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Anime Aunties Visit Japan
Day 7: Everything Gundam in Yokohama

by Lynzee Loveridge & Jacki Jing,

Photography Cooperation GUNDAM FACTORY YOKOHAMA/Photo by Lynzee Loveridge

Jacki: Marvel, Disney, The Simpsons— I am trying to think of something that compares to how Mobile Suit Gundam is viewed in Japan so you can understand its weight, its immensity here — and nothing compares.

Executive Editor Lynzee Loveridge will emphasize the sheer massiveness of this iconic franchise. It's been around for decades with multiple popular series. It is still incredibly beloved today, with its latest iteration, Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch From Mercury (which we both avidly watch), garnering lots of attention this season. So, seeing this life-sized "moving Gundam" is a BIG DEAL. I hope that's coming across.

When we showed up at Yokohama Harbor, I was beyond excited. I knew this would likely be my favorite part of this Japan trip. Mobile Suit Gundam is not my favorite anime series, but it's an indispensable existence of Japanese TV anime, and the mechs are undeniably badass. To see one IRL? No words.

We could see the six-story-high Gundam mech in the distance, giving me instant chills. I was jumping around like a little kid on the inside but was trying to play it cool in front of their PR team.

We walked down a long corridor with facts and images detailing the production process of the life-sized "moving" Gundam on the walls, and then… there it was. THE MECH OF ALL MECHS, the RX-78F00, towered over us, gazing down with bright yellow eyes.

Everyone waited silently, staring at the grandeur, mouths watering as the countdown ticked away. Then 3…2…1… the famous music of Mobile Suit Gundam began, and the mech came to life. First, turning its head left, then right, lifting up its legs, moving its arms and fingers, kneeling down, standing back up, then raising one finger in the air. My eyes were filled with tears.

Photography Cooperation GUNDAM FACTORY YOKOHAMA/Photo by Jacki Jing

The show was roughly nine minutes long and, honestly, one of the coolest things I've ever seen. I will never ever forget that moment. As an anime fan, seeing all of our favorites brought to life in any capacity— it's just emotional. To see people care so deeply about anime, to create this work of art, this technological innovation. It's overwhelming.

Next, the Academy, which was insanely neat— detailing how they made the mech, with some incredible features, like a robot that made mech in front of us— no, for real, it built Gunpla. Then Lynzee and I built a mini mech and controlled one via AR!

We got an original Gundam design café latte, burger, curry, and more to follow up the epic experience and bought some merch (we had to move quickly because the store sells out entirely almost every day).

We left GUNDAM FACTORY YOKOHAMA filled with food and delight. So we walked it off at a nearby flower garden and the local Chinatown. I got some delectable dumplings, and then we called it a day. What a wonderful day!

Lynzee: This was one of the "main events" of our trip to Japan: the life-sized “moving Gundam.” I've wanted to see this mech in person since I first glimpsed the immobile RX-78-2 Gundam statue in a series of YouTube videos back in 2009. This version is above and beyond the first full-size Gundam that debuted. It's a spectacle that, along with its Unicorn Gundam statue counterpart at Tokyo's Diver City complex, represents the sheer size and impact of the Gundam fandom.

The staff at the Yokohama facility went above and beyond, giving us an up-close look at this 18-meter-high (59-foot-tall) mech. The entry to the viewing area includes faux-discovery photographs representing the story of how the Gundam was "discovered" and reassembled in Yokohama. Walking out of the tunnel feels like the climatic scene from Armageddon; you're a pilot approaching your giant mech about to take off on a critical mission into space.

There are multiple viewing points to watch the mecha's movement sequence. Visitors can opt to view from the ground or pay extra to take an elevator up to an up-close platform near the RX-78F00's cockpit. Regular admission is very reasonable at 1650 yen for 13+ years old and 1,100 yen for children 7 to 12 years old (roughly US$12 and US$8). The admission price is 3,300 yen (US$24) per person if you want to view from the Gundam-Dock tower. You can also head over to the cafe's boardwalk area and get a clear view if being too close is overstimulating for yourself or smaller kids. If you're planning a trip very soon, remember that the facility is closed for maintenance from May 29 to June 2 and is not open on Tuesdays.

The Academy area is a ton of fun and reminds me a bit of my local museum, OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science and Industry). There's a robot there that can operate small, intricate movements-- like building a gunpla. Wall displays share perspectives from anime industry giants like Mamoru Oshii and Shoji Kawamori. There are miniature models of the full-sized "moving Gundam" and hardware parts explaining how its movement is possible.

The RX-78F00 is a feat of engineering, and I can't over-recommend it enough. Right now, the facility is only planning to operate until March 31, 2024. This timeline was extended in the past, but there's no guarantee it'll be there beyond that date, so keep that in mind when planning your trip to Japan.

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