Building the 1/150-Scale Horyu-Ji 5-Story Pagoda from Woody Joe

Here’s a quick, one-page overview of the building of this very nice Woody Joe kit, purchased from This was a very quick, weekend build that I just wrapped up. The kit is a 1/150-scale model of one of Japan’s 5-story pagodas. This one, is located at the Horyu-ji temple in Nara prefecture.

If you follow my builds here, you might recognize that this is a smaller version of model that I started, but has been on my shelf to finish up for quite some time. That one is twice the size of this one. That’s precisely the reason I decided to get this kit.

If you’re interested in the larger version, you can see the logs of my unfinished build here:

I wanted something for my mother’s room at the nursing facility where she is staying. Last month, I took her the Iwakuni Castle model that I built some years ago. It was in her house for quite a while, and I thought I’d see if she would like it in her room. She was very happy to look at the model again, which I’d done some upgrades to, while it was back in my hands. The model also drew a lot of attention from the staff there, which I thought was nice, as it gave her more attention too.

So far, that worked out. So, I’m going to swap her room decor, as there’s not much table-top space there. This model seemed just about the right size to take a turn in her room. So, I bought it through, of course. Shipping is very expensive now. From Japan, it always has been, but even more so after Covid.

Fortunately, there’s a new service that is available for shipping to the U.S., Yamato Transport. Very well known in Japan, but new to the U.S. It’s often referred to by the logo, Kuroneko, or Black Cat. It takes a bit longer than Express Mail Service via Japan Post, and it’s kind of limited to very small parcels. At least for less expensive shipping.

The Kit

The kit itself lists for 8,800 yen, or currently just about $80. It comes in a small box, only about 7″ x 11″ x 1-3/4″, and it’s very lightweight, which helps keep shipping cost down to about $25 in my case. First thing I noticed upon opening the box is the scent of the wood, which is very beautiful, and something I’d kind of forgotten about. The scent definitely reminded me of Japan, and it got my mind attuned for the new project, which Woody Joe says should take about 10 hours to complete.

The kit is certainly up to Woody Joe’s usual, well organized packaging standards. One change I noted was the use of a heat sealer on the parts bags instead of staples. I’ve gotten pretty adept at removing those tiny metal staples, and the heat sealed bags can’t be torn open so easily. But, it’s kind of nice not to deal with the staples.

One thing I noticed about this model is that it LOOK detailed. Much of that is the highly detailed printed paper used to cover the walls of this model. I wasn’t a fan of printed paper for simulated window slats and such in the past. But, now, I have to say that this detail looks VERY good, and adds greatly to the overall appearance.

Of the wooden parts, I recognize the hinoki, but there seems to be another type of wood that’s slightly darker. In fact, I was so intrigued by the scent of the kit when I opened the box, but it didn’t quite smell like hinoki to me. I had more of a spice smell, I thought. Almost incense like. It actually reminded me of Japan more than the hinoki did. I’ll have to find out more about this wood!

By the way, the instructions are up to the usual, great Woody Joe standards. They are in Japanese only, but Google Translate on the iPhone is very handy and works quite well.


The Build

I didn’t waste much time getting started on this. Once I decided to start the build, I got organized and got to work. The wood goes together pretty easily, and the laser cutting is very good. There’s not much char. What there is, looks more like medium wood color. The only sanding I did was really to sand away the little tabs holding the part to the sheet.

For all of the visible wood parts, except the roof sheets themselves, I made up a mixture of wood dye to darken the light colored hinoki. Parts I didn’t darken were the actual temple base and the steps. These are stone in real life, so I left them as untreated hinoki, though they will darken in time and exposure to sunlight

Not much to say about the actual build as it all went quite quickly and quite smoothly. Perhaps the parts I had most difficulty with were the roof pieces, as I tried to fit them into place. There is some play there, but I just had to use some gap-filling CA glue.

The part of the build that I was most worried about really was to make sure to get the levels all properly centered and not rotate any. I used yellow carpenter’s glue to secure them, as it’s easy to  adjust positioning as needed.

In the end, the whole thing came together very nicely, and I only had to do a tiny amount of trimming to get the levels to stack properly.

The Completed Model

I did some pre-painted a day in advance, to make sure the gold colored tower at the top, and the hanging decorations would be ready in a couple days. Nearly all of the construction work was done over the course of a Saturday, with the final assembly and detailing finished the following Sunday morning.

The model is complete. The one outstanding issue is that I didn’t glue it down to the wooden base. I wasn’t quite sure how I wanted to mount the model in a case. I kind of like the way the base is painted on top in the box art. The black paint makes the model’s details pop out a little better. But, if I mount this model in a case, that case will most likely have a black base anyway.

I still might like to have a few Edo period figures walking around the base, so I might make a diorama base for it instead. However, the real temple grounds are very flat and very bare. So, a diorama base will have nothing more than the dirt ground and the figures. I wanted to think about it a little, so it’s not glued down for now.

Temporarily, I put it up on my wasen model shelf, and I have to say, it looks really nice up there. I have a hunch I’m going to end up with a Woody Joe temples and castles shelf…



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