How to Build a Japanese Pagoda

Written by cameron holmes
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How to Build a Japanese Pagoda
A five-tier Japanese pagoda. (eastern pagoda image by Bohanka from

Standing at 55 meters high, the pagoda of Toji is the tallest wooden tower in Japan. Most Japanese pagodas are 5-tier wooden structures with prominent tiled roofs. Unfortunately, because of their delicate structure, many ancient pagodas were destroyed by fire. Despite their vulnerability to fire, pagodas are resistant to earthquakes and typhoons. What makes these pagodas even more remarkable is the five tiers that represent Earth's five elements --- wood, fire, earth, metal and water. Create a smaller scale, 3-tier pagoda for festive holiday celebrations or events.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Ruler
  • Dark brown paint
  • Light brown paint
  • Paintbrush
  • 3 jewellery gift boxes, 2-by-1 inches, 3-by-3 inches and 4-by-4 inches
  • 4-by-6, 3-by-5 and 2-by-4 inch cardstock
  • Pencil
  • Scissors
  • Craft glue

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  1. 1

    Draw two medium-sized square windows on each gift box with a pencil. Paint each box deep brown without colouring the windows. Set aside all three boxes for 25 minutes to allow them to dry.

  2. 2

    Use sharp scissors to cut out 4-by-6, 3-by-5 and 2-by-4 rectangles from the cardstock. These will be used as the overhanging roofs which appear on most Japanese pagodas. Paint all three sheets a lighter shade of brown to offset the deep brown hue of the boxes. Lay aside to dry.

  3. 3

    Set the 4-by-4 inch box as the base of the pagoda. Apply a strip of glue to the bottom of the 4-by-6 inch piece of cardstock and paste it on top of the 4-by-4 box. Glue the 3-by-3 inch box on top of the 4-by-6 inch cardstock. Glue the 3-by-5 inch cardstock on top of the 3-by-3 inch box. Then, glue the 2-by-1 inch box on top of the 3-by-5 inch piece of cardstock. Paste the final cardstock, the 2-by-4 piece, on top of the 2-by-1 inch box.

  4. 4

    Allow your pagoda structure to dry for at least 30 minutes.

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