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Nanoblock: Tiny Cool Japanese Building Blocks

Updated on June 10, 2014

Creative Construction Toys for Super-Small Spaces

Check out the scaled-down alternative to LEGO blocks! Nanoblocks are the smallest building blocks you can imagine.

Not surprisingly, Nanoblock sets came out of Japan, source of many very cool miniature things we geeky types can't help but crave.

C'mon, admit it -- your Inner Child has always loved LEGO, and if you're anything like me, you've got fond memories of hours spent on the living room, surrounded by those bright plastic building blocks. But who's got the space these days?

Building with the mini Nanoblock bricks will challenge you with a whole new level of skill and dexterity - and even in the smallest of apartments or dorm rooms, you'll have plenty of space to create your own miniature Nanoblock world.

Photo: Assembly Complete: Nanoblock Space Shuttle by DaveFayram, on Flickr

How Small are Nanoblocks? - The Perfect Size for Stocking Stuffers, or for Desktop and Travel Toys - Start a Small Collection!

close-up of Nanoblock Eiffel Tower set with US nickel - Amazon
close-up of Nanoblock Eiffel Tower set with US nickel - Amazon

Compare the base of the completed Nanoblock Eiffel Tower (above) to an American quarter dollar. Amazing, isn't it? When they say micro blocks, they ain't kidding. With the regular edition of Nanoblock architecture sets, you can hold an entire building in the palm of your hand. And there are literally hundreds of pieces in each of those little Nanoblock construction sets!

There are also Nanoblocks Deluxe building models available, if you feel like a real challenge, as well as regular-sized construction sets for animals, aircraft and spacecraft, even Disney characters and more... but let's start back at the beginning, with the story of how I got so fascinated by Nanoblocks in the first place.

Build a Tiny Model of a World Landmark - Nanoblock Architecture

Architectural models are among the most popular of all Nanoblock sets, and the larger Nanoblock Deluxe kits can keep you occupied for days on end. Neuschwanstein Castle, shown here, is easily one of the most popular sets.

I always wanted my own version of Cinderella's castle. :-)

Nanoblock: Neuschwanstein Castle Deluxe Edition Set by Kawada
Nanoblock: Neuschwanstein Castle Deluxe Edition Set by Kawada

A very special large-size nanoblock construction set of Neuschwanstein Castle, the 19th-century Gothic Revival palace of "Mad" King Ludwig II, built on a rugged hill above the Bavarian village of Hohenschwangau, Germany.


It All Started with Nanoblock's Eiffel Tower...

A friend-of-a-friend is semi-obsessed with The Simpsons, the TV series. Her favorite episode is the one where Homer takes the whole family to Blockoland ("Blockoland, not LEGOland. They're different, honest.") and Lisa buys an Eiffel Tower construction set, only to find that her Blocko model is missing a leg...

So, what better Christmas gift for the office Secret Santa exchange, but a Nanoblock Eiffel Tower set? (After all, it's not LEGO!) The original plan, I'm told, was to secretly open the package and take out a few critical pieces... but those Nanoblock pieces are just so darned tiny, that plan was soon dropped.

Intrigued by the whole idea of these teeny-weeny micro-sized building blocks, which I'd never even heard of before, I looked into these Nanoblocks things, and was instantly hooked.

USA Landmarks in Nanoblock Sets

Who doesn't love to build a tiny building? Just imagine the interest you'd get from a home-schooled student if you pulled out a Nanoblock model like one of these patriotic kits, for a unit on United States history or citizenship!

Super-Sized Nanoblock Himeji Castle

One of the most popular Nanoblock buildings, this giant Himeji Castle model would make a great holiday project for the family - or a cool conversation piece and group activity for when you have some friends over. Set it out on a table and let everyone pitch in to fit together the small building bricks, and watch the tiny landmark model take shape in cool detail.

Nanoblock Architecture - Himeji Castle (Non-lego) - 2253 Pieces
Nanoblock Architecture - Himeji Castle (Non-lego) - 2253 Pieces

Perched high on a hilltop in Hyogo prefecture, Japan, this sprawling and intricately detailed castle is considered the finest example of 17th-century Japanese architecture, a must-see item on the itinerary of any tourist to the country who is entranced by Asian cultures and history.


Nanoblock: Anthem - "Building Blocks of Life"

Ad agency Team Detroit Pulse created this fun Nanoblock: Anthem spot for the Japanese toy brand Nanoblocks, when it launched in the United States in August 2011. "The blocks are tweezer tiny, kind of like the pipsqueak version of Legos," says advertising industry mag Creativity Online, "and to show off their itsy bitsy size the agency created this anthem spot" in addition to a whole series of online videos that feature a whole range of tiny Nanoblock-built characters. Check out Nanoblock USA on YouTube to see the little critters in action.

Kawada Nanoblock or Ohio Art Nanoblock

Which is the REAL Nanoblock?

Toy collectors just starting to get into Nanoblock sets often wonder, which is the genuine Nanoblock - Kawada or Ohio Art? The answer is, both are the real deal. Kawada is the name of the Japanese company that created Nanoblock, and Ohio Art is the name of the company that distributes Nanoblock in the United States. Kawada and Ohio Art labels are both a sign of the real Nanoblock product.

Nanoblock Basic

Standard Color Sets

Nanoblock Basic

Black and White Set

Nanoblock Basic

Dark Tone Color Set

The smaller Nanoblock Basic Bricks sets, shown above, are a great way to extend the model kits to make your own original creations - but not all hobby stores in the US, Canada, Europe and Australia are carrying a large number of the Kawada products yet, so some sets are at a premium price. Outside of Japan, Amazon usually has the lowest prices on Nanoblock bricks, but you can often find a real bargain or hard-to-find Nanoblock sets on eBay if you keep a sharp eye on the auctions and sales.

Best Value Basic Set - 1500 Tiny Building Blocks

If you've already got a number of individual model kits then you may prefer to go with one of the smaller Nanoblock Basic Bricks sets above. The 1500-piece Nanoblock set shown below, however, will give you the best "bang for your bucks" - or maybe that should be "bricks for your bucks"!

Nanoblock NB-007 Basic Set
Nanoblock NB-007 Basic Set

This 1500-piece basic set is the best value (cost/piece) if you're just getting started with Nanoblock building bricks and want to "color outside the lines" to make your own original Nanoblock models when you're ready to expand beyond the individual kits and really get creative with your building.


Nanoblock Sets for sale on eBay - Hard-to-Find and Bargain Models

Here in North America, where Nanoblocks are distributed by Ohio Art, you can get a good range of construction sets through the usual retailers, esepcially online, and I've found the best prices tend to be on Amazon. Models not carried by Ohio Art can sometimes be found through the Japanese stores and sellers on Amazon, but the prices will be a smidgen higher as quantities tend to be limited.

If you keep a close eye on eBay, you can sometimes pick up a real collector item -- maybe a set that's available in Nanoblock's home country of Japan, or in Europe where Nanoblocks collectors are already getting pretty serious, but that may not be officially on sale in the American toy and hobby stores just yet -- maybe even a rare Nanoblock building blocks set made in limited numbers and hard to find anywhere!

Are you hooked on Nanoblock yet?

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    • MrChipss profile image

      MrChipss 3 years ago

      Wow, these are quite interesting. Never saw anything like this before. I might have to think about the Space Center!

    • mel-kav profile image

      mel-kav 3 years ago

      Wow - they are tiny!

    • profile image

      seahorse60 3 years ago

      What amazing little blocks! My kids loved lego and I must admit I enjoyed helping them with their creations, so Nanoblocks would make a great gift for them now they're grown up. I would love the Neuschwanstein Castle set, it's so pretty. Thanks for introducing them to me!

    • teamnana profile image

      teamnana 4 years ago

      What a fun building set...and finding space for their creations wouldn't be such a challenge. Such creative ideas!

    • Cari Kay 11 profile image

      Kay 4 years ago

      My son LOVES Legos. We don't have any of these but it sure would be fun building one of those castles!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I'm going to tell my daughter about this. I think she may like to get some for her boyfriend.

    • one SquidAddict profile image

      one SquidAddict 4 years ago

      I would love these for myself but I don't think I have the dexterity or the eyesight anymore. However, I know a son who does! Wish I had found this before Christmas as he will have to wait for his birthday now. Blessed.

    • flycatcherrr profile image

      flycatcherrr 5 years ago

      @Paula Atwell: Recommended age will depend on the age (and abilities) of the kid - of course - and the particular model kit to some extent, but Nanoblocks are generally suggested for 8 years and up. I do know a bright 6-year-old with amazing hand-eye coordination (and a lot of patience) who could handle a Nanoblock kit, but he is pretty special... I think to avoid frustration I wouldn't go younger than 8 or 10, but it's a toy you can take right up through the years - very popular with pre-teens, teens, and college students around here.

    • Paula Atwell profile image

      Paula Atwell 5 years ago from Cleveland, OH

      These are very cool. Do they have a recommended age?

    • veronicatarantino profile image

      veronicatarantino 5 years ago

      Wow.. I didn't even know these existed

    • OrganicMom247 profile image

      OrganicMom247 5 years ago

      Good stuff for kids.

    • profile image

      dannystaple 5 years ago

      Wow - I've been doing Lego stuff for years and not come across these! Awesome. I probably have too much of my flat given over to Lego to start collecting another construction system, but I might try out one of these - I'll have to see about a UK one.

    • PeterStip profile image

      PeterStip 5 years ago

      love lego, the best stuff for kids around. This looks great too.

    • BlissGlutenFree profile image

      BlissGlutenFree 5 years ago

      These look like fun. I hadn't heard about them before. Thanks!

    • shellys-space profile image

      Shelly Sellers 5 years ago from Midwest U.S.A.

      My son would LOVE these...thanks for sharing!

    • esvoytko lm profile image

      esvoytko lm 5 years ago

      Oh my goodness. It would have been better for my wallet and my marriage if I hadn't seen this page and discovered this product. Must resist...

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I am definitely going to get some of these for my son. He's quite the young builder and will love the challenge. Great lens.

    • Aquavel profile image

      Aquavel 5 years ago

      Looks like a mini bundle of great fun! First I've heard of them. Love the creativity and flexibility of Nanoblocks!

    • paperfacets profile image

      Sherry Venegas 5 years ago from La Verne, CA

      Nanoblocks are fascinating. It is something you can take on a jet flight. One can have a whole creation when the jet has landed.

    • sudokunut profile image

      Mark Falco 5 years ago from Reno, Nevada

      First time I heard of these too. Looks like fun and takes up less room than Lego etc.

    • Inkhand profile image

      Inkhand 5 years ago

      Nanoblocks is really fun but addictive. A nice lens.

    • artbyrodriguez profile image

      Beverly Rodriguez 5 years ago from Albany New York

      This is the first I've heard of Nanoblocks. They look like quite a challenge, and fun, too.

    • flycatcherrr profile image

      flycatcherrr 5 years ago

      @darciefrench lm: I like it that they're all Lego-licous, but don't take up so much space. :)

    • darciefrench lm profile image

      darciefrench lm 5 years ago

      Thanks for the fun intro to Nano blocks. We're big lego fans so these are an interesting toy :)

    • Deadicated LM profile image

      Deadicated LM 5 years ago

      Looks addictive but totally awesome to me.