Review: #21060 Himeji Castle
Easily the most beautiful addition to the LEGO Architecture series in years, this set also features a new element and a good value — but is it one of the best sets in the series?
#21060 Himeji Castle will be released on August 1, 2023. The latest addition to the LEGO Architecture series costs of $159.99 (159.99€ / £139.99 / 209.99 CAD / 259.99 AUD) and contains 2125 pieces. As with other sets in the LEGO Architecture series, it is recommended for ages 18+.
I’ve had the good fortune to have visited most of the buildings featured in the LEGO Architecture series, but have not been to Japan yet. As such, the iconic Himeji Castle is only etched in my mind through the countless photos I’ve seen over the years of the iconic structure perched in an idyllic garden.
Since I do not have first-hand experience with the building, my initial impressions are just that — observations after receiving the set and inspecting the photos on the box for the first time. The first thing I noticed was both the size and weight of the box, which feels a bit larger and heavier than the last standalone set in the series: #21058 Great Pyramid of Giza. (They are actually the same size and almost the same weight.)
In looking a little closer at the front of the box, I am struck by the height of the building above the base, which is significantly increased by the decision to include not only the architectural elements themselves, but the rocky base that it sits upon. I do wonder if the base is a bit too smooth and I’m not sure that 138Sand YellowDark Tan is a very realistic color choice, but both of those choices serve an aesthetic purpose — drawing the eye away from the foundation and up to the bright 1White structure that is punctuated by 199Dark Stone GreyDark Bluish Gray for the roof and other details.
And it’s those smaller details that really get me excited about building this model. The upward curving corners of the roof and clever use of boomerang elements to suggest smaller gables look really nice. I’m eager to actually build the model to see if my initial impressions hold up to further scrutiny, but I am cautiously optimistic that a good balance of simplicity and detailing has been achieved here.
The set comes in a box of similar quality to any other LEGO set, with taped flaps that can be easily cut so the box can be stored flat. Sets in the LEGO Architecture series used to come in a premium box with a recloseable flip top lid, but this is a distant memory by now.
- Box Size: 47.6 × 37.4 × 10.9 cm (18 3/4 × 14 3/4 × 4 1/4”)
- Box Weight: 2452 grams (5.4 lbs)
- Box Density: 126 g/L
- LEGO Parts Weight: 1600 g (3.5 lbs)
- Weight-per-piece: 0.75 g/piece
- Price per piece: $0.075 per piece
- Price per gram: $0.100 per gram.
- Numbered bags/stages: 17
- Pieces per stage (average): 125 pieces.
While The LEGO Group almost always includes numbered stages in new LEGO sets, it is pretty common to get around 250 pieces per bag. This set takes a very different approach, with 17 numbered stages for a set with only around 2000 pieces. This works out to just 125 pieces per stage. (One advantage of having a lot of numbered bags is that it is easy to pause the build process at any time.)
- Bag 1: 1x large bag (marked 619H3), 1x large bag (marked 619H3).
- Bag 2: 1x large bag (marked 719H3).
- Bag 3: 1x extra-large bag (marked 719H3).
- Bag 4: 1x large bag (marked 519H3).
- Bag 5: 1x large bag (marked 519H3).
- Bag 6: 1x large bag (marked 719H3).
- Bag 7: 1x large bag (marked 619H3).
- Bag 8: 1x large bag (marked 419H3).
- Bag 9: 1x medium bag (marked 719H3).
- Bag 10: 1x medium bag (marked 619H3).
- Bag 11: 1x medium bag (marked 719H3).
- Bag 12: 1x small unmakred bag.
- Bag 13: 1x small unmarked bag.
- Bag 14: 1x medium bag (marked 619H3).
- Bag 15: 1x small unmarked bag.
- Bag 16: 1x small unmarked bag.
- Bag 17: 1x small unmarked bag (containing plant elements).
- Cardboard pouch (marked 6458443) containing: 1x Instruction booklet containing 208 pages. 27.0 x 19.2 cm (10 5/8 x 7 5/8”).
Motivated by the beautiful box art, I was excited to open the box and get started.
Bags 1-4: Base
The First Bag is exactly what long-time fans of the LEGO Architecture series would expect. We use a bunch of fairly large plates to create a fairly rigid 2-plate thick base with 1-stud deep edge of Black tile on all four sides. With outer dimensions of 40-studs wide and 34-studs deep, this is quite large for sets in the LEGO Architecture series. (It is slightly smaller than #21058 Great Pyramid of Giza which has a base of 44 × 40 studs.)
Bag 2 continues by adding some depth to the back of the model using 138Sand YellowDark Tan bricks. There are two interesting sub-assemblies in this bag. The first is a small staircase on the right side of the model built using 1/2-stud offsets. The second is a very gently sloping ramp on the left side of the model, which rises just two plates in height across the 8-stud length.
The Third Bag continues with additional layer of bricks in the back of the model. After this, we build a lattice structure which will fill the large void in the back of the model. It connects to the base using six piers and includes a lattice of 192Reddish Brown tiles on top. I believe this is meant to mimic how this style of architecture is built using a wooden post and beam construction technique.
The elevation and landscaping really takes form in Bag 4. The central section is surrounded by 3-brick tall 75° Slopes in 138Sand YellowDark Tan. This helps the building rise above a large landscaped section that is decorated using a mix of studded plates, smooth tiles, and angled plates — all in 151Sand Green. This is an interesting approach as the slender gaps between the sloped plates creates a visual rhythm which helps break up the straight lines.
This bag wraps up the ‘base’ of this model, although it is notable that this is a much taller and parts-intensive base than we usually see of sets in the LEGO Architecture series.
Build Time: 41 minutes. (Bag 1: 8 minutes, Bag 2: 12 minutes, Bag 3: 12 minutes, Bag 4: 9 minutes.)
Bags 5-9: Courtyard
We continue towards the back-left of the model, with white walls capped with rooves made using Gold Bar (part 99563) in 316Titanium MetallicPearl Dark Gray. The pathways are very narrow, reinforcing the grand scale of the central building which we will be assembling soon.
Bag 6 continues to add smaller structures around the right side of the base. This includes a relatively intricate L-shaped module that leverages a lot of half-stud offsets for roof overhangs. This continues in Bag 7 with some additional corridors which are suprisingly well detailed with more overhanging roofs and 297Warm GoldPearl Gold railings.
The instruction booklet reinforces what I had already surmised — that the earthtone LEGO colors used around the building’s exterior were chosen to make the building stand out.
The colours outside the castle are all soft and sandy to keep the castle as the main focal point.
Page 109, Instruction Booklet.
The Eighth Bag adds another row to the drab sloping exterior, although as we are learning from the build process this hides many rooms and corridors at this lowest level. Hidden inside we add a small pagoda-style entrance with a robust wall protecting the courtyard in front of it. Despite not having a chance to visit the building, I am enyoying how the build process gives you a window into the complex interior hidden within.
We conclude this floor in Bag 9 which adds a row of intricate windows high above these interior spaces. The windows are just a series of gaps that are a half-stud wide and one plate tall. Are they designed to bathe the areas below with light from above?
Build Time: 67 minutes. (Bag 5: 12 minutes, Bag 6: 11 minutes, Bag 7: 15 minutes, Bag 8: 12 minutes, Bag 9: 17 minutes.)
Bags 10-12: Tower platform and rear building
We continue working upwards in Bag 10, which starts by adding additional decoration to the corners of the building. Inside this large room, we build a smaller platform that uses the same 192Reddish Brown color we used to create a platform for the lower floor. (I learned much later in the instruction booklet that this interior space represents the council area, and that we will still be able to access it after the model is completed.)
The eleventh bag begins by adding a lot of dark tan tiles comprising an interstitial roofline, upon which we build another floor out of the same tiny windows we saw earlier. The full scale of the Himeji Castle complex is starting to take purchase in my mind. Rather than one monolitic structure, it is actually a large building on the front-right side, and a roughly l-shaped building that surrounds the courtyard on the other three sides. From above, This composition is roughly that of a giant ‘@’ symbol.
Bag 12 completes the roof and the three towers gracing the L-shaped building in the back of the complex. This is the first time we encounter the most iconic ‘Nice Parts Usage’ (NPU) that I noticed on the front of the box — the use of a Boomerang (part 25892) in 199Dark Stone GreyDark Bluish Gray. By pointing the tips downwards, this creates a very effective representation of a gabled roof. This gives an important visual rhythm to the growing model.
Build Time: 50 minutes. (Bag 10: 18 minutes, Bag 11: 15 minutes , Bag 12: 17 minutes.)
Bags 13-16: Central Structure
With just four bags to go, we are closing in on the final stretches of this project as we begin Bag 13. Since we have already completed the rear building, our focus shifts entirely to the building in the front. The most noticeable detail here is the pagoda-style roofing with the iconic upturned corner detailing
While The LEGO Group recently released a somewhat similar 3×3 part, a smaller version without a stud in the corner was needed to achieve the smaller scale needed here. The new part is 2×2 Tile w/ 1 stud and upturned corner (part 4190) — although I will need to find a shorter name for the part before adding this to my LEGO Brick Labels collection! The new element looks great in this context!
In Bags 15 and 16, we quickly complete the three remaining floors. They are unfortunately not designed to be removeable once stacked, butthe designers managed to add some interior details as an easter egg to teach the person building the model a little more about the building. Giving access to these rooms would have been nice, but doesn’t feel critical.
Build Time: 39 minutes. (Bag 13: 11 minutes, Bag 14: 12 minutes , Bag 15: 6 minutes, Bag 16: 10 minutes.)
Bag 17: Foliage
The final stage of the entire set adds some nice foliage details to the grounds. The larger trees are built using five stems which hold six flowers each, for a total of 30 flowers and a very round shape.
With the default configuration, we get two large trees in 141Earth GreenDark Green, and both a large and small tree in 222Light PurpleBright Pink. While I like the additional pop of color, they also provided enough 141Earth GreenDark Green elements to make all of the trees in the less distracting color.
Build Time: 13 minutes.
I am pleased to report that this set offers a completely reasonable value. It fits comfortably in the middle-of-the-road when comparing the price-per-gram metric, which is the most fair assessment I’ve found, since it automatically balances for sets with unusually small or unusually large elements.
|#31203 World Map||$249.99||11,695 pieces||$0.021 per-piece||4020 grams||$0.062 per-gram|
|#21056 Taj Mahal||$119.99||2022 pieces||$0.059 per-piece||1811 grams||$0.066 per-gram|
|#21058 Great Pyramid of Giza||$129.99||1476 pieces||$0.088 per-piece||1832 grams||$0.071 per-gram|
|#77013 Escape from the Lost Tomb||$39.99||600 pieces||$0.067 per-piece||530 grams||$0.075 per-gram|
|#10278 Police Station||$199.99||2923 pieces||$0.068 per-piece||2602 grams||$0.077 per-gram|
|#71741 Ninjago City Gardens||$299.99||5685 pieces||$0.052 per piece||3719 grams||$0.081 per-gram|
|#71043 Hogwarts Castle||$399.99||6020 pieces||$0.066 per-piece||4899 grams||$0.082 per-gram|
|#10292 Friends – The Apartments||$149.99||2048 pieces||$0.073 per-piece||1778 grams||$0.084 per-gram|
|#10297 Boutique Hotel||$199.99||3066 pieces||$0.065 per-piece||2380 grams||$0.084 per-gram|
|#10312 Jazz Club||$229.99||2899 pieces||$0.079 per-piece||2392 grams||$0.096 per-gram|
|#10270 Bookshop||$199.99||2504 pieces||$0.080 per-piece||2085 grams||$0.096 per-gram|
|#10320 Eldorado Fortress||$214.99||2509 pieces||$0.087 per piece||2188 grams||$0.098 per-gram|
|#21060 Himeji Castle (this set)||$159.99||2125 pieces||$0.075 per piece||1600 grams||$0.100 per-gram|
|#10282 Adidas Originals Superstar||$79.99||731 pieces||$0.109 per-piece||735 grams||$0.109 per-gram|
|#10316 Rivendell||$499.99||6167 pieces||$0.081 per piece||4375 grams||$0.114 per-gram|
|#77015 Temple of the Golden Idol||$149.99||1545 pieces||$0.097 per piece||1308 grams||$0.115 per-gram|
|#10305 Lion Knights’ Castle||$399.99||4514 pieces||$0.089 per piece||3265 grams||$0.122 per-gram|
|#77012 Fighter Plane Chase||$34.99||387 pieces||$0.090 per piece||285 grams||$0.123 per-gram|
|#10303 Loop Coaster||$399.99||3756 pieces||$0.106 per-piece||3189 grams||$0.125 per-gram|
|#42146 Liebherr Crawler Crane LR 13000||$699.99||2883 pieces||$0.243 per piece||5100 grams||$0.137 per-gram|
|#60339 Double Loop Stunt Arena||$159.99||865 pieces||$0.267 per-piece||865 grams||$0.185 per-gram|
Note: Prices based on date of initial release. (The LEGO Group increased the price of many older sets in late 2022.)
While it looks like the set is a little below average when comparing price-per-gram, this table includes sets which were released before the pricing reset of late 2022. This further reinforces my perspective that this set offers a good value from an objective perspective.
The best LEGO Architecture models look great on the shelf, but also give you a really rewarding build experience which help you discover many aspects of the iconic building along the way. I am pleased to say that #21060 Himeji Castle is an excellent example of what LEGO Architecture is capable of. Because the structure is not a single monolith, but rather features courtyards, passageways and outer buildings, not to mention being built on a raised area, you get a real sense of topology when building this set. The courtyards are interesting, and the architectural detailing is visible from additional angles.
This puts this set above many others in the series. It has a similar scope and scale to #21058 Great Pyramid of Giza, but is a significantly more interesting building experience. It looks very large compared to earlier sets in the LEGO Architecture series, and even dwarfs 2021’s #21056 Taj Mahal. It nonetheless remains faithful to the underlying LEGO Architecture DNA – it faithfully captures the essence of a building using an economy of parts while helping you learn through play.
Fortunately, for the bean counters out there, this set also represents a good value. $160 for 2125 pieces gives us a price-per-part of $0.075 which is well below the (admittedly flawed) $0.10 baseline which is frequently cited. The price-per-gram is a very repsectable $0.10 per-gram, which is better than average after the pricing reset of late 2022.
This set also offered us a very rare occurence – a completely new element that debuted in a LEGO Architecture set! All of these factors conspire to earn #21060 Himeji Castle the rare Must Have (5/5 star) rating. I hope you enjoy building it as much as I did — it really is the best addition to the LEGO Architecture series since #21030 United States Capitol Building or #21018 United Nations Headquarters (Neither of which I actually reviewed here.)
I do give this high rating with slight reservations, since there is a highly visible color mismatch in the 2x2x3 Slope (part 3684) included in this set. About half of the pieces in my copy have a darker, redder color than we usually see for this color. Fortunately, this issue is isolated to that one part and I strongly suspect that this issue will only affect the first batch of copies. I will update this review if the issue is not resolved quickly.