Mr. H and I are geeks. I thought I’d better get that out in the open, in case people hadn’t noticed. One of our geek traits is a love of Gundam. We love those mecha.
We have a fair few small plastic representations of Gundam scattered around the house, from mobile suits to fighters to aircraft. Mr. H is the champion out of the pair of us. I’m just a lightweight in comparison.
On our various trips to Japan, we have delighted in the presence of Gundam as a normal thing. From the model outside the Bandai offices in Asakusa close to our hotel on our honeymoon, to the billboards for Gunpla in Osaka, via the B’s Hobby store in Kyoto, the Gundam film soundtracks we picked up in a second hand store near Ryoanji (竜安寺) and the Gundam Café in Akihabara, we have encountered lots of Gundam.
Gundam seemed to be a big thing on our last trip, perhaps because it was the 30th anniversary of the Gunpla franchise (the plastic model kits we love so much).
During our second trip, a lifesize Gundam was on display in Shizuoka, although we sadly weren’t able to make our intended visit to pay homage because of the typhoon rolling in off the Pacific that had already laid some pretty serious waste to Okinawa and would send some horizontal rain our way later in the week, on the day we went to Harajuku.
We stumbled across the model shop B’s Hobby in Kyoto on our way back from a mammoth walk along Teramachi-dōri (寺町通). We’d been for a wander through Nishiki Market and ended up on Shijo-dōri, heading for the subway back to the apartment when we spotted a display of Gundam models.
We went through a small door and down some steep stairs into the shop, which was packed with boxes of model kits – not just Gunpla, but models of Japanese castles, aeroplanes, cars and military vehicles as well, alongside all the tools you need for model making. We were in there for at least an hour, browsing the shelves and trying to choose something small enough to bring back home in our hold luggage.
We also stumbled upon the Gundam Café on our last trip to Akihabara. We were looking for a branch of Tokyu Hands and, following some signs in the JR station, we ended up at the back of the station, across the street from the café. We had read about it online, and seen the pictures of the queues of people waiting to go in when it first opened, but by the time we were in Japan it had been open for a while and was less of a big deal.
We decided to pop in and had a look at the menu. There wasn’t much that a couple of vegetarians could eat, but we could have a cup of tea and a cup of coffee, which came in take-out cups with a Gundam themed hand protector band around it. The style of the café is based on the interior of a mobile suit, with decals on the surfaces warning you about booster thrust and engine heat. Around the walls are cabinets, displaying Gundam models and goodies that can be bought in the small shop next to the café entrance. A plasma screen was showing a short film about the design and production of Gundam model kits, interspersed with clips from computer games and segments from the Gundam films and tv shows. Even the toilet was Gundam themed. My favourite thing in the entire place was the huge Gundam model standing above the bar. He was something to behold.
In the shop, we plumped for a cardboard coaster set from among the vast array of tat on offer, then made our way to the waffle shop outside the café. Here we availed ourselves of a delicious vanilla cream filled waffle, stamped with a picture of Gundam. おいしかったですよ。
Since the life size Gundam at Shizuoka has been broken up (there are allegedly parts of it in a park on Odaiba in Tokyo), maybe next time we visit Japan we’ll pop to Kobe to see the life size Gigantor/Tetsujin 28-go (鉄人28号) they have on display there. He’s not strictly a Gundam, but he is pretty splendid all the same. We saw a toy version guarding some charcoal outside a restaurant on Pontocho last time we were in Kyoto, and I rather fell for him.