Japan is a land of contrast between the super modern and the traditional, and none illustrates this better than this scene in April along the Sumida River in Tokyo. The Himiko River Bus plies a route between Odaiba and Asakusa and among the places that she passes are the Sumida Park and Asakusa, both have cherry blossom tries lining the banks of the river. While the Himiko is not really a dedicated hanabune (花船) or flower-viewing boat, many take the opportunity to get some unique riverside views from her deck during the cherry blossom season. Himiko herself is a futuristic-looking river cruise boat with a design inspired by anime spaceships. The designer, Matsumoto Reiji really wanted her to embody all that is fantastic and super-modern about Tokyo and we can all agree that he certainly succeeded. I suspect that this ship actually has a hyper-space reactor hidden in there somewhere. The vessel is named after the first legendary ruler of Yamato Japan, Queen Himiko.
I purposely featured the boat beside a concrete embankment typical of Tokyo along the Sumida River. The actual cherry blossom terraces of Sumida Park are much higher and double-tiered but I took some artistic license to compress it so that we have a composition that is within the scale of the display and conveys the idea of the two main subjects together. Enjoy!
I got this 1/150 scale Fujimi kit of the Himiko sometime back in 2014 but i did not know how to display it apart from just a waterline model with futuristic looks on a water base. Interestingly, the kit includes a 1/1000th scale replica of the Asakusa Senso-ji temple complex. Then recently, while looking at pictures of the Sumida River, I saw the 2021 shots of Sumida Park with rows of cherry blossoms, and it all clicked together. As 1/150th is very close to railway N-scale (1/160), I found that Kato Japan has cherry trees in full sakura mode. I ordered this Cherry Blossom Tree kit directly from Japan and it arrived within one week!
The kit has a large semi-transparent dark blue section that comprises the entire top of the hull and a large sheet of masks (about 165 pieces!). The masks are essential for building this model as the blue windows are the most prominent features of the ship.
I start with attaching the clear blue canopy sections and doors to the main blue upper hull. Careful application of liquid glue along the seams will achieve a good bond as the fit is almost perfect. It is easy to mar the surface of the hull with liquid glue if misapplied so this has to be done with great care.
Then the 165 pieces of masks are carefully applied on the windows. Some masks do require to be cut out although the sheet is already pre-cut. Do not tear the masks to avoid a jagged finish.
There are many tiny bits of plastic for the hand-rails, upper hull fittings and even the two aerofoil dorsal canards to fit onto the upper hull.
I chose Alclad II metal lacquers for the high gloss finish of the hull. First, I prime the upper hull with Alclad II High Gloss Primer. This is critical to prevent the metal lacquer from attacking and crazing the plastic. It also provides a smooth high gloss surface for the White Aluminum lacquer that gets applied after. The end result is amazing.
Once the masks are removed, the effect is stunning. Alclad metallic finish is one of the best for model kits, plus it provides a very tough, and surprisingly abrasion-resistant paint finish even without varnishes. The metal finish is also ideal for decals without any surface preparation needed.
The lower hull is a simple shallow tub that I painted Tamiya NATO Black, and dotted with little silver capstans and railing.
Decals are added to the upper hull, and then the two halves are joined with the help of liquid glue. The river boat is completed!
The base itself is fitted with a balsa wood pier and railway cork bed used for the embankment wall. I placed the tree trunks to check for positioning and effect.
While waiting for the plaster to dry on the pier, I made the cherry blossom trees using liquid spray glue provided in the Kato kit, followed by a liberal sprinkling of light pink powder for the blossoms on the trees.
The diorama is prepped for the trees and the river boat. The “water” is Tamiya IJA Green, The embankment wall is painted Tamiya Sky Grey XF19, and green grass powder used for the park and creepers overflowing the walls.
The waves are sculpted with a thick brush application of Liquitex Gloss Heavy Gel, and then the wake is white plaster diluted with some water and applied with a brush, The water surface is given further gloss effect with Pledge Floor Polish applied with a soft broad brush. The trees with their blossoms are inserted last onto the tree stumps.