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Lighting a Japanese Temple

Actual Temple Kit

I'd decided it was time to light the temple after building the Torii for the entrance. This temple was the Tomytec Japanese Temple A (Main Building) and is still available for purchase from most Japanese online hobby retailers.

I've slapped LEDs in buildings before, but this time I also wanted to add lanterns to the front of the shop. I'd made the lanterns before, as in my previous attempts of creating the Torii, but I was to make a few changes this time as I wasn't totally impressed with the previous outcome.

Creating the lanterns

There was a slight change this time to creating the lanterns... instead of cutting them and sliding them over the LEDs, I shaved them down to fit and inserted them into the center of the tubing. This all worked well, but you must be careful when shaving down the LEDs as you can destroy them quite easily. To shave the LEDs, I held them in pliers in one hand and filed away with my pocket knife. It was pretty obvious to feel when you were no longer filing away at plastic and, unfortunately, this was usually the demise of the LED.

Shaving down LEDs LED inside plastic tubing

Mounting the lanterns

I used the same copper winding wire that I always do and bent it into a rectangular shape to fit the roof of the temple. I then started soldering the lanterns in place.

Lantern on wire Using wire to frame lanterns in place

I then pulled out the trusty Selleys Aquadere and, using random aligator clips found on the bench, glued the lanterns in place.

Gluing down lanterns in place Aligator clips do wonders

I also put two standard 3mm white LEDs in the center of the ceiling for building lights.

Central building lights

The finished product

After the glue had dried, I tested all the LEDs and found that I'd broken the front-left lantern. This was 24hours after starting the project and frustrating. I quickly removed it from the temple and filed another LED down. I left it dry again, overnight, after testing, gluing and testing again.

Finally, yesterday, I was able to hook it up to my Arduino LED Controller. It worked perfectly and I took the opportunity to test my night-time photography skills.

Finished job View past the city And the Torii
A different view Night time Top Platform

Now to settle the landscape around it.


Creating a Shrine Torii Entrance

After checking out more of the work by tanaka_ace on the Tounosawa Blog, I've decided to add a Japanese Shrine to my layout. I've extended the upper level to allow room for a kit I bought in Japan last September and have created a path back to the main town area.

As with any Shrine in Japan, the grounds are seen as sacred and insulated from the surrounding area; usually by either high walls or thick vegetation with a Torii gate for the entrance. I'll be adding the walls in soon enough, but prior to doing so I wanted to make sure I had all of the buildings and scenery effects in place.

The first thing to create was the Torii gate entrance. Tanaka_ace on his Tounosawa Blog had created a very nice gate with LED lanterns added. This is all based off a real-life location at the Tounosawa Station on the Hakone Tozan Railway. He had also created a blog post showing what he based the model off.

My version

I've used the same gauge winding wire I'd used for my level crossing lights, streetlights and building lighting. With this I've also used 1/16" brass pole for the main frame of the gate because I wanted to emulate wood rather than a cylindrical concrete post this time. This also provided a little more room to squeeze the wires through. Each length needed to be cut down to size and then filed back. I used standard snips to cut the brass, a smaller saw would've been a better idea.

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I based the size on the path that I had already created on the layout. I didn't really have a real-life prototype to work off and made a lot of it up as I went. The final size was around 50mm wide and I could fit 5 lanterns in. Below you can see the framing taking place.

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I then started cutting out the holes to feed the wire through. I used my trusty pocket-knife as the brass was quite soft. I also used a wire cut off a resistor to clean out the tubes of any metal shavings. The entrances created for the wires would have sharp edges and could scrape off the insulation on the wires, so I made the holes as big as possible.

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Once the holes were cut, I fed the wires through as a test. I then constructed the frame with solder. At this point I accidently overheated the wires on the left side. This caused one to ground and I then couldn't successfully light 1 of the 5 LEDs. I took more care the second time around when soldering the frame back together.

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I added a quick roof to the frame as tanaka_ace had done with his second version.

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Now that the frame and LEDs were in place, I could go about turning them into lanterns. This would be done by putting plastic piping around them. I had already done this with a fixed lantern on a TomyTec Japanese Shop, but this time I had no existing lanterns to work with. I therefore used the same concept as tanaka_ace.

Thanks to globalisation, I was able to acquire the exact same "Evergreen Scale Models" poly-piping that he used. I happened to purchase 3.2mm pipe instead of the 2.4mm; but this worked out well as the LEDs that I was using were a little bigger. The pipe was cut into appropriate lengths and then the edges rounded down to create the lantern shape. The individual lanterns were then sliced at the back so that I could slide them over the LEDs. I then used stock-standard Shelleys Aquadhere to fill in the ends.

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Once these were holding in place, I painted the frame a nice wood-brown. Torii gates can be made of wood or stone and painted a multitude of colours. You more often than not will see them in brown wood, but bright red, and even out in the ocean, is not uncommon.


And that was it... I still think I need to place some characters on the lanterns, but I need to work out what to write on them. I also should've taken more care to get the lanterns even, but I was happy enough with the outcome and, once in place on the layout, knew it would be good enough.

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Now that the entrance is in place, it's time to get the fences and shrine in. As you can see, the foundations are there already and I'm currently working on adding lanterns and lights to the shrine.