Saturday, June 20, 2009

Giant Gundam Gathers Gawking Geeks in Tokyo

Giant Gundam Gathers Gawking Geeks in Tokyo
59-Foot Tall Model of Iconic Japanese Anime Character Unveiled 

1:1 scale model of Japanese Anime Icon - Gundam

A giant cultural icon has come to roost in Tokyo this summer. It's not Godzilla nor UltraMan. It's the mobile suit known as Gundam, the model RX-78 to be precise. To mark the 30th Anniversary of the popular anime series Gundam, a 1:1 scale model of the iconic mobile suit has been constructed and set up on the island of Odaiba in Tokyo Bay. The model has 50 points of lights, mist emitting from several places, and a head which revolves left and right and upward. Periodically sound-effects and the theme song to the old animated series plays from the structure itself. The life-size model is composed of fiberglass-reinforced plastic on a steel frame. The Gundam mobile suit stands at 18 meters/59 feet tall.

Gundam is a giant piloted mobile suit; not a robot


The animated show debuted in 1979 and has spawned a number of spin-offs, action figures, comics, and video games. Gundam was influential in the robot-style anime. In other shows, robot characters had a quasi-mystical aspect and many were nigh indestructible. In Gundam, the robots were mobile suits piloted by humans. The humans were the focus of the show while their mobile suits were treated like a vehicle rather than a personified entity.

The Gundam series has had a big impact on Japanese pop-culture

Mist emits from the Gundam Model

The Gundam model is not a robot as any obsessive follower of the anime and similar anime can tell you. It's a mecha which is a piloted vehicle not automated or remote controlled. Gundam is a mobile suit piloted by humans. It's much like a tank or a plane and as such runs on a finite source of energy and can be damaged to the point of destruction unlike the robot/mecha of the semi-mystical type. 

Say "Cheese!"


As for myself, prior to coming to Japan there was a significant Gundam Gap in my Japanese anime experience. When I was really young, I used to watch syndicated shows of Speed Racer and Star Blazers which came out before Gundam and in my later youth I watch Voltron and Robotech which followed the Gundam series. I had no idea who or what a Gundam was.

Gundam - after hours

There are many mobile suit types in the Gundam series but the RX-78 is the most widely recognizable

My first encounter with Gundam was at the local video arcade in Tokyo. During my first year in Japan, I came across an arcade game where you could fight against two robot opponents alongside a partner. Other people could join in either to become your partner or most times your opponent.



Gundam It!
Virtual Humiliation


The following is an account of one of my first encounters with Gundam at a video arcade place in Tokyo:

The game begins, my robot (sorry! mecha) lifts gracefully off the ground with its temporary boosters as I look for my foe. Bam! Suddenly I'm falling like a brick. 
Where the hell did that come from? I wonder. My robot has barely picked himself off the ground before he's knocked down again. I haven't even seen the jerk - I mean, my opponent, yet.

When I pick myself up the third time, a hurtling hulk of metal comes out of nowhere and slams into me. My robotic opponent starts twirling some kind of lazer baton which deflects the only shot I manage to get off. Before I can fire again, he's on top of me carving me up like a Thanksgiving Turkey. This is definitely not a Computer Opponent. There's a hint of geeky malice and haughty distain for newbies behind the attacks.

Mercifully, my robot explodes before suffering any further degradation. Seconds later, my reincarnated form comes dropping out of the sky and I'm off to avenge my former life. I fire a few shots at my hated enemy which he again deflects with that damn twirly thing. He zaps me by jumping up into the air and firing on the way down so I can't see the shot till it's too late.

After peppering me with a few potshots, he moves in for the kill. I valiantly run away as fast as I can. I search for my computer partner who has been nowhere to be found during this virtual Waterloo. I find him napping and kick his robotic butt into the fray. While my human opponent slices and dices my luckless partner, I go in search of his computer partner for a little crap-rolls-down-hill vengeance. I waste the poor computer partner fairly quickly but before I can do a victory dance that damn twirling baton of bullshit lays into me.

I get knocked down three times in a row without getting a chance to lay a finger on the guy. I explode yet again this time both onscreen and off as I pound the buttons in rage. I hear a nervous high pitch maniacal giggle from the game console on the other side.

Oh, it was on now! It was a geek-off! I plunk another coin in the machine and get slaughtered before the coin reaches to the bottom of the coin box. $10 and 10 minutes later, I've had enough. I go over to the other side to congratulate my opponent on his skills then I smash his youthful pimply face into the video game screen repeatedly. Ok! I'm lying! I just stormed out of the arcade envisioning me smashing my unseen foe's face into the screen. 

There are 50 different points of light on the Gundam model


Recently, they have come out with Arcade pods where you can play in your own enclosed pod and you have more than just a joystick and few buttons to control your mecha. The arcade pod game is based on a credit system in which you can purchase upgrades and weapons. I found it too expensive not to mention too confusing to play very much.

The Gundam model stands at 18 meters (59 feet) high

Gundam doing his "Great Balls of Fire" impression

My next encounter with Gundam was a giant Gundam float made of washi - harden Japanese paper - up in the Aomori Prefecture. In August, the town of Goshogawara puts on a festival called Tachi Neputa which has a number of tall floats, some as tall as 22 meters. The year I went they had a 14 meter float in the shape of the classic Gundam model RX-78.

A 14 meter Tall Gundam Float in Aomori


The Tokyo Gundam model's major debut will be July 10th and it will remain standing throughout the summer.



A Gundam Sunset


Thursday, June 11, 2009

In Japan You Can Have Jesus Body

In Japan, forget about the mystical metaphysical mess of Transubstantiation of transforming bread and wine into the Body of Jesus. You can have Jesus Body in easy to take tablets.

WARNING! Pregnant women, those with demonic possession, vampires, and others of the unholy undead should seek medical and mystical advice before using.

I like the poetic nonsense on the front:
"New Discovery to be kept secret from others.
This discovery is a secret.
I can lay it down because I am correct.
We will not make you sorry.
Pleasure to have the real thing.
I really longed for this."

It's like something out of the DaVinci Code except not as lame.


Thursday, May 21, 2009

Tokyo Design Festa Vids May 2008

Tokyo Design Festa May 2008

The Tokyo Design Festa is a semi-annual event where artists, craftsmen, performers, musicians, film-makers, and what-not gather from all over the world to exhibit their creations.

It's a weekend of artistic chaos!

Ghostly Lady from Tokyo Design Festa

Here's a little avant-garde weirdness from Tokyo Design Festa.

She's from Taiwan and was one of the performers at the Design Festa

Drumming Rabbits - Usagi Taiko Group

This footage is from the Tokyo Design Festa of the female Taiko Drum Group known as Usagi. Usagi means rabbit in Japanese.

Crazy Angel Company

Here's a bit of a big band I caught at Tokyo Design Festa called Crazy Angel Company.

They have a lot of energy and it shows in their performance.

Scenes from Three Bands from Tokyo Design Festa

Here's a small slice of the music scene in Tokyo.

This vid is brief snippets of three bands I caught at Tokyo Design Festa.




The Eyeball Love Globe Group

Take a dip into the surreal and the avant-garde with the Taiwanese performance group - the Eyeball Love Globe group.

The Eyeball Love Globe performed at the Tokyo Design Festa this past May and have done so a few other times before being one of the popular re-occuring performances at the exhibition.

the music for two of the segements is from Seven Cycle Theory:

Shinobi-Try - Ninja Dance Group

Shinobi Try is Ninja Dance Group who mix martial arts with dancing

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Shout-out for Tokyo Design Festa May 2009

This is a quick shout-out to all Tokyo dwellers and visitors to check out the Tokyo Design Festa this coming weekend: May 16-17 from 11:00-19:00.

The Design Festa is a weekend of artistic chaos - wild performances, musicians, painters, sculptors, etc...

Design Festa

For those who can't make it you can follow the madness semi-live on the blog at:

Design Festa Blog

Thru-out the weekend, photos, videos, and interviews will be uploaded within minutes more or less of all the craziness.

Tokyo Design Festa May 2008

Check out my vids from last year's event at this playlist:
Design Festa Vids

For artists out there if you feel like coming to Japan and exhibiting your work check out the site and watch the fun!

Tokyo Design Festa

Artistic Chaos!!!
The Tokyo Design Festa – a chaotic ensemble of art

The Tokyo Design Festa

Anime fan wearing an all handmade costume

As I entered the futuristic-looking Tokyo Big Site building on Odaiba Island, I was greeted by a person with the head of fish. Beyond him/her/it and all about the place wandered a colorful assortment of strange characters which appeared to have been born in fertile imaginations bred on Japanese Anime, Gothic Horror, and Salvador Dali. It was then that I knew I had reached my destination: the Tokyo Design Festa.

Fishhead man advertising

Getting a leg up or two at Tokyo Design Festa

Usagi – Drumming Rabbits – Female Taiko Group

Design Festa is a chaotic showcase of artists, musicians, craftsmen, designers, dancers, and performers – the sublime mixed with the avant garde. The Design Festa takes place twice a year in Tokyo and has been going on for 14 years.

A Wild Wall

Artists come from all over the world to participate. Booths are set up to showcase their creations and crafts. Visitors can look at, handle, and purchase their favorite pieces. In addition they have the chance to talk with the artist to learn more about them and their artwork.

An artist below one of her works

Painter creating art at the Festa

For artists, the Design Festa gives them the opportunity to get their work noticed and possibly sold. The event is a breeding ground for future art as a lot of networking goes on between artists which can lead to potential collabrations.

Pint-size masters at work

Ninja getting down with their badselves

A twirling ghost

There is so much to see, do, and absorb in a weekend at Design Festa. The place is literally a beehive of activity. There are performances to see, workshops to attend, bands to hear, painters to watch, and oddity to puzzle over.

Geisha Gone Godzilla

Panda Man! He eats, shoots, and leaves.

Some of the booths offer short workshops to teach visitors a bit their craft. I tried my hand at the ancient art of Japanese calligraphy. Calligraphy in old Japan was considered an all important skill. In the far off days of the Heian Period (794-1192), a person’s calligraphy was believed to be a mirror of their character. I would have been laughed out of the Heian Court with my paltry attempt at the turtle kanji character. My turtle looked a bit more like a sickly chicken strung up by clumsy anti-poultry vigilantes. My teacher, a ten year old girl, was patient with me and guided me as best as she could.

Me with my Calligrapher Teacher

Anime School Girl Calligrapher

At a makeup special effects booth, visitors were able to get horrific body scars which didn’t hurt a bit. I got myself a nice deep scar running down my arm which later fooled a few drunks at my local bar.

I got scarred at Tokyo Design Festa

There were several fantasical creations from this booth wandering around surprising the unwary and small children. One was tall elegant alien creature frighteningly realistic but fortunately sweetenly demure.

A very realistic alien courtesy of special effects make up

Another creation was a ghastly sculpture of a half-tree half-woman monster with the severed head of a man in her/its hand. Her/Its roots were nourished with the blood and gore of other men. It was a macarbe cocktail of environmentalism and feminism blended horrifically together.

Environmental Feminism at its goriest

A samurai fiercely guarding his booth

Along with the countless booths, there are a variety of showings throughout the day in different sections of the event area. Bands, short films, musicians, eclectic performers can be seen outside, upstairs, and in the main hall. I was able to see rock bands, taiko drum groups, naughty nurses, a gyrating eyeball man, and a dancing ninja troupe.

A band performing at the outdoor stage

Guitarist licks lips as he rips licks

The Bufferins – naughty pain relievers

One of the popular returning performance groups is Mr. Eyeball Love Globe from Taiwan. The group is headed by man with an enormous eyeball as his head. His outfit is covered with a similar pattern. His story from his flyer is that he is an alien here to spread love. The Eyeball group was one of the most out-there groups and attracted a lot of attention. They have been to Design Festa several times before.

Mr Eyeball Love Globe Group from Taiwan

Avant-Garde at its Warholian best

Design Festa takes place twice a year in May and November. For more information please check:


About Me

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Tokyo, Japan
Vagabond traveler currently hold up in Tokyo. I've done a far bit of traveling and had a few interesting adventures along the way. This blog is a chronicle of adventures past and present and those yet to come. I’ve been to about 30 countries though some no bigger than a kitchen table. I’ve run with the bulls of Pamplona, hiked the Inca Trail, got mugged in Mexico City, floated down the Nile in an old boat, climbed the Great Pyramid of Egypt, got ripped at Oktoberfest, and rode the notorious Tokyo Yamanote Halloween Party Train.