Tag: Gundam

Odaiba: Protected By A Giant Japanese Robot

Chances are you’ve seen a Gundam even if the name seems unfamiliar.

Gundam are sleek androform robots piloted by humans and often seen wielding massive guns, utility-pole-size katanas and other outrageous weaponry.

The name Gundam is synonymous with “Japanese robot,” and the IP is one of the top 15 highest-grossing media properties in the world, putting it in the same company as franchises like Star Wars, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the Batman/DC Comics universe and Lord of the Rings.

In other words, Gundam is serious business in Asia.

A typical Gundam figurine assembled from a model kit.

The cult franchise began with a 1979 cartoon series and expanded to include movies, manga and spinoffs, but the real moneymakers are plastic model kits of the many mecha in the wider Gundam universe. Gundam mecha account for 90 percent of all model kit sales in Japan, and they’re wildly popular worldwide, including the United States.

With all of that in mind, maybe it’ll seem a little less crazy that Tokyo has a life-size Gundam standing guard over Odaiba in a major commercial plaza. The 24-meter (78-foot) statue is impressive in its own right, but at night it reaches new levels of awesomeness when the robot’s lights activate, bathing the behemoth in ambient crimson.

Life size Gundam
A life-size Unicorn Gundam statue keeps watch over the Odaiba district of Tokyo.
Life-size Gundam in Tokyo
Facing out from the complex, Unicorn Gundam seems to guard Diver City.

After spending a few hours wandering Tokyo’s incredible Digital Art Lab, it was past sundown and pouring when we reached the statue. I got soaked for my efforts, but it was worth it to see the iconic mecha with my own eyes.

To provide a sense of scale, the average adult male is about as tall as the Gundam’s ankle.

Every half hour after sundown passersby can watch the Gundam transform between “Unicorn Mode” and “Destroy Mode.” Panels and sections on the robot’s torso fold into a new, more aggressive-looking pose, while alternate lights are activated and more protective armor encases the machine’s head.

Life-size Gundam in Tokyo
A close-up shows the illumination of the Unicorn Gundam statue at night.
Tokyo’s life-size Unicorn Gundam statue
The statue is remarkably detailed and captures the sleek — and iconic — look of the franchise’s mecha.


Shibuya: Where Dogs Rule

Every day on his way home from work, Hidesaburō Ueno would step off the train at Shibuya Station and find his Akita dog, Hachiko, waiting for him.

Hachiko adored Ueno, an agriculture engineering professor at Tokyo Imperial University, now called the University of Tokyo.

Then one day Ueno was in mid-lecture in front of a class of students when he suffered a brain hemorrhage and died on the spot.

For the first time, Hachiko went to Shibuya Station and didn’t see his beloved human step off the train to greet him.

The little dog went back the next day. And the next. And the day after that.

Hachiko went to the Shibuya Station every day for the next 10 years, until he died of old age.


Today the world’s most loyal dog is remembered with a statue at Shibuya Crossing, the world’s busiest intersection.

It’s a place marked by impermanence — three thousand pedestrians traverse Shibuya’s scramble crossing during every traffic light cycle, and thousands of faces come and go on the array of massive video screens overlooking the intersection.

The one thing that never changes is Hachiko, standing in the same spot he returned to every day, eternally keeping watch for his buddy.


In 2015, the University of Tokyo unveiled a new statue on its campus, reuniting Hachiko with Ueno in the afterlife:


Photo credit: Joyce Lam/TimeOut Tokyo

Finally, who’s that dapper fellow pouring sake? That’s my man Satoshi, bartender at what he translated as a “little drink box” —- one of Shibuya’s tiny bars, dozens of which are packed into alleys between the main streets.


Satoshi’s bar seats five people, so we drank with two Tokyo natives who kindly humored me and my questions while my brother did his best at translating. He’s pretty good! I’m proud of him for learning the language so well, even though he insists he’s not very good.

Today I return to Shibuya to help my sister-in-law find a birthday present for my brother, and my next stop is Odaiba to meet a life-size Gundam RX-0 Unicorn.


Photo credit: Tom Roseveare

Note: All photos by Big Buddy unless noted. The photos of Shibuya Crossing were taken from an observation platform on the rooftop of a nearby building.