Japanese Store - Marker Pen Practice

When it come to architectural models, I like grungy over pristine!

Living in a Barbie World

One thing I've noticed about some Japanese model railway layouts is how pristine (almost idyllic) they appear. This is perhaps the result of a combination of two different perceptions that model railway enthusiasts have about what makes a 'good' model railway layout.

For some, making a model railway is a way to encapsulate a vision of a idealised version of the real world. The streets are clean, there's no graffiti, the trains run on time, there's no crime and every day is a sunny day! It's perhaps a symptom of the reason some people like miniature world building - a sense of control that they perhaps feel that they don't have in their real life. 

Additionally, we British perhaps tend to regard the Japanese (and the Germans too) as fastidious peoples who like a sense of order, neatness and 'everything having it's place' in society. [Forgive me if I resort to cliched stereotypes.]

Japanese Railways station Reference Pic
Above: A commercial TOMIX Rural Station model. So many times I see Japanese
model railways where they just plonk the building model onto their layout straight
out the box! Look how clean and plasticy this model looks!

SO... The 'perfect' Japanese layout might be thought of as being immaculate and almost mathematically ordered with everything precisely placed to represent a Zen-like moment in time!

It strikes me just how many Japanese layouts that I have seen where the buildings, trains and accessories look like they have just been plucked out of their original boxes! Whites are white, railings are straight and you almost get a imaginary whiff of antiseptic! ...They are sterile.

Meanwhile, in the real(-ish) world...

My interest in building a Japanese themed model railway is only partially about trains! Really what I am interested in is building a large diorama of sorts - that just happens to have trains running through it!

The inspiration for this idea come from two sources; first my love of Studio Ghibli movies like 'Spirited Away' and secondly, from my other hobby where I liked to draw Japanese buildings...

A Japanese Store

My drawings reflect my love of the grungy nature of some of Japan's older and more dilapidated buildings. It's an intruding aesthetic that in some ways is in tune with Japanese director Nizo Yamamoto and the Studio Ghibli style.

But, from the point of view of a real world reference for *my* ideal Japanese town setting, here's a walking tour video that really nails the look that I like...

As you can see, the rather chaotic, cluttered and sometimes dishevelled look of real Japanese town architecture is a little different to the usual idea about what Japanese buildings look like, at least to our Western imagination.

My take on 'Japanese architecture'...

This leads me to my N Gauge scale model making and my notions about how I would like my layout's buildings to look.

As you can see from this picture of my first model - a rural Japanese railway station - it's a little shoddy and time worn. It's not perfect and is a bit more organic in it's design, with elements which are just added to the design that sometimes don't match some of the other elements in the 'design'...

N Gauge Railway Station Model Progress

I hope to add to the cluttered detritus when I base the final model by adding lots of little additional artifacts scattered around the building. The hope is it will - in the end - look 'used' and 'lived in'.

One I get onto making the town models themselves I really hope to emulated some of my drawings and build up a quirky little scene... My own tribute to Studio Ghibli and the wonderful world of eclectic Japanese town architecture...

ProMarker Sketch - Japanese Fish Monger Store

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