While I await for more bricks to continue the building, I thought I’d share a few LEGO stories from my recent visit to Japan. The space-constrained Japanese obviously love their bricks, with the miniaturized LEGO clones Nanoblocks and Palmo Blocks available in abundance, but LEGO is also prominently and somewhat uniquely on show in the land of the rising sun. Let me start off by showing what the Japanese LEGO catalog and Click Brick Book catalog (from local LEGO Click Brick stores) look like. Note that LEGO is celebrating its 50th birthday in Japan, distribution over there started in 1962.

The regular catalog is mostly like the European variant (namely Finland in my case), with the same cover, although inside a different order of themes indicates differing priorities. It starts off with Ninjago, placing major emphasis on the collectible cards – ever so popular in Japan – and ends with DUPLO and Friends. In comparison, in Finland DUPLO is in the beginning and Ninjago in the middle without any such card descriptions.

The Click Brick Book, also a free catalog, is an interesting-looking guide to similarly named LEGO lifestyle stores. It includes MOCs by local LEGO builders, complete with their photographs and those funky Japanese poses. There is also a photographic list of LEGO sets. The Lord of the Rings is previewed on one of the later pages, showing the impregnable Helm’s Deep. (Note: You can click the images for larger versions.)

Finally, here is a table illustrating the different order of themes in LEGO catalogs (spring 2012, Finland and Japan). While the Japanese reading direction is traditionally reverse compared to the west, both catalogs are printed and page numbered in western style to be browsed from left to right, so they are thus comparable. The Japanese catalog does have a secondary Friends cover on the back, so it works in the other direction too.

Subtle differences there. Ninjago and Friends are clearly… big in Japan. On the other hand, it’s not easy when you’re a big block in Japan – DUPLO enjoys a lot less catalog attention than it gets in Finland. The Japanese seem to like their bricks small.