2010 Tohoku Armor Modeler’s Conference in Aomori (June 6, 2010)
“Heaven doesn’t make any model better than others, nor does it make any model worse than others.”
For Japanese modelers, the Armor Modeler’s Conference events held at various locations around Japan are both a source of recreational fun and a serious forum in which to compare their skills with those of other modelers in competition. This event was established in Tokyo over 30 years ago by the legendary military modeling club Kampfgruppe 7. From there the event spread to various areas around Japan, such as the Tokai, Chukyo, Kansai, Kyushu, Chugoku, and Hokkaido areas. Three years ago events began being held in the Tohoku region, with events being held in Akita, Morioka, and this year in Aomori city. I was able to participate in the Morioka event last year, and this year’s event in Aoshima. So, here’s my report on the 2010 Armor Modeler’s Conference in Aomori!
This year the event was held in Aomori City, Aomori Prefecture, located in the northern part of Japan. From Tokyo it’s about a 700 kilometer drive by expressway, or just a one hour flight by plane.
I took the cheapest way there: overnight highway bus (a round trip ticket is only 15,000 yen)! The event was held on a Sunday, and I wanted to arrive the day before, so I took a 10:30pm Friday night bus. It takes over 9 hours by expressway, so I arrived in Aomori City at about 8am Saturday morning.
Aomori City is perched at the northernmost tip of the main Japanese island of Honshu, and in the past was the main entrance to the northernmost main Japanese island of Hokkaido, as you can see from this photo of modern Aomori. Before aircraft became the normal means of travel, and even before the undersea tunnel was built between Aomori and Hokkaido, travelers and cargo would come by train from afar and be loaded onto special ferries for the trip to Hokkaido, crossing the Tsugaru Strait and arriving in Hakodate. In those days ports and towns flourished and prospered as stopover points. Times have changed, and now air travel and the undersea tunnel are the normal ways people and cargo travel to Hokkaido. Due to that, the area seems a bit less prosperous than before. Even so, a new bullet train line will be established between Aomori City and Hachinohe City, also in Aomori Prefecture. With its beautiful mountains and sea as attractive tourist draws, Aomori is sure to benefit from the new train line.
A pre-event party was held the night before, and we were lucky to have the chairman of Tamiya himself, Mr. Shunsaku Tamiya in attendance! He just happened to be in Aomori on a business trip and was able to attend the party (and the event). Modelers came from as far away as Kyushu (Japan’s southernmost main island) to attend this year’s event, and many attended the pre-event party. Of course, there were follow-on second and even third parties afterwards, and we were able to enjoy some of Aomori’s nightlife.
The main event was held on the fourth floor of long-established Aomori City-based Sakura Department Store. The event space on the fourth floor didn’t open until normal store business hours on Sunday, so when the store opened the modelers carrying their big boxes poured in along with the shoppers. After registration, the magnificent works of modeling were spread out over the waiting display tables.
Visitors were able to enjoy viewing the amazing sample works (not for competition) displayed at the club tables positioned around the display area.
The sample works were mostly military vehicles, but there were also fine examples of science fiction, historical figures, and even huge armored trains.
Tamiya had a sample of their new 1/35-scale BT-7 on display, long before it was available for sale. The guest corner included dioramas by local professional modeler Hideki Shimawaki and ex-Armour Modeling editor Masahiro Doi, plus a display and demonstration of valuable motorized Tamiya models from the “Tamiya Models Historical Research Center.”
Special guest modeler “Centauro” also had some works on display, with one diorama featuring a scene of a Hungarian Army Zrinyi self-propelled gun. The rare Zrinyi kit was from a Hungarian garage kit maker. Nice to see such an unusual scene!
Although this is an “AFV Meeting,” there was also a display of excellent 1/700-scale ships by local professional modeler Akiharu Takumi. I have always been impressed with his works in the pages of magazines, but to view them in person was a real treat. Absolutely amazing models!
During the morning, special guest Mr. Tamiya held an autograph signing session, with many nervous modelers lining up to get an autograph…nerves turning into smiles when they got to meet and talk to the very friendly Mr. Tamiya!
From here I’ll introduce works entered into the general competition. On the upper left is a very nicely done Tamiya King Tiger, with particularly nice weathering…reading the entry card, its says this was the modeler’s first attempt at building a model tank! Wow, these Aomori modelers have a lot of talent! The Tamiya Jagtiger on the upper right was painted entirely with artist’s acrylic gauche, not normal modeling paints. The Tamiya Tiger I early production on the lower left was detailed with a selection of aftermarket parts. The model on the lower right is a Tamiya Panzer III Ausf. L with figures from the Panther G kit.
This entry came from Akita Prefecture. The photos underneath show the real vehicle as photographed by US soldiers. These photos were used by the modeler as references to accurately detail Tamiya’s Jagtiger kit, particularly in recreating areas like the armor’s thickness.
On the left is a model of German tank ace Ernst Barkmann’s No. 424 Panther A tank, in a scene from the battles in the Coutances area of Normandy. The kit is from Dragon. The Panther G on the left is also from a Dragon kit. The tank with fresh troops heading towards the battlefront contrasted with the injured troops falling back to the rear tells a compelling story.
The photo above shows 1/48 and 1/35 Tamiya Universal Carriers, built by father and son modelers. The son built the 1/48 model, and it was his first AFV model. Let’s hope he continues to enjoy modeling with his father! Below the Universal Carries is a Tamiya Churchill kit modified to represent an AVRE (Armored Vehicle Royal Engineers) vehicle.
Here are a couple of “different” works. The Tamiya 1/35 Tilly above has been modified with the addition of a supercharger and wheels from a die-cast car to create a “hot rod Tilly.” Under that is a nostalgic re-release of the old 1/24 Monogram “Rommel’s Rod,” a Tim Daniels design of the 1960s.
This Jagdpanther-like tank with pig crewman is an original tank destroyer design called the Aureole II, based on a Dragon kit. It looks like a rather viable design! The Panzer II under construction on the right featured hand-made photo-etched metal detail parts. Can’t wait to see this one finished!
The model on the left is the 1/9-scale Dragon (originally ESCI) kit of the German BMW R75 motorcycle, and featured special detailing. The modeler mainly builds motorcycle and car models, this being his first foray into military modeling. He used his deep knowledge of motorcycles to realistically recreate all the hoses, cables, and wires on the R75…just like the real thing! The center photo shows the 1/35-scale Great Wall Hobbies SWS Uhu halftrack. The conjectural camouflage scheme featured unobtrusive and infra-red absorbing black paint. On the right is Tamiya’s 1/48-scale Kommandeurwagen. Representing a vehicle serving in the Ardennes during winter, the snow and fogged windows were realistically recreated…which is easy to understand since modelers here in Aomori are used to seeing such wintery conditions!
Here’s a nostalgic kit! This is the 1/76 German Secret Strong Point kit, previously released by Arii and Eidai, and most recently by Micro Ace. In order to display the base interior, the modeler raised the upper level up on a plastic rod.
On the left is the 1/35 Tamiya/Italeri Italian P-40 tank , entered by a modeler who came all the way from Kyushu! The fine camouflage was created using thin strips of double-sided tape for masking. On the right is Tamiya’s M26 Pershing, beautifully finished in a slightly lightened Olive Drab finish.
The Tamiya Challenger Mk. 1 on the left was an emotional entry, brought by a modeler who finished the kit started by his modeling club leader who passed away before he could finish it (basic assembly and detailing had been finished). The center photo shows Dragon’s early T-72 with ERA, built by a modeler new to military modeling…although you couldn’t tell that by the fine build and painting on the model! Very well done. The model on the right is a 1/76-scale Fujimi Japanese Type 90 MBT modified to represent the type as seen in the game “Gun Griffon.” Bringing 2D subjects into the 3D world is another fun aspect of modeling!
On the upper left is Pit-Road’s Type 92 Light Armored Vehicle (early type), released in November of 2009. The upper right shows Tamiya’s Type 97 medium tank in a fictional German three-tone camouflage. Even the bow machine gun is a German type! On the lower left is the Fine Molds’ Type 5 Chi-Ri prototype tank, too late to join the war. Uncharacteristic for a Japanese tank, the Type 5’s massive size and formidable firepower is well shown here. On the lower right is the Fine Molds Type 97 medium tank with the addition of a resin mine flail (similar to that as seen on the Sherman Crab), representing a Chi-Yu mine-clearing tank.
The upper left photo shows a scene of two Grant tanks, one with a deceptive truck-like camouflage cover installed. The truck cover is from Neo Models, with the Grant under it being the old Tamiya kit. The uncovered Grant is the newer Academy kit. On the upper right is the Tamiya SAS Jeep moving through a North African village setting. The lower left photo shows Tamiya’s Sd.Kfz. 223 armored car. The modeler’s excellent work completely covered the fact that this is a very old kit! In the lower right photo a Tamiya (maybe!) armored car shares a diorama with Tamiya and Dragon figures, depicting a break in the action in North Africa.
This amazing work was voted by the participants as winner of the grand prize. With its volume, composition, clear theme, and brilliant technical execution, it was a clear winner! The sunflowers in the background are from Dio Park. This modeler also took home a trophy from last year’s show in Morioka.
In the afternoon, Mr. Tamiya gave a slide presentation about his trip to gather technical information at tank museums in Russia and Finland last year. After that, the winners of the competition were announced, and I along with Mr. Tamiya and Masahiro Doi presented the awards to the winners. There was much applause for these great modelers and there fantastic works! To wrap things up, the special guests gave their thoughts and impressions of the event, and with that, the “2010 Tohoku Armor Modeler’s Conference in Aomori” came to a very successful conclusion.
The next day some of the special guests visited the symbol of Aomori, the Hakkouda-Maru, a massive ferry now permanently docked and turned into a museum dedicated to the history of the port. Inside the ship, rail cars are used as libraries, and there is complete access to all the rooms, the pilothouse, and even the giant engines on the ship. You can see it all! It was a great experience, filled with nostalgia even for those of us who never actually experienced the era of the ferry.
So, after those wonderful experiences in Aomori, I headed back to my normal life in Kanto. What a great modeling event! I am very thankful to all the staff who worked so hard to make the event a success, and of course to all the wonderful modelers who converged in Aomori to share their passion for the hobby with their fellow modelers. A very memorable event! And to all, Happy Modeling!