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Monday, June 11, 2012

LEGO: Mountain Temple

Welcome to another LEGO diorama by yours truly.

I've been working on this one - the Mountain temple of feudal Japan for about two months. It took a while to put together and I must admit I took it apart at various levels to make it more stable at least three times. In fact, when I first began this, it was a temple along a roadway. Nice and low.

And then I saw something that made me think I should put the temple up on a mountain. I should probably not be watching Ninjago - the LEGO animated television show - as it gives me fits and pains to my wallet as my six-year-old son loves the show and loves the Ninjago LEGO sets.

I admit I do, too.

First and foremost of this LEGO diorama is the fact that the temple is pretty much a stock Ninjago temple. It's actually the Ninjago Spinjitzu Dojo set #2504. Why futz around? It's a warrior monk temple that I have 'converted' into a ninja temple. There is training facilities - some of which were part of thee original set, and other pieces I added. Another set piece is the tori at the base of the mountain. This gate is the special edition card holder - Ninjago set #2856134... I believe I picked up three of them from the UK via E-bay months before they wer available here in Canada.

Everything else was constructed... like the focus of the diorama... that darn mountain!

When constructing a tall LEGO structure like a mountain, its imperative to build stability into it. That meant I had to create wide columns, and then connect them every three inches in height with flat pieces, join those flats together and build up another level - and so on. It worked, and it is bloody solid. My son is now deconstructing it... er, I mean playing with it.

The whole diorama weighs 12 pounds. That's 12 pounds of LEGO. Mostly 12 pounds of medium and dark grey LEGO pieces of various sizes... but really, the weight comes from what you don't see.

Sitting on a 15-inch x 15-inch base, the temple is the second tallest thing on the diorama, peaking up at 15-inches. The mountain itself is 9-inches at its tallest, while the 'pine' tree is an awesome 16.5-inches high from it's perch a couple of inches up the mountain.

The tree was an interesting build. It is tall and slender, and since it lacks a thick base like the mountain, stability was/is a factor.

First... when building one of these trees, my first instinct was to use brown four dot rounds of various thickness. But... good luck in getting your hands on those. The local LEGO shops do not get those in - ever. I pleaded for those, but even with my superb relationship with the LEGO Sherway Gardens store in Toronto, I was informed that that was a part they would not be able to get for me.

They suggested LEGO's Pickabrck section on-line... so I went on-line..  and lo and behold, it was sold out. They had plenty of other colors available... just not brown. I guess a lot of other LEGO builders in the area are building trees.

I then looked on E-bay and other sites, and had zero luck. There were sellers selling five or six pieces, but that was not enough.

So... I decided on a substitute. LEGO barrels. What? They are tapered at both ends - it won't look good... but do you know what... trees aren't perfectly cylindrical. And, from a distance - even a short distance of 12-inches - I never noticed that I was using a barrel. Besides, the wood etchings in the barrel lent the tree some bite with its bark.

For reference, there are 17 barrels being used as the tree, with the odd brown four dot round piece added in that I happened to own. To lend it some stability, I was looking for a solid rod that I could thread through the center of the barrels, but I either grew bored of searching for the rod of a certain height I was after, or I more than likely forgot. Instead, I used the 2-inch-high antenna to lend stability. Whatever. It worked long enough for me to take the photographs.   

I kept things fairly minimal. There's a samurai feeding his horse some hay down at the bottom left... and he's getting a drink from the spring. Midway up the mountain, a sweating red ninja is carrying a bucket full of water up to the temple.

There is a shirtless ninja beating on a taiko drum up at the right side of the temple, a temple master at the temple gates anxiously awaiting the water carrier, and inside are two other ninja in training. One is doing some sword training against a swathe of spinning katana swords, and another is doing a one-handed hand-stand next to a cache of weapons.

Oh yeah, there's also a lone hooded red ninja up on the edge of the temple wall looking out for possible invaders.

Does he see the black ninja hiding in the foliage of the pine tree? How about the nicely camouflaged grey ninja scaling the back side of the mountain?

Anyhow... in my feudal Japan dioramas, the red ninja are not the good guys. The black ninja are. Who knows what the grey ninja are? A thief perhaps?

Here are some of the other LEGO dioramas I have completed:

Wow... I guess this one is my ninth. I have one more in mind. It will clean... and by that I mean not too busy... and will focus on one of my favorite scenes from The Seven Samurai movie that inspired The Magnificent Seven movie... both are fantastic movies, and I urge you to watch both - not to compare, but rather for pure entertainment purposes.  

Here's the photos... please feel free to drop me a line and let me know how I am doing, and what you are up to! I will gladly place YOUR photos of LEGO up here, too... as long as there is some Japanese connection... even if the connection is that YOU are in Japan.

Front view of the mountain temple.

Evening approaches the mountain temple.

Hauling water up the mountain steps is sweaty work.

Samurai and horse taking a break.

Shirtless ninja beating a taiko drum.

The master ninja awaits the water bearer.

Lights: a hanging lantern, stone lanterns and the burning candles in the alcove.
Ninja training in the temple.

Rear view of the mountain temple diorama.
Black ninja hiding in tree; Red ninja on guard...
Up to no good, the Grey ninja scales the rear mountain temple... 
And there you have it. Hopefully, you enjoyed my diorama nearly as much as I enjoyed building it. It's in my son's hand's now - minus the troublesome pine tree.

If you have never played with LEGO before - I never did until about two+ years ago - I urge you as an adult to give it a go. Even if constructing your own diorama isn't your thing, there's kits out there that I am sure will strike your fancy. Heck, check out their Architect series! I urge you not because I get anything from LEGO - I don't - but rather because it has opened up the creative aspect of mind even further. Drugs? Hell no. My reality is far more bizarre than the fantasy dreamworld of  most people.  

Regardless... enjoy and we'll see you back here for another article soon enough...

Andrew Joseph


  1. I'm sure some of my son's best future memories will be sitting around with dad and making Lego together... NOW that beat's sitting around and watching TV with dad by a hundred miles.

  2. Yeah, buddy! I agree! Hopefully he also recalls me playing baseball with him. I'm using a whiffle ball, but I am throwing it sidearm pretty fast, and he's hitting the damn thing! I only hit him three times! Once on purpose as a brushback. He charged the mound. I swear, he did. It was hilarious! We take our backyard baseball very seriously in this family.
    I would like to build a LEGO baseball field... No idea what I would use for baseball gloves, though.