Sunday, January 15, 2023

Welcoming 2023 With Tokyo's Giant Gundam Robit

 -- Susan, every other Sunday

For my first post of 2023 (the Year of the Rabbit, on the Chinese Zodiac Calendar), I thought we'd take a virtual trip to one of Tokyo's most beloved attractions: the giant Unicorn Gundam at Diver City Center, in Odaiba.

Odaiba is an artificial island (technically, a group of islands) in Tokyo Bay. Originally, the islands served as a military fort (the literal meaning of "daiba" (台場) in Japanese) designed to protect Tokyo against attacks from the sea - specifically, from Commodore Perry and his famed "Black Ships" (which I blogged about here last year).

Redevelopment of the islands into a shopping and entertainment district began in the 1980s, although the area didn't really take off until the Yurikamome Monorail opened for business in the 1990s--and its status as a tourist destination was cemented in 2012, when the first "life-sized" Gundam statue was installed outside the Diver City Shopping Center.

In 2020, the original gundam was replaced by the current version, a 19.7-meter "Unicorn Gundam" modeled after the RX-0 Unicorn Gundam, the suit that lent its name to the Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn films and novel.

Techspeak's a REALLY BIG ROBOT

"Gundam" is short for "Mobile Suit Gundam" - a popular Japanese anime TV show (and manga/graphic novel series) featuring massive, mechanized military "robots" piloted by humans - in space. 

The Unicorn Gundam at Diver City

While the concept sounds a little like it was invented by a toddler hyped up on halloween candy and carbonated drinks (GIANT FIGHTING ROBOTS! FIFTY FEET TALL! WITH LASERS FOR EYES AND GIANT SWORDS! AND THEY FLY! IN SPACE!) the Gundam franchise has endured for more than forty years, and remains one of Japan's most beloved series.

Rumors said the Tokyo gundam statue was going to be dismantled yet again, after the opening of the Gundam Factory Yokohama--which has an even larger life-sized gundam that really walks. (Sadly, that installation is temporary too, and scheduled to close in March 2023.) 

Standing watch over Diver City

However, two years on, it's still here, with no sign of an imminent departure.

On weekends, the stage behind and to the right of the gundam is home to live JPop performances - which, as you can see, draw quite a crowd. 

JPop at Diver City near the Gundam

The Diver City center itself is home to a wide range of shops and restaurants (as the pun in the name implies), including a Gundam Base that sells memorabilia and treats based on the Gundam franchise.  It's a fun place to walk around, or shop, or even just go and eat.

My pick: the gyukatsu (beef filet, panko breaded and deep fried) set below. The covered bowls contain rice and soup, and the small bowl to the left of the beef and cabbage slaw near the top is an onsen tamago - a Japanese-style soft-boiled egg.

After dinner, it's time to head back outside to catch one of the Unicorn Gundam's regular shows. The robot transforms from "Unicorn Mode" (the peaceful mode) to combat "destroy" mode several times a day - and after dark, the transformation includes some pretty cool light displays.

Unicorn Gundam at Night

As a self-proclaimed history nerd, I spend most of my time immersed in the history, and historical culture, of Japan - but one thing I love about this country, and Tokyo in particular, is the immense diversity of options for everything from food to entertainment.

Welcome to 2023!

And since my resolution for 2023 is to lean more heavily into joy of all kinds, wherever it can be found, that also means spending more time investigating the wild, weird, wonderful aspects of my adopted country--from tasty treats to giant robots.

So far, I'd say the year is off to a pretty good start.


  1. Wonderful, Susan. I love it that the Peaceable Robot's head kinds looks like the the top of the Chrysler building!! AA

  2. I love the play off everywhere in Japan between the ultra modern and traditional.

    1. Stan, I really do too. It's yet another of the many things I adore about this country.

  3. I love them, they're all so crazy wonderful!

  4. I always love your posts, Susan, but this one offers a chilling view of what the future could look like if chatbots have their way. Some say that in the not too distant future humans will be able to use their brains to control powerful (Chrysler Building size?) robot bodies as if they were their own. Transformers Unite!

    1. As long as it's still us controlling the robots, and not the other way around...