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Nanoblock: Building a Niche Under the Radar

A closer look at the micro-sized building block maker and LEGO competitor from Japan

Thierry Maout
The Startup
Published in
10 min readSep 17, 2020

I have always enjoyed games and toys, and while playing video games when you’re over 30 is widely accepted nowadays, playing with brick toys to build miniature stuff is not quite up there with the coolest grown-up hobbies (for most people). For that reason probably, and because I have been moving around a lot, I haven't really played LEGO bricks for the past ten years or so, save for the occasional afternoon with my niece when I am back home.

Rewinding back to 2018 and I am wandering around San Francisco’s Japantown mall by myself on a Saturday afternoon, bored and looking to spend money I don’t have when I stumbled upon something amazing. Something I didn’t know I needed in my life:

Miniature panda Nanoblock set and its packaging

I can safely say that this tiny panda instantly won me over. I was under its cuteness spell and wanted to try building it of course, but I was also intrigued by the packaging and the overall design, something I’ve always admired with Japanese products since I traveled there a few years ago (another topic for another time). I bought the toy and brought it back to my overpriced, underequipped single room in the Tendernob. It took me under an hour to build it, and I was hooked.

So what is Nanoblock?

“With elements of construction of 5 mm high, nanoblock ® is, the most incredible construction game in the world. It allows to build mini figurines of an unequalled precision.” (source)

Nanoblock is the “Original micro-sized building block”, a building hobby from Japan with its smallest block measuring 4mm x 4mm x 5mm. That’s super tiny.

Intricate Nanoblock castle set resting inside a hand
(Source: Julie Strietelmeier at The Gadgeteer)

Building these takes time and precision and feels oddly therapeutic. While I’ve had experience with…



Thierry Maout
The Startup

Jack of all trades, master of some. Vancouver-based, I write about tech, business, MMA and education. Mostly in English, but sometimes in French too.