Category Archives: Non-Ship Models

Building Woody Joe’s Nihonbashi Bridge Kit

Earlier this year, I decided to take a short break from ship modeling projects and spend a week or so on something fun, but a little different. I have several small kits in my stockpile (what’s in yours?) of miscellaneous Woody Joe kits, including one of the famed Nihonbashi Bridge.

The bridge was originally built in the early Edo period, around 1603. Built in the heart of Edo itself, It was extremely significant, as it was officially the starting point of Japan’s 5 major roads. Yes, all roads lead to Nihonbashi, and the bridge appears in many Japanese woodblock prints.

So, I decided to start the kit, which I purchased from where else but, for about $41 plus shipping. One of the driving factors in building this kit is that it would allow me to exercise some of my basic diorama building skills. After all, there are trees, the bridge itself, the canal, a couple boats, and tiny people. Also, I knew that my 95 year-old mother would love to have it on display in her living room, and her birthday was coming up quickly. So, I needed to get it done.

Actually, I should mention that the kit doesn’t actually include the tiny people, you have to buy them separately. But, you do get to choose from the inexpensive sets of unpainted figures, possibly going blind painting them, or kind of pricey sets of painted figures.

I chose to risk my blurring eyesight and paint the figures myself. Anyway, I used to paint miniature figures in my younger days, and I wanted to see how much of that skill I’d retained… or lost. Also, being that I’ve been specializing in the building of models or wasen, or traditional Japanese boats, I really couldn’t leave well enough alone and had to make my own set of boats for the canal.

Assembly of the bridge structure is pretty straight forward. The columns require a bit of care to make sure they are centered and all aligned. Because the bridge deck comes as 4 separate pieces, I wanted to make sure there were no weird flat spots. So, I used a strip of wood clamped into place in hopes that it would help prevent any flat spots in the surface.

In addition to the bridge, the sides of the canal have to be constructed. The laser-scored stone wall pattern makes construction easy. With the earlier castle kits, these stone patterns have to be created from individually trimmed and glued pieces.

Before actually gluing down the bridge, it’s best to paint the river bottom first. The instructions have you add the bridge, then paint the river bottom. But, it’s tricky to fully paint between the support columns without getting paint on them.

The only issue is that it is necessary to add a little bit of “ground powder” along the edges of the canal to add some texture. When that is glued into place, the bridge should be test fit while the glue is still soft, so the bridge will seat completely flat. It can then be removed right away while the glued ground powder sets.

Alternatively, there is a clear piece of colored plastic to simulate the water that can be purchased. It only costs about $1 – When was the last time you bough a model kit accessory for $1? This allows you to forgo the need to paint the river bottom or to simulate water. However, I’m all for learning how to simulate water well, so I didn’t purchase the plastic accessory.

So, I added the ground powder and I painted the canal bottom and placed the bridge.

After that dried, I used the Woodland Scenics product called Realistic Water. This is a simple product you just pour and let dry overnight. I first poured it into a plastic cup and mixed in several drops of their companion coloring product, Green Moss. This gave the water a nice murky look which you could still see through.

First, I used some masking tape to keep the “water” from flowing out of the canal. Then, I poured a thin layer of the colored Realistic Water. My plan was to add a second, thin layer and set the boats in that second layer.

If you look at the photo from the box art, you’ll notice there are two boats that are very crude looking provided in the kit. They’re not detailed and a bit oversized, but the main focus of the kit is the bridge. So, they add nicely to the atmosphere.

However, being that I’ve been specializing in traditional Japanese boat models, it was not possible for me to leave well enough alone. So, I made a few of my own using something of a bread-and-butter construction method.

It took me a couple tries to make the boats. I initially tried to build planked-up boats, but at this scale it was too difficult, so they ended up partly solid, partly planked. Also, I found that scaling the boats to 1/150 scale resulted in boats that were still a bit too large for the scene, so I had to trim them down by another 10% or so. The finalized boats were then put into the canal.

I considered trying to add some posts for the boats to tied up to, little Edo period docks, and such. But, my knowledge on that aspect is still very lacking. And, since they would have been so tiny, I decided to just leave it alone and leave the boats “drifting” in the water.

I had to have some kind of cargo on some boat, so I rolled up some polymer clay and cut some tiny tawara, or large straw sacks of rice. I filled up one boat and put a stack of them piled up on the ground.

Finally, I finished up the structural scenery by adding a modified version of the little stand (what were they selling next to the bridge) included in the kit. I basically added some little details like the stringers on the roof, and a little shelf on the front and back of the stand.

The pair of cherry blossom trees included in the kit add a nice splash of color to the scene.

Of course, a scene like this isn’t complete without some people. I’d already purchased the figures that are featured on the box cover. These are optional, and not included in the kit.

Woody Joe distributes these figures which are actually produced by a Japanese company called Aurora Model, not to be confused with the old plastic model kit maker.

Three sets of unpainted figures are available for about $12 each. They can be purchased direct from Aurora Model, but they actually turn out to be a little more expensive that way, particularly the shipping. So, I recommend just buying them from Zootoyz.

Each set contains 14-16 unpainted figures. These are extremely tiny at 1/150 scale, so you can also buy pre-painted figures. These come in sets of 8, though a horse figure in one of the sets counts as 3 figures. These painted sets cost about $30 each, but if you have trouble painting REALLY tiny figures, they may be worth the extra cost.

I used to paint miniature figures, so I was ready to take on the challenge and painted the figures with a spray of Tamiya white fine primer. For coloring, I used some Vallejo brand paints. I didn’t have enough colors for some colorful Edo period kimonos and such, so I ended up spending about $80 on a set of paints and a set of washes. Would have been cheaper to just buy a couple sets of painted figures, but what the heck.

It took me a while to get some colors that stood out like those in the box art, but in the end, I was very happy with what I was able to achieve using the new paints.

I glued the various people into their various little sub-scenes and the whole bridge diorama started to come to life.

Finally, I used a piece of thin brass wire to use for the boatman’s sao, or pole.

Finally, I found a nice acrylic case on Amazon from a company called Better Display Cases. Here’s the link to the one I got for this model:

The above case is shown with a protective plastic wrapper still on the base. Overall the quality looks really nice.

Before taking it her house, I made sure the gang at the Hyde Street Pier Model Shipwrights club, to which I belong, got a chance to see this neat kit. So, the model made an appearance at the February meeting.

The model now sits in my mother’s house, next to Woody Joe’s shinmei-zukuri shrine model and the traditional Japanese teahouse model.

If you want to build one of these for yourself, here are some links for the various things you may need.

Nihonbashi Bridge kit:

Optional Diorama Water:

Edo Period Figure sets:

Woodland Scenics Realistic Water:

Woodland Scenics Moss Green Water Tint:


Building Woody Joe’s Horyu-ji Temple Five-Story Pagoda – Part 4

Being primarily a ship modeler, I set this project aside for a while. Part of the problem was that I’d discovered that I was missing one small set 4 parts, all the same. There are a lot of parts in this kit and they are well packaged and labeled, but it took a while to go through and check and re-check and then to figure out exactly how the part was shaped and how it fit on the model.

The pieces are parts of the lower roof and cover the corner joints. Outwardly, they just look like simple wood strips, but they need to be groved on the underside in order to sit down on those corner joints. Also, they need to be thicker than the other roof boards to allow for the groove.

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Building Woody Joe’s Horyu-ji Temple Five-Story Pagoda – Part 3

With the construction of the base of the temple completed, I proceeded to paint the completed assembly using smokey beige satin-finish Rust-Oleum Ultra Cover spray paint. I also decided to go forward with construction of the mounting base. This was actually from Step 27 in the instructions, but I had the parts out and didn’t see any reason not to go ahead with this assembly.

The base of the pagoda painted a stoney gray color. If I wanted to get more authentic, I would have painted it earlier in construction and masked off areas to create different shading for the different stone blocks.

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Japanese Diorama Products Now Available from Zootoyz

Just saw that the online Japanese hobby store,, has just added Woody Joe diorama products.

[Note: This was announced on Zootoyz’s Facebook page, but there is currently no link on the website itself. Until the site’s navigation is updated, here’s a link to the new products:]

This line of products includes sakura, cherry blossom trees, Japanese pines, cypress trees, box trees, cedar trees, generic broadleaf and conifer trees and other vegetation. There are also bags of ground cover for simulating grass, dirt, and gravel.

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Building an Old-Style Japanese Roadside Teahouse

Last year around this time, I purchased a few Woody Joe temple and mini architectural kits from none other than Zootoyz, where I buy all my Woody Joe kits.  Incidentally, if you haven’t visited in a while, you should check it out. Morikawa-san revamped the site and it looks really nice. If you buy a kit from him and build it, be sure to send him photos. Also, the folks at Woody Joe would love to see them too.

In any case, in early January, I had a weekend to kill, so I started one of the mini-kits. This one is called Sato no chaya, or Sato’s tea house. It’s a very simple kit that costs around $26 plus shipping. My guess is that the scale is somewhere around 1/50.

Teahouse Mini-Architecture Kit

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Building Woody Joe’s Horyu-ji Temple Five-Story Pagoda – Part 2

The first stage of construction is the stone base of the structure. Being a wooden kit, this is of course made from wood. The parts are perfectly milled, so there’s no cutting or sanding involved, just aligning and gluing.

I didn’t glue the Square insert into place yet, as it’s not added until Step 2, but I dropped it into place to help with the alignment. As it turns out, it’s not helpful, as it fits a bit loosely, and my cutting pad has a printed grid that allows me to check the corner angles.

By the way, I really like the ModelCraft cutting mats. The one I’m using here is an A4 size. That’s roughly 12″ x 8″, which I bought from the ModelCraft Tools USA, which is run by Ages of Sail. In fact you can just buy it from their website too.  I really like these cutting mats. This one was only $13.99 plus tax and shipping.

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Building Woody Joe’s Horyu-ji Temple Five-Story Pagoda – Part 1

So, it begins! I got this kit from earlier in the year, along with some other temple and Edo period architecture kits. One of those kits, the Shinmei-zukuri Shrine, I built and wrote about here. But, I’ve had too many other projects to work on to get to any of these other kits.

Well, it’s been long enough. We’re approaching the end of the year, when I traditionally build some kind of simpler Japanese kits. Since I made a promise to get to this kit, specifically, I’m pulling the kit out of the closet and setting it out to build.

Hōryū-ji 5-Story Pagoda from Woody Joe

This will make a nice size model, measuring about 18.5″ tall on a 10-1/4″ square base when done. There are more than 870 parts, mostly milled wood, though there are some wood strips and smaller laser-cut sheets. The kit is listed by Woody Joe as requiring 50 hours to build. I think this may be a revision of an early figure of 40 hours to build, as that’s what I recall and that’s what states. In any case, it will take a lot less time than a ship model.

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My First Youtube Video

Yesterday, I created my first Youtube video, and I really like the way it turned out. It’s not about ship modeling, but it IS about a project that I posted about on this site. Also, it’s not exactly a movie, it’s more of a slide show, but it’s a start. The subject is the construction of the recently completed Japanese shrine kit that I got from Woody Joe (purchased from earlier this year.

It turns out that it was easy to use Youtube’s video editor. It was almost identical to the way Apple’s iMovie software, which I’m quite familiar with.

The slideshow I made isn’t perfect, but it makes the build look really good being presented with cross-fades to a nice musical score.

Hopefully, people are okay with the music. I personally get really sick of those modern canned scores that are most common with these Youtube videos. I did use one of the stock music scores, but, being particularly sensitive to them, I spent a LONG time listening to different pieces. It’s a bit limiting, looking for music that will fit a shinto shrine project. But, I think the music works okay. At least it has the sound of some Shakuhachi, Koto and Shamisen.

I promise this won’t be my last effort. This has inspired me to look at other projects to see what I have enough decent photos of that would be interesting to see in a similar slideshow format. Most of those look to be the Japanese models I’ve built in the last few years.

In the future, maybe I’ll try to do an actual video, but I usually find those boring, so it will be a major effort for me if I do try it.

Anyway, I’d be happy to hear from anyone with suggestions. Please check it out.

Building Woody Joe’s Shinmei-zukuri Shrine – Part VIII / Completion

This is the final installment of the building of Woody Joe’s Shinmei-zukuri jinjya or Shinmei-zukuri shrine kit. The final four steps are mostly really simple and quick, though Step 10, which is the construction of the fence, involves more wood cutting than any other step of the kit. Still, I figured I should wrap up the build with one posting.

The appearance of the model, going into the final steps of construction..

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Building Woody Joe’s Shinmei-zukuri Shrine – Part VII

Coming into the last 1/3rd of the build, things are speeding up a bit as steps seem to be getting simpler. As a result, this time, I’m covering both step 7 and step 8.

Step 7 << Katsuogi Installation>>

I haven’t been able to figure out what the word katsuogi means in this context. It translates to bonito, a kind of fish. In this case, it refers to these tapered logs that decorate the top of the shrine. Now, perhaps they represent fish in some way, but according to this Wikipedia entry, they are indeed called katsuogi and are purely decorative.

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