Japan Brickfest 2019 happened last June 8-9, 2019. This year marks their 5th year anniversary and is my 3rd year attending the LEGO Kobe Fan Festival.

In this post you’ll find my JBF 2019 report and I’ll be breaking it down as follows:

  1. Pre-JBF Prep Work
  2. JBF report
    1. Event Overview
    2. Floor Layout
    3. My Display Area
    4. VIP Party with PhLUG
    5. Exhibit Photos
      1. Mechs
      2. Everything Else
      3. with AFOLs
  3. Intro to Mecha Building Workshop 
  4. Loot and goodies
  5. Conclusion

And since I forgot to write about my Taiwan AFOL meetup, I’ll add at in the end of this post 🙂 

Lastly, a What’s next section for what I’ll be up to for the remaining of June and 2019 🙂


Happy 5th Anniversary JBF!

I. Pre-JBF2019 Prep Work

I always look forward to June because of JBF and is the LEGO event I make the most preparations for yearly. I’ve been preparing for JBF 2019 as early as July 2018 (right after JBF 2018) with new builds, newer ways to present my creations, updating my workshop presentation, instructions, frame kits, etc. 

For JBF 2019, I was contacted by Mikiさん, the wife of Edwin Knight. They are the organizers of JBF and are part of Kansai LUG (K-LUG). Mikiさん got in touch with me sometime early 2019 asking if I could hold my Mecha Building workshop again for 2019. I was also honored to be asked to do a short article on Mecha building for the souvenir booklet, and create a poster design to be distributed to AFOL displaying participants, both of which I happily agreed to do. 

Mecha Building Workshop

The Mecha Building workshop presentation I’ve been doing for the last 3 years was actually originally a whole day workshop, but was trimmed down to be just about Mecha Frame building, specifically as to how I did it with my reFrame V3. 

The presentation I used for 2018 was later updated for AFOL Festival 2018 and was further updated for JBF 2019. Some newer slides were added in. I also have to give a huge thank you to Burihikoさん, an AFOL based in Japan, for providing Nihongo translations for my whole presentation. 

Booklet Write Up

Since 2018, JBF organizers have given out a souvenir booklet as part of the entrance fee / part of the table registration fee. 

The booklet has some articles in both EN and JP and has a collection of MOCs from the participants at the end. This year’s booklet though had way more articles and was thicker. I wrote a compressed version on how I build mechs and detailed a few things like anatomy and conceptualizing mecha builds. 

I’ll be updating the reFrame V3 instructions to include this as a mini-tutorial on mecha building within the year 🙂 

Poster Design

I had a few different ideas on how to do the poster design and initially wanted to do a composite/collage of multiple mech builds like how I did my 2018 postcard design. I decided though that I’d make use of the new Hangars that I specifically built for JBF and house in the Explorer in it because who doesn’t love Classic Space? 😛 

Part of the poster design was making the 5th year JBF logo and Mikiさん liked it so much that they decided to use it for the event. 

JBF 5th Year Logo Fun Fact

The logo was made using Mecabricks’ X-Ray render and retraced / cleaned up in Adobe Illustrator. It uses only existing LEGO elements to create the shapes except the outermost ring where the text is. The star on the outermost ring is still the LEGO 1×1 star piece though. 

II. JBF Day 1 and 2 report

Event Overview

This year’s JBF had a reported 350 AFOL participants doing display tables which is a lot more compared to 2018’s 270+ participants. There was also a significant increase in non-Asia builders which was a pleasant surprise. Personally, I was happy to see in person the works of Marius Herrmann, Nick Trotta, and Stijn / Red Spacecat as I’ve known them on Flickr for a while now and follow their sci-fi builds quite closely. 

Aside from the AFOL participants, there were also some LEGO employees who visited JBF. Niek Van Slagmaat was the guest LEGO Set Designer this year so he had a signing session by the LEGO pop-up store. I also saw Jan Beyer, Nico Vas, Mel Caddick, Signe Lonholdt, and Kevin Ahn. Even Mr. Bo Kristensen, head of LEGO Japan, dropped by on Day 1. 

Jan Beyer also made a blog post over the LAN about his trip to JBF 2019 which you can read here 🙂 

Signing with Niek

One of the highlights of this year’s JBF for me was being able to have my Lendy-signed Voltron postcard signed by Niek, making it a postcard with both Fan Designer and LEGO Set Designer’s signatures. I actually wanted to bring a bigger thing (flattened box / instruction manuals, actual Voltron build) for signing, but didn’t have any more space in my luggage. Thank you so much Niek and it was great meeting you. 😀

Postcard getting signed
Fanboi moment haha
Our FLCL Canti builds
Floor Layout

As with the previous years of JBF, there’s a total of 3 display areas. 2 of those are Gym-sized displays and the 3rd is a smaller Black Box Theatre. 

Gym 1 is usually where the foreign exhibitors display and Gym 2 is the Japanese builders display space. The Black Box theatre is for the Kansai LUG display where some special care display pieces are placed. 

You can click on the floor plans below to see who displayed at what tables. (Floor plans courtesy of K-LUG / JBF organizers)

Gym 1 – Mostly Foreign Builders

Gym 2 – Japanese Builders

Black Box Theatre – KLUG

My Display Area

For this year, I brought less mecha builds at only 9 reFrame builds compared to last year’s 14. Part of the reason for this was due to us flying in late on Friday’s ingress day and we weren’t sure if we could make the ingress time cut off (we didn’t). We had to set up on the morning of Day 1 and my workshop was at 11am of the same day so it was a really tight schedule.

I was also bringing a lot more printed material, some reFrame V3 kits, and my two 32×32 mecha hangars that was used for the poster / postcard design. I also brought a few Brickheadz and my K-VRC build. Part of my booth was a selling area for the physical versions of my existing instructions and my reFrame V3 kits. 

Also would like to take this opportunity to say thanks to my fiance Eds, and our friends, Angel, Kat (not in pic), and JM (not in pic), for helping man the booth and sell the instructions.  

I’ll definitely be improving on this setup and will be streamlining the buying/selling process for next year.

Angel (Left), Eds my Fiance (right)

JBF Highlight while selling kits 
I brought with me reFrame V3 kits (instructions + parts) to sell at my area and during day 2, there was this Japanese boy with his mom who just wanted a kit so bad.

He actually stared at it for quite some time, asked a few questions, and had this sparkling eyes look on him. I let him hold the basic reFrame a few times, flip through the instructions, and take his time deciding. His mom was also very encouraging of him, not rushing the boy and letting him really decide. 

I kind of saw my younger self in the boy and what it was like growing up and seeing stuff you’d like and just having your imagination go nuts. I imagined that if I was this kid, attending an event like JBF and seeing something that really piqued my interest, what kind of adult would I be (as the one manning the booth) to not encourage this young man and give him the chance to explore a hobby. 

I decided to sell him a kit for half off (originally priced at 5,000 Yen) and he replied with “まじ⁈” or “seriously?!”. His mom had the same reaction.

I mean why not right? The kid definitely showed he wanted it so bad that he was in front of the frame for roughly 10-15 minutes, deciding if he’d get it.

He pulled out the payment of 2,500円 from his own pockets (probably why it took him so long to decide, his mom wasn’t paying), waited for me to pack a new kit for him, and happily went on his way while saying thank you. 

I believe that as adults in a creative hobby, it’s your duty to try and encourage the younger generation to try out new things. 😀 

VIP Party with my PhLUG buddies

A couple friends from my home LUG, PhLUG  or the Philippine LEGO Users Group, also attended JBF this year and while we weren’t seated beside each other in Gym 1, we were able to sit together for the dinner party.

Being MOCers, we decided to do alt builds of the JBF 2019 freebie kit, but with the limitation that I couldn’t build a mech and they had to build a mech. I ended up making a crow and they made awesome tiny robots. 😀

Hopefully next year, there’ll be more AFOLs from the Philippines attending JBF! 🙂

Alt Build group picture
Chestnut (top middle), Neil (top right), Inez (bottom left), and Bryan (Bottom Right).
reFrame V3 Kit [VER BLACK] JBF 2019 Limited

At the end of Day 1, there’s always an auction of limited sets donated by various participants and LEGO. Some sets auctioned in the past were limited signed sets, LEGO House exclusives, Holiday exclusives, etc. 

This year I donated a special black reFrame kit, signed and sealed specifically for JBF 2019. While not completely black, it would have as much black parts as possible in the frame assembly.

It went for 11,000円. I was surprised, very happy and super thankful it fetched that price as it would help the organizers plan JBF 2020.

Exhibit Photos

Due to time constraints and just being more busy at my booth this year, I decided to prioritize photo documentation of various mech builds from all 3 display areas. I did take pictures of some non-mech builds that I particularly enjoyed either due to their design or extra feature their build had. 

It’s quite impossible for me to label all the builds to their respective builders so I’m separating them into Mechs vs everything else.

Images will be compressed down so if you see a photo of your build in here and you’d like a better resolution copy, feel free to message me for it. 🙂 

Mech/ Mecha/ Robot/ Droid / Bionicle Builds

Seeing all the mecha builds in JBF is always such a treat and they always gets better every year. I personally see Japan as the haven for anything mecha-related (Mecha Mecha!) and always look up to the Japanese builders and meetups when it comes to LEGO mecha building. This year’s mech / mecha LEGO builds ranged from the cute small ones to the big mean ones.

Most of the builds in Gym 1 were made with System exteriors (probably a mix of System + Technic interiors). There were builds from cartoons, anime, video games, completely original designs, and some collaboration pieces with comic artists (special mention to the Silver Sprout Group and their Felix Ip Hong Kong Machines collaboration pieces :D).

Gym 2 had quite a large number of really impressive Bionicle builds with a huge chunk of the builds coming from the Bignicle build group. What I loved about these Bionicle pieces weren’t just how big they’d get, but how they had such a strong character and concept to each build. Even the sexybot style ones showed easily identifiable concepts per build and that’s such a key thing when it comes to mech building.

I also made intentional stops over at the Brick Mecha Avengers (BMA) area which was right across Zizy and Yoshikazu Saito’s tables. I wanted to pick up booklets from the BMA, specifically Kumarkey’s build collection. As for Zizy’s table, I had to just get his Let’s Build Robo 8 and his military vehicles book. 😀 

The Black Box Theatre specifically housed the 5 Gundam builds from HK builders Timothy, Arzlan, Herbert, Schneider, and Jacky. They built the Dom, Sinanju, Nu Gundam, Ex-S Gundam, and Unicorn Gundam respectively. Mad respect to these 5 gentlemen. 😀 

Overall, the mech builds in JBF were exemplary and I highly suggest anyone who looooves LEGO mecha building to try and attend one JBF someday. I don’t think you’ll find another event with this many LEGO mech/ mecha/ robot builds. 🙂 

Everything Else

Being a mecha builder, I tend to focus a lot on the mech stuff in JBF, but it’s really hard to ignore everything else as there’s a ton of creativity with the builds seen in JBF. 

There’s a lot of Japanese video game, anime, and manga related builds especially in Gym 2. Fate Go, a popular mobile game in Japan, also had quite a few Brickheadz builds in the entire JBF. 

Sachiko Akinagaさん’s builds were as usual a visual treat. I always enjoy seeing her builds in person as she creates such whimsical sculptures using basic pieces. 

There were also tables filled with aircrafts and planes, tanks, battleships, etc. I wasn’t able to take a really close look at most of them though so hopefully next year I’ll be able to pay more attention to them. 

There were a number of train dioramas as well. Notable ones for me was Masao Hidakaさん’s brick built monorail as it is always impressive. Near the Gym 2 entrance was a huge train display as well that surprisingly had a Fabuland themed train area. An awesome throwback to such a cute theme from LEGO in the 80s. 

Pics with fellow AFOLs
I’m making it a goal for JBF 2020 to get more photos with other AFOLs (on my camera) haha!

III. Intro to Mecha Building Workshop

As explained earlier in this post, I was invited to do my Introduction to Brick Mecha Building workshop again for JBF 2019.

The contents of which were 85% carried over from last years’, but with a few additions to the content and Japanese translations added in the presentation. 

The workshop is aimed as a mecha building basics lecture, focusing heavily on creating mecha builds starting from a frame / skeleton structure. Personally, this is how I build mechs and advocate the process as it has proven quite effective for me over the past several years of LEGO mecha building. 

As part of the workshop, I had participants hold actual frame models of the reFrame V3 with varying differences that were later explained in the presentation. An interesting question came from Ralph Savelsberg during the Q&A regarding what dream piece would I wish LEGO would produce. I answered a 1×1 plate with stud on the underside (how I wish!).

I also received some input from the workshop participants on what could be improved with the presentation. One recommendation was to include GIFs of certain parts moving as everything in my presentation were static slides. I’ll definitely be looking into this for next year. 😀 

Huge thanks to Burihiko-san for providing a Japanese translated version of my workshop presentation.
He was also the same person who helped me translate my head building tutorial that you can find here.

You can show him some love by following him over at his social media accounts: Twitter, Instagram, and Flickr.

IV. Loot and Goodies

Part of attending JBF is getting quite a bit of stuff from the event from fellow exhibitors and the organizers.

JBF Participation Loot
The first thing you get from JBF comes from the organizers via your table / entrance registration. I’m not quite sure what you get as an attendee (non-exhibitor) so what I’ve listed here is the things you get as a JBF2019 AFOL exhibitor.

Upon table registration and payment, you get a souvenir booklet, the 5th year anniversary sticker, a JBF 2019 1×8 brick badge, and the Swamp Buggy freebie set. 

The JBF 2019 fan was courtesy of Masao Hidakaさん who gave it away for exhibitors as the ingress tends to gets quite sweaty. 😛 

If you join the VIP Party, you get the souvenir set designed by Mike Dung (comes in 2 variants), a JBF 2019 exclusive minifig (male and female depending on your gender? or I just landed with the boy) and an Xtra LEGO polybag (not in pic). 

It’s JBF culture that as a participant, you trade postcard-sized printouts of your MOCs with other participants. It’s a great way to meet new AFOLs, talk about what you build, and get something back to remember them by (I’m honestly bad at names so having these help! :P) 

Books and Publications
When I planned my first JBF trip back in 2017, I learned that Zizy would be attending and would be selling his LEGO mecha books. I went and bought one of each of his books and have made it a point to always do so every year if he releases anything new.

I was also lucky to see the works of PPOINANIKA and have done the same thing with his publications as they contain some really good LEGO mecha building. This year I’m adding stuff from Kumarkey, the BMA’s Archive booklet, and the Bignicle group’s booklet. They were kind enough to sign the print materials too so that’s a nice souvenir for me to add to my collection of LEGO publications.  

Brick Mecha Avengers LEGO Kit
I saw over at Twitter a few months back that the BMA guys were selling a starting mech kit and wanted one as a souvenir. I actually missed buying this last JBF so decided to get one this year. I think it was roughly 3,000 Yen? 

Quite a good starting point for a small-medium sized mech build with a decent amount of joint pieces, brackets, and attachment points for armor. I’ll probably fiddle around with it in the future and see what I can come up with at this size.

Brick Badges
Brick Badges are sort of a trophy or medal you bring back with you when you attend a specific LEGO event. I got a few this year from Mocer League (ML), the Korea Brick Party (Woonhyun Jeong was my display table neighbor and we chatted a bit about KBP. I want to go!), and The Brother’s Brick (TBB) guys who gave me one for being featured on their site (soooo sweeet!). It was also nice meeting the guys from TBB as I’ve only known them online and that’s one of the fun things about JBF; meeting people you’ve only interacted with digitally and finally being able to meet them and shake their hands in person! 

Printed Pieces
Silver Sprout group gave me their limited 2×2 printed tile and I got 2 tiles from Edd and PJ of Brick Sanity. PJ also gave me two puppies and I’ll forever treasure them. Also got another tile from Minifigs.net. The red Bionicle mask was from the Bignicle booth as a freebie when you buy their booklet. 😀 

Calling Cards
Japan has a default business card culture so having some on you to exchange is similar to the postcards, but on a more professional level. Actually during my first JBF year, all I had was calling cards, but have made postcards for exchanging since last year. I did exchange a few with some AFOLs this year, but still not as many as postcards exchanges.

Received a few kind gestures from several AFOLs who gave a little more than your usual postcard. Zio Chao gave me his 2020 Calendar featuring National/State Landmarks, Arzlan gave a collection of his works over a 10-year span, Hoshin Cho gave us LEGO minifigure shaped handmade soap by his wife and I got a LEGO Classic Space pin from Chris Yu

I happened to sit beside Niek during the quiz / auction segment and beside him was Nico Vas who pulled out this Nexo Knights Polybag (apparently a magazine exclusive). He handed one to me and I happily accepted! 😀 I love these little guys and the trans green pieces they have are nice pieces to use for mecha building. 

Signed Voltron Postcard by Niek and Lendy
Ah yes the most prized piece of paper in my entire LEGO collection haha! When I asked Niek to sign this he mentioned that very few people had both his and Lendy’s signature on one item so it was such a treat to have. I placed this in the cabinet where I keep my built Voltron set and just puts a smile on my face every time I see it. 

I’m not a LEGO set or rare item collector, but I grew up watching Mecha anime a lot. When LEGO announced that they would be producing the Voltron set as an official set, I knew that I just had to get a signed copy of or part of it, so this was a dream come true for me. 

I’m really hoping that LEGO produces more Japanese Mecha sets. I’d flip over if they get something like Gurren Lagann as an official set or maybe a Gundam! 😛 

V. Conclusion

This year’s JBF was definitely better than last year’s and I’m glad the event just keeps getting better every year. 

I felt that this year, I was more busy first due to selling more items, second due to interacting with more builders. It was great catching up with friends I met in the previous JBF years in person. Meeting new English-speaking AFOLs (hi to Nick, Stijn, and Marius) meant more talking and that’s a good thing! It was great being able to talk to them as I’ve known them for a while through Flickr. 

I also finally got to meet some folks behind The Brother’s Brick. Ralph attended my workshop and had a good chat at his table about his Japanese vehicles (I’d love to see your military builds in person if you come again next year :D). My discussion with Andrew about the differences between JBF and other bigger LEGO events was insightful and made me want to visit other conventions more. I’ve actually known Edwinder as he’s part of the BMD FB group but seeing him in person was a nice surprise. 

Display-wise, I think the exhibits are getting better and better as every JBF passes. A lot of the displays are really creative and would make you go ooooh and ahhh. They’ll range from the cute / kawaii かわいい to the cool / kakkoii かっこいい. 

Moving forward, there’s always that drive to build better right after JBF. In fact, the planning for JBF 2020 begins the moment JBF 2019 ends. Personally, I note down what I could have improved on and how I’ll do it the night after JBF day 2 ends as the experience is still fresh. 

If you’re reading this article and have not personally been to JBF, I seriously recommend considering it, especially if you like mecha ;P and well anything Japanese. You’ll find tons of it in LEGO form at JBF.

It’s also a great chance to be able to meet fellow AFOLs from Asia, sometimes also from Europe or the Americas. You’ll also be able to meet LEGO designers, employees, community managers and key people and just have a bigger and better idea of the LEGO hobby. 

Bonus: Taiwan 2019 recap

I went to Taiwan with my fiance and future mother-in-law last April and met up with a few folks that I got to see again at JBF 2019.

Cid and Daniel from ML met us in Taichung, around an hour away from Taipei. We had a small meetup with 2 other members over some milk tea and it was a fun little gathering. 

They were kind enough to give me this box of LEGO goodies containing 2 ML Overwatch Postcards, A daruma Brickheadz build, a custom-printed minifig torso with an Overwatch logo on the chest, an ML brick separator (not in pic), and a mini Bastion build by Daniel. 😀 

Once we headed back to Taipei, I met up with Zio Chao, Mike Dung, and An (not in pic). We were supposed to have braised beef noodles, but ended up just eating at Taipei station mall due to hunger. A Facebook mishap due to the apps crashing for more than 2 hours that afternoon delayed our meetup so we just decided to head back to our hotel after dinner for a brief Lego chat. I owe you guys some noodles next time haha! 😛 

A few days later, Zio was kind enough to meet me at BidBuy4U, a local LEGO shop in Taipei. Zio explained that they didn’t have an official LEGO store in Taiwan so stores like BidBuy4U filled that gap. The store itself was quite nice with a ton of parts for sale, a Pick A Brick wall, a make your own minifig section, sets in the lower floor, loose minifigs, cafe area, and custom sets and minifigs. They also offer LEGO piece printing services. 

Definitely need to take a return trip to Taiwan as the LEGO time was way too short. Also, lesson learned on having a backup way to communicate with Zio and Mike instead of just relying on social media like Facebook. 😛 

What's next?

With JBF done, I’m focusing on ToyCon PH 2019. It’s the biggest local toy event that happens yearly in the Philippines and it’ll be on June 28-30. 

I’ll be joining a few local and international toy designers in the toy design section and will be showcasing my original design LEGO mecha so feel free to drop by and say hello if you’re attending. 🙂 

I’ll also be updating the reFrame v3 instructions and maybe push to release 1 or 2 more finished reFrame instructions before the year ends so please look forward to that.

Outside LEGO, I’ll be focusing mostly on my wedding preparations so if you suddenly stop hearing from me, it’s most likely due to me focusing on my personal stuff. 😛 

reFRAME v3 Instruction Manual

The reFrame System is a modular brick skeleton aimed to help both new and veternan brick mech builders create their own designs in a consistent size with modular capabilities. It was originally designed to be a basis for all my mechs in the Mech Wars universe. Having gone through a number of upgrades, the V3 reFrame can now house a minifigure pilot in the chest without sacrificing aesthetic or articulation.

If you liked this article then you can help me out create more LEGO mech content by clicking the PayPal donate button below. Your monetary contribution, no matter how big or small, will definitely help me a lot in sustaining this passion 😀 

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