Japan BrickFest 2018 – Event Report

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I have recently returned from Japan BrickFest 2018. The fourth Kobe Fan Weekend took place on Rokko Island, in the port city of Kobe, near Osaka and Kyoto (Just as Geelong is near Melbourne, but with more frequent trains).  Organised by Edwin Knight, and members of the Kansai LEGO Users Group (KLUG), this event is a LEGO® hub event for Asia.  Exhibitor’s attended from all over the world – predominantly countries around Asia, but the USA and Australia were also represented.

I arrived on Friday afternoon and set up in one of the two gymnasiums used for the display, accompanied by the majority of builders visiting from overseas. We shared the space with the Great Ball Contraption,  a brick built monorail and a train layout.  LEGOLAND Japan had a display, and there was also an area to get your hands on some bricks and just build! The other gymnasium had many exhibitors from around Japan, and a theatre had larger scale models from members of the Kansai LEGO Users Group.

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My MOC: NEXO Classic Space

I had taken my NEXO Classic Spaceships. [imagine the 1978-79 Classic Space Sets built with NEXO Knights elements and colours] This was the third time I had displayed them this year, but the first time they had travelled more than 1000 km from home. ….I set about the task of discovering how my models had survived at the hands of international baggage handlers, as well as myself bouncing between multiple railway stations.

I set up my terrain and installed the lighting.  Everyone I met was extremely friendly, offering words of encouragement as my various models were unwrapped in more pieces than I remembered them being in when I wrapped them up.

In the name of ergonomics, I would get up and walk around for a few minutes between rebuilds. In real life I would steal the chance to look around some of the other exhibits in the hall:  Mechs were gathering next to me, tanks behind me and next to me, beside me, were some amazing bricks that opened and unfolded, and played air guitar. In between were an amazing array of characters.

Character builds dominated the exhibition halls: some were BrickHeadz, many were not. Unfortunately, I had no idea who many of them were.  Some were from manga and anime, others from history and video games. Some I suspect were from real life.  There was a remarkable level of attention to detail for relatively small models, and I think there are plenty officiators which contribute to this.

IMG_1692I had the good fortune to be sharing a small compound with Mech Master Lu Sim and other members of PhLUG; and some exhibitors from Taiwan, including the amazing folding constructions of Will Ho and Chris Yu’s Neo Classic Space Moon Base.

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Some of William Wong’s 3 and 4 stud wide trains.

Let me digress: at Australian shows that I have attended, it is common for an individual’s exhibits to spread out a little: it is not uncommon for one or two people to set up their own town display, spreading out over several tables.  If you live in a three bedroom house, it is easy to give a large exhibit a trial run, with only occasional loss of major items of furniture such as the dining room table, or the living room floor.  In many large Asian cities, I suspect space is a premium. You cannot spread your MOCs out over the house if you wish to carry out some of life’s essential activities such as eat, sleep and wash. And it became apparent that many models produced were more compact that those we might see at local shows. Speaking to William Wong, a LEGO train builder from Hong Kong, “My workshop is smaller, and so I am now working on trains which are three or four studs wide…sometimes the 4 stud wide trains have a proper interior and can take a minifigure”.

As well as smaller layouts, many MOCs I saw were character based – not necessarily in a BrickHeadz style, but perhaps a similar scale; mecha and giant robots were plentiful; and outstanding Bionicle creations – larger and more dynamic than I had ever seen before. Rather than spreading out, these were spreading up! The majority of landscapes or buildings were based over a baseplate or two, rather than a couple of tables, although there were a couple of models and latest on display that could certainly be described as ‘Just a little bit epic’.

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An amazing mecha displayed by one of the members of Brick Mech Avengers.  This creation stood nearly two feet tall. I love the parts usage for the lower legs.
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Examples of the cards given away by exhibitors to help you locate their other work online.

One of the things that was a bit different to shows I had attended in Australia is the labelling of displays: We often have a MOC Card – a display card with such details as the name of the builder, the MOC and part count.  There was no formal process for this at Japan BrickFest. Many builders brought their own, but they were just as likely to have a business card or postcard, with a photograph of their MOC on, and a link to high quality images of their MOCs in online galleries. As I go through my photos now, I might have missed actual information regarding the builder in my photos: however much of the information information about builders and their models is close at hand.The other advantage of this is that the visitor does not have to spend their time at the show taking lots of substandard, poorly lit ( and indeed, slightly green tinted) photos as they walk round: I have better quality images of many pictures than I could hope to take in the exhibition setting, and instead get to concentrate on talking to the model builders themselves.

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Jacky Chen from the LEGO Group and RLUG/RLFM/RLOC Ambassadors meetup at Japan BrickFest 2018. Image from Jackie Chen, although plainly he is not holding the phone!

Jacky Chen, a member of the AFOL Engagement team based in China, had a meeting with Ambassadors for the Recognised LEGO User Groups and Recognised LEGO Fan Media in attendance.  It was a terrific opportunity to meet representatives of LUGs from around the world, as well as renew friendships with people I had met previously. We discussed the focus of some of the LUGs represented, as well as plans for the near future. A particular highlight for me was to catch up with You-Tubers Joshua and John Hanlon from Beyond the Brick, as well as Jun Weng from Brickfinder.net, to discuss life as LEGO Fan Media.

On Saturday morning, things got started!

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Mecha, created by Lu Sim (Messyworks)

During the weekend, a number of workshops were run for registered exhibitors: a great ball contraption workshop, run by Akiyuki; a ‘Cute Model’ workshop run by Sachiko Akinaga; Mecha Building, with Lu Sim (Messyworks) and Sculpture Building with Schneider Cheung.

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‘We Did It!’ by Sachiko Akinaga

There were also speakers from the LEGO Group: Stuart Harris, responsible for the  design of the visitor experience the LEGO House in Billund, spoke about his work with the LEGO Group, and also presented the video about the development of the LEGO House, which is available on Netflix from June 15th, 2018.

Frédéric Roland Andre, a senior designer with the LEGO Group was also present.  Fred has worked on NEXO Knights, Ninjago, Galaxy Squad and LEGO Star Wars themes, amongst others over the years.  Having lived in Japan for a number of years, he has a reasonable working knowledge of Japanese Language, which was helpful in discussions with local builders.

During the Exhibition days, there were opportunities for members of the public to join in as well, with construction of a mosaic, a Stamp Rally and the Brickmaster Competition – a building competition, with a family stay at the recently opened LEGOLand Hotel in Nagoya up for grabs. Another highlight was a traditional Japanese Drumming Workshop, and the House Band, the Ofuromates, providing tunes for the public to enjoy as they wandered between exhibition halls.rimg_1804While most of the visitors to the exhibition spoke limited English, I certainly met a few with whom I could have greater conversation about my MOC. The time is coming to level up and improve my use of languages that are not English. When a few children looked at my model with eyes wide open, and draged their parents over, I was reminded of what it was all about: sharing the joy of the brick, with people from around the world.

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Josh Hanlon (Beyond the Brick); The Rambling Brick and CK Tsang (HK LUG): triumphant at trivia!

Specifically for the AFOL’s in attendance, there was a function on Saturday night: Dinner, Stop motion Movie festival, unveiling the event kit (which you can see at the top of this post) and a trivia quiz. With questions ranging from ‘name that minifigure’ – always exciting when the designer of the set in question is on one team, to ‘What colour is the sign on Fort Legorado?’ a great time was had by those participating. I had the good fortune to be on the winning team along with CK Tsang from HKLUG, Josh Hanlon from Beyond the Brick. I have been accused of being a little too trivial in the past. Occasionally it can pay off! Our next challenge was to work out the best way to transport this set back to out home countries.

[Fun Fact, half of the volume of the box for 31069 is in fact air.  Contents may have settled during shipping, but it provided lots of useful space for transporting other purchases home, with a small degree of protection.  But does this mean there has been a slight turnaround on the ‘package volume reduction policy’ announced a few years ago?]

Sunday provided another day of public attendance, workshops and great company. We would take the opportunity where we could to look at other exhibits around the event.  There were so many fantastic MOCs to see at the event, that I will only post a few highlights now, and there shall be further posts in coming weeks highlighting specific build genres.

Marvellous Creatures

The lemur and rabbit here are from the collection of Machine Creature MOCs by Mitsuro Nikaido, The Red Whiskered Bulbul and Cormorant  were made by Bryan To, as part of a series of the Wild Birds of Hong Kong.  Unfortunately, I have not yet been able to identify the builder of the owl family, or the tiger. Can you help?

Building with Character

Did you ever wonder about what was inside a BrickHeadz Figure?  Rokan Cheung shows us! That is not Samurai-Mech Snoopy, it is Yatter-Wan, a Mech from a 1970’s anime built by Tohru Shioda. Tinker bell in the lantern was a build by Jae Won Lee; Fry and Captain Picard were brought from the USA by Philip Thorne, Stitch by Will Ho; Olaf, Anna and Elsa Brickheadz by Samuel Ho, Green Alien by Herbert Lee (Hong Kong), Athena from the Anime Sait Seiya by Benjamin Fong.

Amidala, by Ian Wen, looks pretty serene sitting on her throne, but as you examine the plinth more closely, you can see some incredible detail built in!

But that’s not all!

There were lots of other great MOCs: Trains, Buildings, Spaceships and Mechs.  I shall feature some of these over the next few weeks. If you can’t wait, you can find them on Flickr.  I am still looking for some creator names: if you recognise a MOC, and know who built it, please feel free to name names, tag the picture or message me.

Finally, the weekend came to an end: we took the group shot – drone powered, packed up our models and said our final farewells. This was an amazing experience for me: cultural immersion, in close to the same timezone, surrounded by people from around the world with a love of the Brick. I must congratulate Edwin and Miki Knight, and other members of the Kansai LEGO Users group for putting on an amazing event which has been growing every year. Special thanks to Nathan as well as Edwin and Miki for their kind hospitality while I was attending JBF2018. To the new friends I made: I look forward to meeting you again in the future.

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For those thinking of attending, next year’s Japan BrickFest will be held on June 8-9, 2019. Registration opens in December, maybe a little sooner: check out the Japan BrickFest Website for details. June is the rainy season in the Kobe/Osaka region. Umbrellas can be purchased for around 600 Yen, from most convenience stores.  There are good hotels within an easy walk from the venue.  If you are arriving or leaving by Shinkasen (Bullet train) there is a bus that runs from ShinKobe Station to the Sheraton Plaza, which is about five to ten minutes walk from the venue.  There is also an elevated train line to Rokko Island – the venue is an easy walk.

If you live in Australia, we have seen cheap flights to Japan become available around February in recent years. This is not a guarantee that it will happen again in the future, but I certainly received a good deal.

Travelling to Japan with a case full of LEGO is not without its special challenges, but was immensely satisfying. The feedback I received from both the general public and fellow exhibitors was universally supportive. This is a fun event, demonstrating a diverse range of building styles, and many warm, friendly people. Being in a similar time zone to home (only one hour behind Melbourne), jet lag was not a significant problem. I would recommend it, especially if travelling from Asia, Australia or New Zealand.

Where would you love to be able to travel to to share your Love of the Brick? Denmark? Europe? One of the big US Conventions? Australia? Asia? Why not share your thoughts in the comments below.

Until Next time,

Play Well.

LEGO®️ Masters Australia

Are you Crazy About LEGO Bricks and is your imagination limitless?

Do you think you have what it takes to build for glory in the biggest battle of the Bricks that Australia has ever seen?

EndemolShine Australia are looking for passionate builders to take part in a new Television How: “LEGO Masters”

Interested? Go to www.LEGOCasting.com.au for further details. They are looking for teams of two, both adult and minors to take part.

Are you up for the challenge? Why not leave your comments below.

Play well.

New LEGO® Play Zone for Supercars fans

This just In from LEGO Australia 

The Virgin Australia Supercars Championship has partnered with international toy giant, LEGO Australia.

There will be LEGO® play zones at the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship races for the remainder of 2018, starting next week at the Watpac Townsville 400. Events will follow at Ipswich, Sundown and Newcastle later in the year.

The Play zones will feature activities and Challenges for Builders of all ages, featuring builds using the Speed Champions sets.

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Supercar Driver Mark Winterbottom  working with his family to build one of the new Speed Champions sets

The Play Zones at Supercars events will allow fans to stretch their imagination and compete in fun and exciting challenges, featuring products from the LEGO Speed Champions sets.

This includes pit crew challenges where teams will build a LEGO car and run it down a race track, competitions on distance ramps and a creative play that will feature a Cityscape Build, where fans will be able to add to a LEGO cityscape piece-by-piece, throughout Supercars events.

Supercars Chief Executive Sean Seamer is thrilled to partner with one of the world’s most popular toy companies to bring to life a new experience for fans.

“LEGO is a family favourite in any household, and to have them on board to offer this new experience for Supercars fans will be great for our events,” Seamer said.

“This partnership is another strong step towards growing our already significant commitment to youth engagement at our world-class events.”

“We are excited to bring a fun new LEGO® play experience to families and Supercars fans across Australia. This new partnership and event platform will allow families to truly experience the joy of both seeing and building their favourite supercars with LEGO – or wherever their imagination takes them! Further driving fun and creativity among children and families alike.” said Angie Tutt, Senior Director, Head of Marketing – Australia & New Zealand.

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Mark Winterbottom’s sons Oliver and Austin

The Bottle-O Racing’s Mark Winterbottom celebrated the announcement by testing the new range of LEGO Speed Champions with his two young sons and wife Renee.

“I’d be lying if I said we didn’t enjoy joining the boys for the test-drive”, Winterbottom said.

“Anyone with young children knows LEGO is one of the best ways to spend family-time and to have this Play Zone set up at events will be great for parents and the kids looking for some time out between races.”

The LEGO Play Zone will be a part of Supercars upcoming Watpac Townsville 400 from 6-8 July.

The other events fans can find the Play Zone at in 2018 will be the Coates Hire Ipswich SuperSprint from 20-22 July, the Sandown 500 from 14-16 September and the grand finale for 2018, the Coates Hire Newcastle 500 from 23-25 November.

For more information head to the event pages on supercars.com.

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Will you be taking advantage of the play zones at the supercar races this year? Leave your comments below.
Play well.

News from the AFOL Engagement Team

lan logoThis last week, I have been busy gathering my thoughts and photos from Japan BrickFest2018.  I  realise that a number of interesting news articles have come from a different source over the last week or so.  Some has come via the LEGO Ambassador Network:

The LEGO Group’s AFOL Engagement Team have a weekly blog, accessible to the public- typically updated every Friday. There you can find news from the AE Team, the LEGO House, announcements from LEGO® Rebrick as well as reports from different RLUG Ambassadors about recent events.

The Blog is accessible to the public – so feel free to drop by from time to time to get the latest news from the team.  You should also be able to sign up for updates.

While I am busy working through my images from Japan BrickFest 2018, why not have a look at this post from Jackie Chen, who is one of the Community Managers on the AFOL Engagement Team. He represented the Team at Japan BrickFest, and it was great to meet him.

Other news that came to light this week is the appearance of the LEGO House  – Home of the Brick arriving on Netflix this week. This documentary tells the story of the design, construction and opening of the LEGO House. It was also shown at some of the recent fan events. You can find the program on Netflix now –  There are reports at this stage of it not being available in all markets so check back later if you can’t find it!

I’ll be back over the weekend with some news from Japan BrickFest 2018, but in the meantime,

Play Well!

IKEA and The LEGO Group announce a forthcoming collaboration

This week sees the Democratic Design Days in Älmhult, Sweden, where IKEA have just announced a number of collaborations with other companies to come over the next few years. Included in this list are sporting goods company Adidas, home sound system developer Sonos, designer Virgil Abloh and our favorite producer of interlocking Plastic Bricks – the LEGO Group.

While nothing firm has been announced, it will be interesting to see how the Swedish Giant of flat packed furniture approaches the problem of “the wonderful mess that play brings”

Will it be furniture for families to play with LEGO Bricks together? Will it be storage containers? We expect to find out sometime in 2019. Certainly, if these old parts were properly wrangled, back in the day, they might not look quite so beaten up!

Read on for the press release.

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Giving the Roller Coaster a Boost

Not satisfied with merely motorising my Roller Coaster 10261, I incorporate the Boost Robotics System, and then add some additional functionality. It’s all fun and games until the batteries stop running at full power…

IMG_0255There is no doubt that the new Roller Coaster 10261 is a magnificent model, worthy of a set piece in any LEGO Layout.  But driving it manually is a little tedious,to say nothing of the roughness of the ride. How can we make it so that we may have the coaster running, and share a drink with friends at the same time, while they marvel at this wonderful set?

Simple motoring using an ‘M’ motor.

Adding a Power Functions medium motor is simple: so simple in fact that you can work out how to do it in the pre release video: plug a motor over the drive shaft, and let it go.

And it goes on… and on… and on until you turn it off.  There is no break in the activity, the constant rumble of the motor.  Don’t get me wrong, this is pretty awesome, and with two trains of coaster carriages running, it can be pretty hypnotic. There is no reason that this should be any harder with the equivalent Powered Up/ PF2.0 motor, when we see it released in the future.

But I wonder if more can be done.

A Little Boost
In fact, adding simple automation to the set using the Boost Move hub, sensor and servo motor is pretty simple, and is described on the final page of the instructions. This is what it looks and sounds like.

Continue reading

Going to Great Heights to Build: Cute Pug 30542

In which I find a local source of LEGO poly bag sets, select one and construct it mid flight, before returning my tray table to the upright position.

I’m on a journey. I am currently travelling to Japan to attend Kobe BrickFest.

I left home early this morning and have a couple of connecting flights, with the main leg between Brisbane and Tokyo taking around eight hours. And around that there are a couple of connecting flights.

One of the neat things about travelling to Japan compared to Europe is that the time difference is only one hour in the past. However, as such I should probably aim to keep my body clock on track. So inbetween the LEGO Ninjago Movie and other inflight entertainment, I thought I’d put together a little LEGO set.

I picked up a copy of the Cute Pug 30542 at the supermarket late last week. Now I have bemoaned the general availability of polybags in Australia in the past. However this year, I noticed some of the polybags surfacing in the incredibly small toy section at our local supermarket. (Fun fact: in Australia, LEGO polybag sets can now occasionally be found in your local supermarket). Not feeling inclined to add to my City, friends or Ninjago collection this week (whoops: left my ninja minifigures at home though!) I selected the creator set. I dropped it into my cabin bag with a ziplock bag and waited until I was somewhere between Port Moresby and Tokyo and unpacked it onto a serviette on my tray table.

As a polybag, this is a small set, it does however contain an interesting range of elements including tan bows, some black inverse bows, two tan 1×1 modified bricks with studs on adjacent sides and four round stud with bar.

Instructions come as 10 year old me remembers them: on a single sheet of paper, but with a few more steps than I remember. That’s no so bad: it makes it easier to get the building right. There is a panel referring to online instructions for the two alternative builds. As internet access is not available on Airbus A330-300 I am travelling on today, they won’t get built on this flight!

We start by building the body of the pig, revealing poseable rear legs, as well as a tiltable head. A misplaced plate during construction resulted In a little improvisation with the nose.

Once we have put the dog together, we move on to a fire hydrant. I was challenged here as I lost the red 2x2rojnd brick with peg holes under my chair until later in the flight…

The major challenge to building a small set on the tray table is than small parts have a tendency to fall off the edge. And when the final model is 4x 6.5 studs in size, you can imagine that a significant number of pieces will be small. Ultimately we get a small and, as advertised, cute pug!

Photography on the plane was limited in its utility, but it gives you a general idea of how the set comes together. As you can see, white balance on the phone was a bit unreliable.i

For $5, it’s a good assortment of interesting Black and Tan elements. I give it 4/5 arbitrary praise units.

What’s the most awkward place you have built a LEGO set? Any hints for constructing within a confined space? Why not leave your comments below. Until next time, play well.