures of the completed model, it looks really nice. It’s not nearly as complex a subject as the big castles like Himeji Castle or others, but it still looks pretty, and it lists for about $175 at current exchange rate as compared with something around $450-$550 for the big castles.

Of course, I ordered mine through Zootoyz. Though it’s not on his website, the owner, Mr. Morikawa, was kind enough to do a special order for me. Even so, it didn’t take long before he shipped it out and it was waiting for me when I got home today.

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The kit comes in a fairly compact box, but given the small size of the completed model, it wasn’t surprising. Naturally, I opened it immediately to check out the contents. I was actually kind of surprised at how much stuff was inside. There seems to be plenty to keep a person busy for a bit, though construction may be pretty straight forward.

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The parts are all in their separate plastic bags and labeled with their contents. As with other kits, the instruction book has a parts list on the first page. But, this time, perhaps because of fewer components, there is just one list of parts. No separate numbering scheme for laser cut parts or wood stock. Instead, of the 60 part names listed, laser cut parts are highlighted in red (pink, really). All part names are in Japanese, but between the part number, dimensions given in the parts list as well as on the individual parts tags, and quantities listed, it looks pretty easy to find what you’re looking for.

There are absolutely no english instructions, but the instructions are very well illustrated and seem pretty clear. There are only 18 construction steps. Contrast that with the Higaki Kaisen kit which has 92. Overall, it looks like it’s pretty much a matter of building a stack of boxes of varying size and cover the faces of them with some detail pieces and adding the roofing sheets and details. Seems very straight forward and looks like there are probably no hidden surprises.

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Of the parts in the kit, nearly all are wood, though structural components look to be pre-cut particle board. There are 9 small laser cut sheets, most are less than 10″ long and 2″ wide. The only metal parts are a pair of cast white metal ornamentation pieces that fit at the opposite ends of the top level roof. I don’t know if the actual ornaments (I don’t recall the Japanese term for them) are gold or what, so that’s something I’ll look into.

The dark wood parts come that color in the kit, and it looks like the roofs and some of the walls will need to be painted. From the instructions and the photos, the colors appear to be neutral gray for the roof tops and a warm white for the walls.

I can tell that will be a couple places where I’m going to need some translation. Specifically, there are a couple bags of fine sawdust and coarser wood shavings. I know this is for simulating the dirt around the edges of the caste and it looks like wood shavings are to be dyed green somehow and used to simulate grass as you can see in the Woody Joe photos of the complete model.

Sure, I can simply use model railroader’s techniques, or just figure out a way to dye the coarse shavings on my own, but it would be nice to know what the instructions are telling me. Though perhaps their just saying “figure out a way to dye the coarse shavings on your own…”

I know one thing that’s going to have me researching details about the castle on the Internet, is the printed paper patterns that appear to be used to simulate the barred windows or the shuttered openings of the upper levels of the castle. I’ve never really like sticking colored paper on the model, though judging from the kit photos, they look pretty darned good. So, maybe I just won’t worry about.

In any case, I can tell this is going to be a really fun build. Right now, I need to put it away for the time being and get my other projects going before I get to it. Still, I’m really looking forward to this one. Anyway, it’ll be a good project to take on when I get stuck and need to work on something else for a couple weeks.

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