He’s a big guy

We decided to take a little road trip to Yokohama. Wilf and I have been there before – its about an hour on the train from Tokyo. It has an important place in the history of modern Japan, as it was one of the first ports to engage with the West after Japan opened itself to foreign trade. Yokohama was transformed from a small fishing port to a major port and industrial centre very quickly in the latter part of the 19th century. Beer making came to the country via Yokohama, for one thing. The city had become a bustling concern with many western style brick buildings when the twin disasters of the great Kanto earthquake of 1923 and the bombings of the Second World War occurred. Yokohama was rebuilt, and more recently parts of the industrial and commercial waterfront have been reclaimed as lively people based places. There is a beautiful European style garden along the waterfront promenade and the old customs warehouses have been re-purposed as event spaces. One of the big events held there every year is a huge Oktoberfest. Wilf was very disappointed to have missed it this year.

There is a huge ferris wheel and a gondola to connect the waterfront to the rest of the city. And amidst all the history there is one very modern thing to see.

This guy:

Meet Gundam. I’ll let Wikipedia introduce him to you:

Gundam is a Japanese military fiction media franchise. The franchise features giant robots, or mecha, with the name “Gundam”.

The franchise began on April 7, 1979. The popularity of the series and its merchandise spawned a franchise that includes 50 TV series, films and OVAs as well as manga, novels and video games, along with a whole industry of plastic model kits known as Gunpla which makes up 90 percent of the Japanese character plastic-model market.

The Gundam franchise had grossed over $5 billion in retail sales by 2000.By 2022, annual revenue of the Gundam franchise reached ¥101.7 billion per year,¥44.2 billion of which was retail sales of toys and hobby items.

Those are some pretty big numbers! Most people I’ve talked to at home assume that Gundam is related to the Transformers franchise, but this is something else completely. It is this huge thing, and if you know, you know. If not – you are oblivious.

Let me back up a bit so you can see the whole thing.

The above photo was taken outside of the facility. You can see him from a long way away. See the people in the glassed in balconys? Those are the truly faithful fans, those who wanted to get up close and personal. We decided we would go into the facility to watch the show.

Here’s a video- its quite long, so don’t feel like you have to watch it all. It was a windy day, so there is wind noise. At about the 4minute 30 seconds point Gundam himself begins to speak. From the music and tone of the speaker I think perhaps he is having an existential crisis of some kind- I can’t make out enough of what the voices are saying to know for sure. In my mind it is a great quasi Shakespearean drama. But then again, maybe not.

After watching him come out of his building, move about, rest, then retreat to his building we headed to the gift shop. If he’s responsible for billions of Yen in sales perhaps there’s something to see? Well. It was really something. Kits to build model Gundams ranging from the $10.00 price point to hundreds of dollars per kit. And limits – there was a limit to how many kits could be bought at one time, and how many times you could enter the facility to buy them each day. Big business indeed.

So- it was an interesting day in an interesting city. A mix of the old and the new. And it was an opportunity to learn about something huge about which we knew nothing at all…..

Author: Sharon

I like to make things. I like to travel. I like to talk about what I'm up to.

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