I have to go back to Tokyo. AGAIN. Goddamit. LOL. I've been to a few countries in my lifetime but maaan Japan takes the cake. There's just soooo many things to see and do there. And I'm not even talking about Gundams. Yet. And Gundam-wise, well nothing else needs to be said is there? It's the motherland of Gundam. The Mecca of mecha. Here are some pics to share of my best holiday EVER folks. There's a huge dent in my bank account, but as soon as I can help it I'll be on the next flight back to Tokyo lol. Enjoy.
Tokyo is notorious for its small living spaces, and the same goes for hotels...unless you're loaded enough to fork out hundreds per night on luxury chains (which I ain't), S$90 a night is good enough for me. Comfy and cosy with just enough space to stash all your loot for the duration, and a TV for entertainment. That'll do.
AKIHABARAAkihabara, is where all modellers and Gundam worshippers go. It is a hive of geek activity, and rightly so. Below are pictures of the main street Chuo-Dori, which I would advise you orientate yourself to for navigation. You can't miss it as the main rail cuts across it (see second pic below). Come on Sundays if you want more space to walk. They close up the road just for you. No cars, lots of toys.
One of the first stops at Akihabara was the famous Gundam Cafe. Don't ask me about the food. I was too distracted with everything else to bother with eating lol. The Cafe is more of a novelty than anything else. At least I can say I've stood in front of it!
Alright guys, I'm gonna go by shop here for the next coupla pics. At some point when I've been back to the place again one or two more times, I might come up with a proper Akihabara map, but till now, here are some brief recommendations on shops you can't miss:
This is one of the buildings you will see as you exit from Akihabara JR Line station (I think it's to your left.) 7-8 floors of mind-boggling toys, model kits and knick-knacks for geeks and collectors. You can literally spend an afternoon here. Look for two floors owned by this chain called Yellow Submarine. They specialise in model kits, and you can find all kinds of shit there, from Gundams to Armoured Core and Five Star Stories. Prices are cheap too!:
Some strange Revoltech series called Assemble Borg....I've not seen it anywhere else in the world. Basically they use Revoltech joint technology with all kinds of spare parts for you to 'kitbash' different kinds of vehicles and mechs. Quite interesting...
If you head out from the Radio Hall building, onto the main artery street of Akihabara called Chuo-Dori (you can't miss it, there's only one main street cutting right across the heart of the area), right behind the block across it, turn right and walk a little further down a bit, you'll see the Koto building. It's once again floors and floors of toys and kits. Model kits are mostly on the upper floors. You'll want to check out their stocks of Zoids and Armoured Core, especially some nice displays. I wouldn't recommend you buy anything there though cos ironically the store sells their own stuff more pricey than other shops elsewhere. Funny eh?
I was lucky enough to witness an ongoing exhibition at the Koto building while I was there. Held on the top floor in a small room were numerous world-class model kits of military-Zoids-Gundams, enough to give you a geek-gasm. After seeing some of these masterpieces I realised that man, I've still got a long way to go to catch up with these guys in terms of detail and realism. Just check out some of these beauties....Oh, and I also ran into Kawaguchi-san here LOL. What are the odds eh?
On the other side of the station is another tall building called Asobit City, packed with floors of toys and kits once again. What's interesting about this is on the model kit store, there are some displays of rare metallic coated Gundam kits I've never seen before -
This is probably the biggest building on the block, next to the station. It's mostly an electronic goods haven, but on the 6 floor (i think) are where all the toys and kits are. One floor you say? That hardly sounds like a lot does it? Trust me. It's a HUUUUGE floor. LOL. Rows and rows and rows...and rows of kits and tools greet you. Now you know why the Japanese can do so much stuff. They've got all the tools you can dream of. Some of which I don't even know the function to 'cos everything's in Jap!
There are many other stores to look at, but I didnt have enough time, especially to explore the nook and crannies - I'm sure there are totally obscure mom-and-pop stores at some street corner that I missed - so I've just presented to you the main buildings with concentrated goodies. Everything else at Akihabara however, is worth a look, which means if you ever go down there, set aside AT LEAST two full days of touring.
Volks is a notoriously elusive and expensive brand, and they specialise mainly in FSS kits, but they also sell Zoids and other model kits, including an assortment of tools. I wouldn't recommend buying anything from here unless you're into FSS though, cos prices like Koto's are steep. You're better off ogling and making a note of what you want, then hunting them down elsewhere. The building is just next to the station, on the opposite side from Yodobashi. It's worth a look.
TAM TAM HOBBY
This is a building located a bit further down on the main Chuo-Dori street from Akihabara. Check out their fifth floor, which is stocked full of modelling tools. They're not big on sci fi kits though, but definitely worth a one-time look.
We'll move on to a highly under-valued resource, which I realised is definitely a must-buy while in Japan - BOOKS. Why? Cos books are where ideas come from (aside from the Net of course). There's just something about pages and pages of crisp glossy mecha designs that get you drooling and inspired. Okay, it kinda sounds like porn doesn't it? LOL. But yeah, art books on mecha and sci-fi were my main grabs besides some rare kits, as I figured you can't find these Jap books anywhere even online, so if you see 'em, grab em!
SHOSEN BOOK TOWER
I totally recommend checking out Shosen, a large book chain in Japan. The tower is just further down the street from Asobit City. You have to turn some corners to find it from the station, but it's within walkable distance. Head up to the 7th or 8th floor, which is where all the artbook goodies are.
AKIBA ZONE - K BOOKS
By now you must be wondering - WHAT books am I talking about right? Well here are some samples. Sorry guys, I went on a spree and bought well over 10 books, so it's impossible to show everything. But here's an idea. In my opinion, looking at mecha porn is a great source of inspiration for your own builds. A lot of these books can't be found anywhere else in the world, or even online unless you read Japanese. And they are waaay cheaper in Japan too, even if they can be bought in your own country.
I went crazy over FSS books, which are rarer than gold....serious....and can only be found in Japan at a coupla book stores like Mandarake. Mamoru Nagano, the mecha designer and creator of FSS, also has a hand in Gundam designs like the Quebley, Rick Dom and Hyaku Shiki. The guy's a fookin' genius if you ask me, and his concepts are exquisite. I hope to translate them into my models...
Another favourite artist of mine is Otomo Katsuhiro, the creator of Akira. There was a recent exhibition held in Japan of his incredible works, and the book below is an exclusive collection of his pieces. I had to get it.
There is a series of thin catalogues I cam across called G.Beast....I'm not sure if it's a pirated series or some official collaboration....But it features real interesting mecha designs of Gundams that can TRANSFORM into Zoids. Yeah, zany huh? LOL.
And then there's this monster of a hardcover book....that took up most weight in my luggage. The recently released Armoured Core Designs. It's pages and pages of highly detailed mech and weapon designs from the AC series. Definitely good for build ideas.
ODAIBA (DIVER CITY MALL)
Ah yes, what's a trip to Japan for the Gundam enthusiast without paying homage to the life-sized RX-78 now residing in Odaiba on the outskirts of Tokyo? I had the impression it was in a park, but apparently it's within an open area in Diver City, a huge new mall in Odaiba...
Stay long enough under this behemoth and you'll get to watch a very pretty light show with smoke coming out of its vents, and a head that moves. But sorry, that's about it. It doesn't take off or whip out a beam sabre. LOL.
Yep there's also a souvenier shop that sells some interesting Gundam-themed knickknacks.
THE OTHER STUFF...
But I couldnt get enough of their crafts section. Modellers, this is the kinda place you'd wish your home country has....For Singaporeans, think of it as a gigantic Artfriend store, just with waaaay more stuff for the scale modeller...
Had some time on my last day to check out an aquarium as well. Japan is so big you can find an aquarium even in the suburb area of Ikebukuro where I stayed. Even there, you can't escape cultural icons such as:
No surprise, expect the odd inhabitant at a Japanese aquarium. Among the many marine exhibits is a section with amphibians and reptiles, and the weirdest and cutest frogs/ salamanders you can find from all parts of the world...
|Guess what's real.|
Yeeap....I had to hand-carry quite a bit of stuff. And while books don't take up much space, they are goddam heavy as hell!! My check-in weight amounted to a whopping 37kg, but for some reason, the airline didn't charge me for the extra (I only booked 20kg). WHEW.
That's about all folks, I'd need an entire book just to completely relate my whirlwind four days in Japan. But it was crazy fun, and if you've never been to Tokyo, at least try to go once in your lifetime. It's well worth the trip.