A trip to Japan is simply not complete without visiting a giant robot. And a Gundam robot no less. Apparently, it had originally been placed closer to the waterfront, so that you can get this really epic feeling that the robot was real and standing at the ready for battle. Now it’s in front of the massive Diver City Mall, which is slightly less epic, as it looks more like a commercial attraction, but it’s still pretty cool because it’s “life-size”.
Just to give you a sense of how big this machine is (they plan on making it move, living up to the “mobile suit” part):
Also, here’s me taking a video from foot to head of the robot:
Here’s a 360 video we took of the thing:
Of course, if I see a giant robot, I can’t just take one picture.
I’ve been to Akihabara, the mecca of Japanese anime and video game culture, a bunch of times before, so I wasn’t so keen on going again this trip. When I heard about the Gundam Cafe in Akiba, I figured I would just go to the one in Odaiba since I was going to see the giant robot anyways. Unfortunately, the one in Odaiba isn’t a full restaurant. It was just a sort of satellite cafe that served mostly to-go stuff. Next time I’m in Japan, I guess I’ll have to stop by Akiba again to get the real Gundam Cafe experience.
Fortunately, Diver City is a massive mall. I seriously felt like I was in an American mall in there. One big difference is the food selection is much, much better than at your average American mall. There’s a food court on the first floor, right by the entrance where the giant robot is, that has a huge selection. On the top floor, there are a slew of sit down restaurants, including one of those creepy maid cafes. We opted for the buffet right across from that, which was really awesome because it had a selection of make-your-own ramen and udon, pasta, stir-fry, fruits, etc. Not a Vegas spread, but still great selection you normally wouldn’t find in U.S. buffets. My favorite thing was the mochi bar, where there were plain mochi that you could cover with sesame, peanut, and red bean to your liking.
The giant robot was what brought us to Diver City, but from some reading around online, I found out there was something else Gundam here to explore that we may have missed if we didn’t know about it–Gundam Front. Basically, it’s like a Gundam visitor center and interactive museum. There are parts of it that are free for all visitors, but there are some paid parts, which is about $12 at the door and $10 if you order ahead of time. We were afraid we might have trouble getting tickets so we tried to get them at a 7-Eleven as instructed, but that didn’t work out (something about only certain 7-Elevens being able to sell them), so we just showed up and were able to get in no problem. This was during the weekend after New Years, so despite the holiday, it wasn’t a problem to get in.
To get to Gundam Front, you have to go through Round 1, which is sort of an arcade/bowling alley/karaoke playground of sorts, similar to a Dave & Buster’s but modern pop Asian-style. There is actually a Round 1 at the Puente Hills Mall in San Gabriel Valley, Los Angeles County, so I knew what was up when I saw the sign for it. Gundam Front is located on the 7th floor the opposite end of where the giant robot is actually located (click here for Diver City floorplan map).
Aside from more Giant Robot fun, there is a museum with posters and collectors items form the various Gundam series and movies (there are quite a few), interactive photo ops, a short film shown in an Imax-like dome theater, and even robot themed bathrooms.
I’ve never done model-making myself, but if you’re into models, especially ones of giant robots known as Gunpla, then Gundam Front is a must visit for you. Not only does it have a bunch of them for sale (I’m sure some available here are rare ones) but it has a dedicated museum with the largest and most diverse collection of them.
There’s a gift shop, too, where you can get everything Gundam, including high-end Gundam-themed men’s clothing. I would have bought a Gundam leather jacket if it had not have been so very expensive.
After our date with our giant robot destiny, we headed toward our next destination, but the ride there was also an experience in itself. Next up, Tokyo’s Water Bus.