Tokyo 2010 Pt. I

Asia Trip Part II: Tokyo

Tokyo Part I: Getting to Tokyo, Meiji Jingu, Harajuku, Shizuoka and Yodobashi Akiba

Getting to Tokyo and Our Hotel

We started our trip to Tokyo in style on ANA (All Nippon Airways). The first thing I did once I got seated we grab the sky mall magazine from the seat in front of me and find the special edition ANA Gundam. I really like the ANA colors on the Gundam, and I’d like to build one of these, but after some careful searching (my wife looked even harder than I did), my doubts were confirmed. They would only ship it to a Japanese address and it would arrive approximately 2 weeks after ordering. Damn! Oh well, I can always have some decals made and paint my own.

The ANA Gundam, so close but so far away:
The ANA Gundam

Anyway, back to the flight, we flew United on the rest of the trip, but for this one leg we flew ANA and it was so nice compared to United. Each seat on the 767 we flew in had a screen on the back of the seat in front of it and there was a removable remote in the armrest that you could use to watch movies on demand or play video games. The last United flight we took on their 777 had individual screens and you could choose between movies, but you had to catch them from the beginning since they weren’t on-demand, and there was no removable remote. Once we got airborne on our ANA flight, I watched the Expendables. It was cheesy (so, so cheesy) but entertaining.

On top of the awesome entertainment system in each seat, the plane had cameras mounted in the nose pointing ahead and downwards so that you could watch the takeoff and landing from the pilot’s point of view and watch the city go by below you after takeoff and before landing. One last interesting thing for me, being an aviation history buff and airplane model builder, was to look out the window and see the red Japanese “meatball” on the wing.

Service on this flight was excellent. The stewardesses made their usual runs down the aisles for beverages and meals, but then continued throughout most of the flight offering different beverages every 10 minutes or so. I already forgot exactly what I ate but I did have Japanese-style cold noodles for the first time. Later we got some cup-o-noodles style instant dish but it was too fishy for our tastes.

It’s about a four-hour flight from Hong Kong to Tokyo and there’s a one-hour time zone change since you’re flying east. We arrived in Tokyo around 5:30 pm local and did the immigration and baggage thing. As we’re walking through the airport I witness another pathetic case of a white guy (this one was American) hitting on a poor Asian woman. He walked with her through the whole airport speaking loudly and slowly to her telling her all about himself and his travels. He needed that T-shirt that says, “Looking for a Japanese Girlfriend”. I felt really sorry for the lady because she was way too polite to get away from him. If I had been her being chatted up by an obnoxious middle-aged tubby American I’d be headed for the ladies room for an extended stay.

After making our way through the airport we went to the Limousine Bus counter Steve at Bluefin had recommended and got a bus to Tokyo. Tickets were 3000 yen each, one way, ouch. Tokyo is not cheap.

By the time we got on the bus it was dark and it takes about an hour to get to Tokyo Station since Narita airport is well outside the actual city of Tokyo. We see the big ferris wheel in Odaiba and Tokyo tower on the way. I’m tired and I close my eyes to take a nap but when I do it just makes the conversations on the bus seem louder and I hear this Australian family towards the back of the bus where the loudest member is the family dumbass and so I give up on sleep since it’s more relaxing to keep my eyes open than listen to him spout nonsense. At one point a riced out RX-7 flies by our bus. Sweet! Oh, and the annoying American guy from the airport is right next to us and he’s working on a DIFFERENT Japanese woman on the bus ride. Oh lord.

The bus stops and we get out and we’re across the street from Tokyo Station. I’ve got a map of the hotel’s location and Steve gave us the hotel’s name in Kanji to show the locals. The guy at the bus stop let us knows our hotel and he lets us know that it’s just down the street. Still, we wanted to take a cab since we’re carrying 50 pounds or so of luggage.

But then we can’t get a cab. I don’t know if there’s a custom for catching a cab or the drivers were to nice to take our fare since we were so close but both cabs we tried refused to let us in their cab.

Tired and dumbfounded we start to walk. It’s colder here than Hong Kong and just like when we walked around Central we’re kinda lost. It’s even rougher in Tokyo because the average street in Tokyo DOES NOT HAVE A NAME! Fortunately our hotel was on Sotobori-dori, one of the streets that does have a name and when I see a street sign and I know we’re going down the right street I feel a lot better, which is good since my wife has had enough of me stressing about where we are and where we’re going.

A rare place in Tokyo where two streets with names cross each other, and also the location of our hotel:
Hotel Cross Streets

We get to our hotel (the Keio Presso Inn in Otemachi) and get the first of many cheery semi-ritualized group greetings in Tokyo. Greeting people in Tokyo is an artform. People greet both guests and even their own fellow employees as they go in and out of rooms. One restaurant we went to we happened to sit near where the waitresses go in and out and it seemed they were cheerily yelling something to each other the whole time. In the US all you get is a bored, “Corner!”

I break out the credit card and we get our room on the ninth floor. Steve from Bluefin picked this hotel for me for its location (near Tokyo Station) and price (cheap for Tokyo). Our window gave us a nice view of some of the surrounding buildings and Tokyo Station, one of the major hubs for train transportation in the area.

Day and night views out of our hotel room (Tokyo Station in the Distance):
Daytime View
Nighttime View

The room is tiny compared to the room in Hong Kong or your average hotel room in the US, but despite being a “cheap” hotel in Tokyo everything appears brand new and very clean. The bathroom is a little compartment that looked dropped whole into a cubby next to the door. If you’ve ever been on a cruise then you’ve seen this kind of a bathroom. Both in this bathroom and in Hong Kong the toilets seem to flush forever. I guess since I live in Southern California I’m used to water savers that flush for about three seconds. Also, the toilets in Tokyo have a bidet (for the ladies) and a sprayer (for number two) so we had to try those out. It’s quite an experience. That sprayer shoots a laser-like beam of water with VERY good aim. I turned it off immediately (“AYYYY!!!”) and set the pressure to the lowest setting and tried it again but still felt kind of violated.

By this time it was about 9 and it was cold and dark so we just stayed in. The hotel information card said that there were vending machines on the floor below us so I went down and saw what I was hoping for, the famed beer vending machine. It actually had all kinds of drinks, but I wanted a beer. They didn’t have Sapporo, but I got an Asahi.

My wife turned on the TV but unlike Hong Kong there was nothing in English or any other language but Japanese. In Hong Kong you can find TV in almost any language but since we didn’t want to pay for the pay-per-view card at the hotel in Japan all we got was Japanese. What was cool though was that about three channels in we come across anime and its… Gundam 00!!! But where were the subtitles???

Watching Gundam 00 in Tokyo:
 Gundam 00!

The Meiji Jingu Garden and Shrine

The next morning we got up and got our daily continental breakfast of tasty flaky croissants, croissant-like cinnamon rolls and orange juice. It was nice to have this one meal to depend on each day as we had a harder time finding food in Japan than Hong Kong. To be fair, neither of us likes seafood, if you do you won’t have a problem finding food in Tokyo.

After breakfast we walked to Tokyo Station. The walk seemed much shorter in daytime and without luggage. My plan was to buy our tickets for the Shinkansen (bullet train) to Shizuoka for the next day and then get a Suica card (a pass to take the local trains which also works at vending machines and stores around stations and even at the airport) so we could take the local trains to Harajuku. I wanted to take my wife to Harajuku since it was the only part of Tokyo she had heard of (thanks to Gwen Stefani) and most of the trip had been and would continue to be devoted to Gunpla.

But first we had to get through Tokyo Station, which is large and confusing the first time you get into it and also under construction. On top of that, there was some miscommunication between my wife and myself. I started out buying Shinkansen tickets, which she thought were the local Tokyo line tickets. Then when I went to get the local tickets she didn’t know what the hell I was doing. Plus we were low on cash since none of these tickets took American credit cards. Things got kind of tense. I was mad because I had spent all this time learning about this stuff and she hadn’t bothered (I’ve got JR East, JR Central, Yamanote Line, Shinkansen, Shinagawa Station, Suica and all these other things in my head). I was trying to figure this stuff all out myself while also having to stop and explain it to her and she was mad because I was being all neurotic and at one point I kind of snapped at her which isn’t something I normally do. It kinda hung over the rest of the day.

Anyway, once we got oriented in Tokyo Station (it isn’t that hard, once you get your Suica card, just get to the Yamanote line, there are plenty of signs in English) we take our first ride on the Yamanote Line. We traveled clockwise around the Yamanote loop that goes all the way around Tokyo. The trains have a little flat screen display near the doors that tells you the name of the station you are passing and about the next 4 stops. It switched every ten seconds or so between Kanji and Romanji/English. There are also recorded announcements in Japansese and English that tell you which stop is next. We got off at Harajuku Station and once you get out of the train, one side of the station is a forest (the back of a park) and the other side is a bustling street full of shoppers.

We went into the park first since it has the Meiji Shrine and garden complex used by the Emperor Meiji and his Empress back in the 1800’s. We went into the park and found the garden. The first thing to see there is a teahouse. Many of the structures in the park were actually burned down in World War II but they were rebuilt in the 50’s. On the other side of the teahouse is a landscaped hill that would have been really pretty in Spring or Summer. Being Winter, the trees were bare and the grass was brown. There isn’t any artificial irrigation in the park so you get the park as it is in whatever season it is. I’m so used to California and its almost completely fake landscaping that it’s strange to see a bunch of dormant brown plants in a park.

The Meiji Teahouse:
The Meiji Teahouse

The Landscaping Around the Meiji Teahouse:
Around the Meiji Teahouse

As we continue through there’s a fishing pond full of carp (gray Koi) and a little fishing dock. From there you walk by a field full of sticks where Lily bulbs are planted waiting for Spring. Through these fields are small irrigation canals that feed into the fishing pond. As you keep walking you find the line to the Kiyomasa-Ido well where water trickles up. It’s very pretty but only a couple feet across and it’s amazing to see people line up to see something so small and simple. Of course I was one of them but I had no idea what I was expecting. The amazing thing is that this little trickle of water has been stretched to irrigate a garden and fill a fishing pond.

The Fishing Pond:
The Meiji Pond

The Kiyomasa-Ido well:
The Meiji Well

After leaving the garden we walked to the actual shrine. Being neither Shinto nor Buddhist (or anything really) I didn’t really understand the significance of everything. We watched the people wash their hands and mouth and then write something on a slip of paper they would walk into the temple, toss a coin onto a slotted table that caught the coins and then clap slowly a few times and then pray. However there was quite a bit of variation in how seriously people took the ritual. Some younger men were smiling and throwing the coins overhand, almost basketball-shot style. We weren’t allowed to take pictures inside, but there is an inner chamber from this prayer area where only the monks go and inside are displayed the important religious arifacts.

The Entrance to the Meiji Shrine:
Meiji Shrine Entrance

The Meiji Shrine:
The Meiji Shrine

The shrine appeared to be under some construction but we later figured out that it was in preparation for the New Year since it is one of the biggest holidays in Japan. I read in my travel guide that 2 million people cram into this park on New Year’s Eve. The park didn’t seem big enough for that (it’s much smaller than Disneyland, and mostly wooded).

Harajuku

We left the temple and park so that we could go to Meiji-dori, the road that is the heart of Harajuku. I knew we wouldn’t get the full feel of the place going there in the afternoon on a weekday (there was still a lot of people there, though), but still I felt kind of underwhelmed. To me it seemed like a mixture of a high-end shopping mall and a downtown trendy area of a city. There were huge designer brand stores like you would find in the US and dispersed around and between them were small quirky shops like Chicago (a used clothes store that sold a lot of American clothes) and Condomania (with its cartoon condom characters in the windows) that I guess give Harajuku its character. Still, the small independent shops were dominated by the large stores.

Meiji-dori, the heart of Harajuku:
 Meiji-dori

We were looking for food and wandered into a mall. The mall was four floors and the floors spiraled upwards like the levels of a parking structure. We went to the third floor where the directory said most of the restaurants were. We couldn’t recognize what was on most of the menus so we settled for one that said it had Western-Style Japanese Food. It sounded like a good idea since we had not found much familiar Chinese or Japanese food on the trip. However this place really just had European food. The only thing that was Japanese about it was that you were eating it in Japan. I got a cheese Hamburg which was a cheese-covered hamburger patty served covered with a barbeque sauce and a tiny dollop of mashed sweet potato. It came with a side and I chose rice, being in Japan. It was an odd meal. My wife got a tiny steak and a small mixed green salad. We left fed but not particularly satisfied…

We left and found the Oriental Bazaar, a store full of souvenir-type Japanese things. We got our souvenir shopping done early and called it a day. By the time we left the Oriental Bazaar, it had got to be almost sunset and all the trees along the road were lit up beautifully. All in all, Harajuku didn’t turn out to be very Harjuku-ey. To be fair, we’re not exactly into trendy shopping. We only saw about 10 Harajuku girls the whole day and two of those got on the train on the way back to Tokyo Station.

Meiji-dori all lit up:
 Meiji-dori Lights

I had to take this one quickly as we were being rushed across the footbridge by some person of authority:
 Meiji-dori Lights 2

We got back to the hotel and I think my wife took a nap (with no TV to watch and no book to read there wasn’t much more for her to do) while I got online and made my plans for the next day. After a bit I went to the vending machines on the floor below us and got an Asahi tall boy. Beer vending machines rule!

We ventured out for dinner and tried the little place across the street from our hotel. It was a fast food noodle/soup place and instead of walking up to the counter and ordering, you go up to (another) vending machine and put your money in. The buttons have pictures of the plates. You press the button you want (you have to guess what kind of meat they will have and what they will taste like) and it spits out a ticket and some change. You give the lady behind the counter the ticket and in 5 minutes you get your food. Mine was a bowl of rice and a bit of noodles with either beef, pork or maybe goat. It was dark, thinly-sliced and full of fat. I ate it at first because I was hungry from the small lunch but as I got further into it the less appealing it became. I ate as much as I could and then I filled up on the rice. I think the best part of dinner was subtly watching while the guy next to us vacuumed up his noodles. He did each chopstick-load in three or four “sip” sounding slurps. This observation would help me later when it was my turn with the noodles and chopsticks.

After dinner we popped into to the convenience store next door and grabbed some water and chips. I also got some Pocky and a couple Sapporos for the next couple nights since I figured I was getting ripped off by the vending machine, as novel as it was. A while after we got back we went to bed. I got my usual 4 or 5 hours of solid sleep before waking up about 3 or 4 and spending the next few hours in and out (mostly out) of sleep. This happened almost every night on the trip. I don’t know if it was jetlag or just too much excitement, but I was running on adrenaline for much of the trip. I still felt tired a week after the trip.

Shizuoka and the 1:1 Gundam

We got out of bed the next day and I got ready to go. My wife took longer and didn’t make it in time for the breakfast, which ends at 9:30. I ate mine in the breakfast room and then tried to bring some up for her but was intercepted by the receptionist. It was kind of embarrassing but that was somewhat offset by the way that Japanese people have of letting you know you can’t do something. It’s kind of fussy and dramatic. When we went to see the well at Meiji the attendant there took our ticket and almost let us pass and then excitedly stopped us and scooted across the path and pointed at the sign in English that said “Well” and excitedly said “No touch! No touch!”

We took off for Tokyo Station again and stopped at a the Excelsior Café and got a good breakfast melt for my wife. We got to Tokyo Station and headed for the Shinkansen tracks but had some more confusion over how to get through the gates. We had bought round-trip tickets but had received three tickets. One that said “Fare” for the trip from Tokyo to Shizuoka, another that said “Fare” from Shizuoka to Tokyo and another that just said Tokyo to Shizuoka. I went with the Tokyo to Shizuoka ticket that didn’t say “Fare”, thinking the fare ticket might have just been a receipt. I slid it into the machine and it gave me a red X. Then I tried the one that said “Fare” and got an X again. My wife tried hers with no luck. We had to go to the guy next to the gates (thankfully almost every gate has an attendant or a lane with a booth with a guy who can help you because it can get confusing). It turns out we needed to use BOTH tickets, one on top of the other. I would have never guessed that.

We had bought unreserved tickets since the reserved seats were already full and the only reserved seats left were in the green cars (it’s like first class, and costs 2000 or 3000 yen more). There are three sections on the train, the green cars, the reserved seating cars and the non-reserved cars. These cars have seats but they’re strictly first-come-first-serve and we are there way too late to get a seat. We end up standing in a compartment at the end of the car, but it’s only an hour so it was no problem. I was just bummed because I couldn’t really see out the train.

We arrive at Shizuoka station but we have to get on the local Tokaido line and head back one stop to the Higashi (East) Shizuoka Station. But first we had to get out of the Shizuoka Station, which meant another gate. On the local lines, you swipe your Suica card going in and then again going out and it deducts from your account based on the distance you traveled. We needed to check out of the Shinkansen (at least we thought so but we weren’t sure, since it isn’t on the Suica card), but we also needed to swipe the Suica into the Tokaido line. Again we tried and failed and the guy at the ticket gate just let us through. I think we were supposed to pay, but he was nice enough to just let us through since we were going only one stop.

Finally we get to Higashi Shizuoka. You exit the train and go above ground level and walk through a footbridge across the tracks to the station. As we crossed we got our first look at the Gundam. I was geeking out again, but my wife was kind of unimpressed. She was under the impression that a Mobile Suit was like Godzilla or Evangelion size, like hundreds of feet tall instead of about 50.

Several shots of the 1:1 Real Gundam:
The Real Gundam

The Real Gundam

The Real Gundam

The Real Gundam

The Real Gundam

We walked around and took pictures of it from about every angle. We watched it light up and steam and move its head. They put so much detail into that Gundam, it would really merit the 1/48 scale kit to try to capture it all. There are bolts and little panels all over it. I took lots of detail shots because I want to build a Gundam model and enter it into an IPMS show in a NON-FICTION category. While walking under it I looked up and snapped a shot of the bottom of the Gundam’s crotch. My wife looked up and said, “It’s a girl! And it’s wet!” The first appeared to be anatomically true and the latter was definitely true since the Gundam does drip quite a bit of water after its display since the “steam” is really just water misters. They have to mop up after every show. Lol.

The area around the Gundam was covered in gravel and I couldn’t help but think of the gravel around the Meiji shrine. I didn’t see anybody throw coins at the Gundam, though. They had drawn Mobile Suits and characters into the gravel. They were a little hard to make out in person since they were 10-20 feet long and had been stepped on and made blurry but they came out really well in the pictures. I walked on particular direction and got a fussy scolding again by a lady who worked there. There were no signs and people were free to walk everywhere else, but I guess not there. I made my little head-nod bow (you start doing this in Japan, even my wife was doing it) and got back on the path.

***Begin Section of Gundam-Only Interest***
(If you don’t know what Gundam is, you can probably skip the next several paragraphs)

Next I went into the model museum and used up a pair of batteries snapping pictures of all the kits and models there. The museum focuses on all models and represents Bandai, Tamiya, Hasegawa, Aoshima and some smaller companies I didn’t recognize. Even non-Gundam modelers would like this museum. The historical kits are very cool and there are some incredible built models from Hobby Japan and Dengeki Hobby. There were also several built Valkyries in the Hasegawa display. Drool.

Full-sized Zaku Head:
 Full-sized Zaku Head

There was also a full-size Zaku head and damaged Core fighter. In a display case was a beautiful model of what I think was a 1/12 scale Core Fighter and there was some documentation above it about the (hopefully) upcoming UC Hard Graph Core Fighter. The next stop was the gift shop, which, like the museum had stuff from all of the hobby companies in the area. I wanted to get the Shizuoka version of the 30th Anniversary HGUC Gundam kit but they didn’t have it. They didn’t have anything really special and the prices were high, but I wanted a souvenir from the 1:1 Gundam so I got a Real Grade RX-78.

Later after we walked around so more I realized that there was another tent with a line outside and this tent was the Bandai souvenir shop. Doh! I waited in line while my wife went and got some pork-on-a-stick. I got inside and there was the Shizuoka Gundam kit I wanted. There were also a bunch of special edition kits but they all turned out to just be normal HGUCs molded in all-black. They also had the Bandai mold machine there but again I passed on it, figuring I’d get it cheaper in Akihabara, not realizing it was a special edition kit. I was so intent on kits I didn’t really look too much at the other goods and passed on a 1:1 Gundam Project T-shirt figuring, again, it’d be cheaper in Akihabara. I really regret not getting both of those items since I didn’t see either one anywhere else again. I did find some generic Gundam T-shirts in Akihabara but they were 3000+ yen each and I passed on them without regrets.

Follow this links for a lot more photos of the Gundam and the Shizuoka Model Museum

***End Section of Gundam-Only Interest***

We had snacks next to the Gundam and then walked a couple blocks to see the actual Bandai factory. I took some pictures of the outside but the actual factory was closed for the holidays. There were a few other things around Tokyo that were closed at this time of year, like the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building with its free 45th floor observation deck. I realized at the end of the trip that it would have been better to go to Tokyo FIRST, and then Hong Kong.

The Bandai Gunpla Factory (where every Gundam kit comes from):
Bandai Factory

We walked back to the Gundam and by then it was about 4:30 pm. I had made a map to get to the Tamiya factory and visitors center (it’s about a mile or two away from the Gundam site in Shizuoka) but couldn’t find out online if it was open that day but even if they had been open, they normally close at 5:30, so we called it a day.

We used our Suica card to get the Tokaido line train back to the main Shizuoka station, but then had some more confusion at the gate. A Japanese family who spoke pretty good English tried to help us, but they didn’t know what order to do the tickets in either. Finally, between the family and the man at the gat we got it figured out (you have to put the Shinkansen tickets in first, and then swipe your Suica card, which seemed backwards).

On the way back we got to sit down and look out the window as the sun was setting on Japan. We passed the Gundam on the way back and saw it all lit up. We also got to see the Japanese countryside, which was nice since although Tokyo is full of Japanese people, it otherwise feels like about any large modern city. Out in the countryside, there’s a real mixture of modern development and agriculture with farms being small and divided into small rectangular fields that looked football field size or smaller. They’re nothing like the huge fields you see in the USA. We got to see single-family homes also. Most of the houses in Japan seem to be multi-story, even when they are not crowded next to each other, though that maybe an optical illusion caused by the high, steep roofs in Japan that make a single story house almost as tall as a two-story here.

I had hoped to get a look at Mount Fuji, but it was too cloudy to see it, but we went right by it. As we got into Tokyo I was very happy to catch a couple quick glimpses of the Diet building as it had appeared in several anime that I have seen (oh, and it’s the seat of government in Japan). It’s kind of funny that I’ve seen Japan’s capital and not my own. I’ll get to it.

Yodobashi Akiba

Since we only had one more full day left I talked my wife into going to Akihabara. It’s only two stops north from the Tokyo Station on the Yamanote line and my plan was to just go to Yodobashi Akiba, which is right outside the Akihabara Station. We grabbed some McDonalds (another quick no-brainer meal) and went shopping.

Yodobasji Akiba (Akiba is short for Akihabara) is part of the Yodobashi Camera chain of stores and it’s Akihabara’s megastore. It’s like 8 stories high and each floor is the square footage of 2 or three good-sized houses. The smaller local shops in Akihabara are also 6 to 8 storied, but each floor might be tiny, like the size of a couple of living rooms. Each floor of Yodobashi Akiba seems devoted to one thing. We passed a floor of cameras and a floor of appliances and a floor of PCs and components. Then we got to the toy floor and after a bit of wandering found the gunpla section.

Yodobashi Akiba:
Yodobashi Akiba

***Begin Section 2 of Gundam-Only Interest***
(If you don’t know what Gundam is, you can probably skip the next several paragraphs)

Dear lord they had damn near everything and not just one or two but stacks of four to eight of the same kit. All the newer kits like the HGUC Shinanju and MG Deathscythe were piled near the entrance. They must have had a dozen of each of them there. The discount off retail varied but was generally 15 to 30 percent less.

I grabbed a basket and took of my coat and got to work… I started with decals, paint, option parts and tools since they’re the hardest thing to get in the US. They actually had Mr. Color’s Gundam paints so I got Char’s Pink and Char’s Red since I thought that pink would be especially hard to mix. I went through their Bandai decals they had and grabbed about four sets, including the RG Gundam decals. I grabbed some Wave, Yellow Sub and Kotobukiya option parts sets (it was really cool to see those just hanging on the wall in a store, I had only ever ordered them online) and a chisel with a tip that looked perfect for scribing.

Then I waded into the eight or nine aisles of kits and figures. My head was spinning like crazy while I was there. It was too much good stuff! They had Perfect Grade, Master Grade, High Grade UC, Non Grade, SD, 00 kits, SEED kits, even the older kits like the pre-HGUC 1/144 kits from 08th MS Team and 0083 and the original Gundam kits from the 80’s. There was a Macross section with a lot of Hasegawa kits (1:48th Valkyrie FTW!) and even a lot of the Bandai reissues (Regult Pod… SOLD!). They had an aisle with the Kotobukiya SRW, Armored Core and Frame Arms kits. There were also aisles of your typical ship, tank, car and plane kits.

Ironically I had grabbed the decals for the LM HG Evangelion 01 but had totally forgotten about it by the time I was looking for kits, and passed on the kit even after picking it up and looking at it. They also had the Frame Arms kit I wanted (the blue air combat version, the SA-16 Stylet) but it was 2520 yen, and only like 15% off the regular price.

With so much to choose from and only so much money and luggage space I had to prioritize. I like HGUC kits. Most people don’t like the small scale, but I like them for larger subjects like a Shinanju or The O where I just don’t want to spend $80-100 for the MG. I also like the greater variety of subjects in the HGUC lineup and that, being cheaper, it’s easier to buy a few and kitbash them together. I got quite a few HGUC kits since they are pretty hard to find in any variety in the US, either in hobby shops or at AX, and pound-for-pound are the most overpriced kits here in my opinion. And shipping HGUC kits from Japan sucks because their lower price makes the shipping price much larger in proportion to an MG kit. Even still, I passed on a few, like the Nu and the Shinanju because they are such hero machines that I knew I would see them in the US even in HGUC scale. I did get a Cold Districts GM, which I’ve been wanting since it came out. At 560 yen it was a no-brainer. I don’t know what it is about that particular GM when I don’t care for the very similar command type, but it’s one of my favorites.

Next I looked at the MGs. By this time I was already well into my second basket and my wife had more or less found a place to sit while I stalked the aisles. I grabbed a Zeta Plus C1 (2280 yen) and debated buying that kit for the umpteenth time (I’ve almost bought it on sale at HLJ, I’ve almost bought it during a shipping sale at HLJ and I’ve held it my hands twice at Anime Expo and put it back). Once again put it back on the shelf. I love that design but I had such bad experiences with the Zeta 1.0…

They had about every Master Grade kit there but I really got stuck here because I already have half a dozen nice MG kits in the stash and MG kits are pretty easy to come by here. What I really debated about was picking up two GM Quels (older less-popular kits that are relatively hard to find in the US) and a Zeong (also not something you see much at AX). Why would I want this strange mixture of kits? Because my favorite project I’ve ever done has been my 1/144 scale Titans Test Team Hazels and I’ve wanted to do them in MG 1/100 scale but didn’t want to do all that work to convert a couple of Quels into Hazels AND pay $120 or more just for the three base kits (retail of 12000 yen for the three). None of this probably would have happened if it weren’t for the Bandai World Cup. Damn I wanna go back, and a 1/100 scale Titans Test Team might be my ticket…
The problem with a project like this (on top of the price which was still about 9000 yen) is that the Zeong is a pretty big kit and wouldn’t fit in the luggage with everything else.

***End Section 2 of Gundam-Only Interest***

About 9:45 at night they start playing “Auld Lang Syne” (lol) and the trilingual announcements that thanked you for shopping at Yodobashi Akiba and have been notifying you that you could shop duty-free if you spend over 10000 yen and that Chinese customers paying with a certain credit card get an additional 5% off were switched to announcements that more-or-less said “Yodobashi Akiba will close shortly but will reopen tomorrow at 10am for your shopping convenience”. Being tired and overwhelmed I settled on a strange compromise which was to buy the Quels but leave the Zeong figuring if I ever actually got serious about this project I would get the Zeong later.

I get in line about 9:58 and I’m the last one in line and since I’m definitely spending more than 10000 yen the poor guy ringing me up has to fill out some form AND he has to itemize every one of the 15 or so items I bought on the form. He was so nervous, I got the feeling he hadn’t filled out that form very much and he kept making nervous gasping noises as he filled out the form. I don’t know if he was worried about messing up the form, or about how long it was taking but he seemed like he was about to pass out. We were there way after everybody else on the floor but I felt a little better on the way out when we saw an Australian or American couple leaving on the escalators right in front of us.

In My Happy Place:
Exiting Yodobashi Akiba

I left with two large bags of kits and a big smile on my face. I went back to the hotel and put my stash out on the bed and snapped a picture. It’s not all that I bought by the end of the trip. I never took a picture of the final take because by then I had already started to clip parts from kits and break down boxes. But anyway, it was bedtime, so I stacked the kits up in a corner of the room and we crashed.

Most of the Take:
Kits

To see all of the general pictures from the trip to Tokyo, follow this link:

Tokyo 2010

To see all of the pictures of the 1:1 Real Gundam and the Shizuoka Model Museum, follow this link:

Shizuoka 2010

To go on to Part II of the Tokyo Report, follow this link:

Tokyo Part II

  1. Enzo De Luca
    January 18th, 2011 at 08:04 | #1

    Hi man!
    your reportage of HK and Tokyo are very nice!!Well done, really!
    Come and find me in the forum of http://www.mechanicalrage.it
    We waiting you and your models!
    see you, bro!
    -Enzo King-

  2. admin
    January 19th, 2011 at 21:27 | #2

    I hope to do this this weekend, if not sooner. I’ll copy that link and try it during breaktime at work!

  3. BRYAN
    August 18th, 2013 at 05:50 | #3

    can we just get INTO the bandai factory just like going in to a disneyland?