I have lived in Japan now for about two years, which is plenty of time to develop some unhealthy obsessions. I’m not talking about the various kind of food, like ramen, or sushi (which I am pretty obsessed with, too), or manga, or anime; I’m talking about everything you can buy with money, especially toys. Japan has its awesome perks when is comes to merchandise for any kind of character you can think of. It obviously starts with manga and anime, but it dwells over to the point where prefectures and cities have their own mascot, that is used to market that area. For Ibaraki and Mito that is Komon-sama and Mito-chan. And then there is a whole variety of cute characters, that are just that: cute. You have plenty to choose from.
There are also toys you would not expect in children’s rooms and you probably should not. Often you can follow the saying: if it exists, you’ll find it in Japan. But that is maybe a story for another time.
One of my obsessions I developed here is tiny Lego, called nanoblock. It’s a puzzle for (mainly) adults that gives me a lot of joy and gets my mind off the science I deal with every day. I can create and build anything I want and it is the perfect game for a rainy day. The pieces are as small as two by two by three millimetres, which are hard to grab with my big fingers – in German we say Wurstfinger. Hence I use special tweezers to assemble my models.
While you can by basic sets and just invent and build whatever comes to mind, I mostly stick to the model sets and build what others have successfully developed.
It started about two years ago when I was looking for a present for a secret Santa. Not quite as fruitful on that page, the shopping trip became about curing the frustration of not finding a suitable present. It was at Mega Donki I found the play set to build a Christmas tree and some other things. That’s now long ago and the items are safely stored back in its box (so there won’t be a picture in the gallery). After I assembled the first set I was instantly hooked up on it. A bit later some friends and me went shopping and they found building blocks of the same series – and it is hard to resist during Christmas time to buy something you like – so I bought more. Suffice to say I bought all the Christmas items they got at the time; again, they are safely stored in their boxes. (They are going to be unpacked at Christmas again). But it did not stop there. Once you have the nanoblock fever, it’s hard to turn back. You can find it almost everywhere with all possible themes.
Assembling a model takes about an hour for the regular size ones and a little less than half an hour for the animals, which are also quite popular. I became a fan of the toys, which I was not holding back, so my friends pretty much knew this obsession. For that same Christmas I got a Rilakkuma set which settled the whole thing. I since bought plenty more and always get excited like a little child when it comes to assembling them. I gave it as a present once and I think it received a positive response – I am not the only one.
Even in Disneyland they sold themed nanoblock special editions, they are a little more expensive of course, it’s Disney after all. Ooh yes, Disneyland, that’s another story though. I think it’s not wrong to say that the blocks are kind of popular around here. If they’d offered me a job as an ambassador for nanoblock, I’d not have to think twice. (Dear nanoblock people, if you read that, drop a mail. Thank you.)
A lot of people spent a lot of money on their hobbies, and nanoblock even seen a cheep way out. The small sets, like animals, are about 500 yen, the bigger sets like the pyramids are between 1000 and 2000 yen. The pagoda was a special edition and a little more expensive, but absolutely worth it. I previously reported on buying a Fukubukuro and one time I got lucky enough to snatch one with only nanoblock. It contained one of the most difficult ones I built so far; the statue of Date Masamune.
There are more complicated ones and after a long time thinking about it, I finally decided to buy my favorite ones. The story is a bit longer than that, but I don’t really want to go into the boring details. The sets I bought are the Tokyo Tower, which is one of my favourite places in the capital and Himeji Castle, a place where I need to go in real life. They were both about 6000 yen each, but when I think about the fun I will have assembling them, my heart already goes ドキドキ (doki doki). They are from the task hobby line and they should be quite a challenge to prickle together. As far as I can tell the most expensive ones are the Skytree and Neuschwanstein castle for about 20000 yen each.
The Tokyo Tower even has the possibility to attach the LED light to it, so that it lights up like the real one. Since I already got the light for the pagoda, I am curious to test the setup.
Here are a few models that I still have not disassembled to store away. A good thing is that you can built them over and over again.
Now I only have to wait for a rainy day to complete my real hobby project. I will update as soon as it is complete.
I tried capturing the LED thing with an animated gif, but it looks quite horrible. I guess the camera is just not that awesome. Still here we go – I’ll try a new one when I get the chance.